Arthritis means joint inflammation, but the term is somewhat misleading because arthritis is much more than joint inflammation and cats do contract many forms of arthritis depending upon the breed and external factors. The particular forms of arthritis that cats suffer from are: Traumatic Arthritis (sprain) and Osteoarethritis, from there, there are several diseases that belong to one group or the other.
Traumatic Arthritis as the name implies occurs when there is some sort of a trauma, (sprain) injury. In cats that could be the result of being hit by a moving vehicle, a cat fight, or bad fall. If the trauma is a result of a simple sprain chances are the pain will go away in no time and is really not that serious. However, if the traumatic arthritis is more serious, resulting from being hit by a car or other serious accident, a fracture may occur in the joint and your cat may require surgery to repair the damage.
The symptoms of Traumatic Arthritis can include: swollen joints, painful joints. The cat may limp on the leg joint and fuss when it is handled.
Osteoarethritis has to do with the joint not properly functioning. In older cats it is the shoulder and elbows that are most likely affected. This disease usually occurs after traumatic arthritis has first appeared and was either not treated or there were several recurrences. It also can occur if there were dislocation of joints and fractures that became very sensitive due to wear and tear. How serious the Osteoarethritis will be depends upon the combination of the medical condition and the cat's general health. An overweight cat will put extra tension on the joints and fractures, all because of the extra weight. The extra weight will also make the condition even more painful.
The symptoms of Osteoarethritis may include: a limping or stiffness that starts slowly, occurring only once in a while but gets sharper, more pronounced and more frequent over time. The stiffness can appear worst just after napping and will go away once the cat gets more active. Or it may also worsen in cold or damp weather. A sprain can make the limp even more pronounced. Also bone growth over the fracture can cause the limb to look misshapen.
Your veterinarian will give your pet a physical examination to check for the afflicted areas and to try to determine where it is painful. He may also analyze the fluid taken from the joints, and X-ray the site to test for joint fractures.
Treatment of course depends upon the problem. In the case of a simple sprain:
Rest might be prescribed if you can keep your cat quiet enough that is. This might mean keeping it away from other cats, who would want to play and frolic with it.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for the pain and perhaps bandages to confine the sprain and prevent swelling.
For Osteoarethritis the treatment will start with:
Short term antibiotics, pain killers, and a change in diet for overweight cats.
Exercise is important. Wake up your cat if it has been sleeping too long in the same place, encourage it to play with you and run around.
Keeping your cat warm will keep the pain down.
Also you can learn to massage its limps, to stimulate blood flow and stop pain.
Your cat may require physiotherapy and well.
In more serious conditions, (Osteroarethritis is a progressive disease) surgery may be required.
Even though any cat can get arthritis, it is normally the more active ones that are susceptible to it. Athletic cats put more pressure on the joints and bones as they run, jump and romp around. Arthritis is a painful disease and you should make sure that your cat gets proper treatment immediately. Furthermore early treatment may prevent the disease from becoming more serious and harder to treat.