Osteoarthritis in the cat: 2. how should it be managed and treated?

Bennett D, Zainal Ariffin SM, Johnston P.
J Feline Med Surg
2012 Feb

PRACTICAL RELEVANCE: Osteoarthritis (OA) is very common in the cat and in many cases is associated with significant long-term pain, which limits mobility and activity, and severely compromises the animal's quality of life. CLINICAL CHALLENGES: The treatment of chronic arthritic pain is a major challenge and many analgesic drugs used in other species are not licensed, not available or not tested for use in the cat. Many older cats with painful OA have some degree of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and many clinicians are reluctant to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in these animals because of the potential for nephrotoxicity. EVIDENCE BASE: There are several publications that show that meloxicam is an effective NSAID for the cat and can be used long-term. It is easy to administer and there is published evidence that meloxicam can actually slow the progression of CKD in this species. Many other drugs are used to treat chronic pain in the cat but there is no documented evidence of their efficacy in OA. Unlike the dog, there is limited evidence for the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acid-rich diets in managing feline OA and further work is required. There is no published data as yet for the usefulness or otherwise of nutraceuticals (glucosamine and chondroitin) in managing feline OA; studies in the authors' clinic suggest some pain-relieving effect. Research into environmental enrichment as a way of improving quality of life in cats with painful OA is lacking, but it is an approach worth using where possible. Modifications to the environment (eg, provision of comfortable bedding and ramps) are also important.