Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Princesses and Arthritis

My little princess, Tempest, is 13 years old now. For the most part she is doing great, and I’m thankful for that every day.

Bright-eyed, a pretty decent weight (we’ll ignore the saggy belly), full of energy and interest in the world when she’s not napping…she still isn’t thrilled that I brought in companions for her, but overall she’s very happy and her health is good.

A few months ago I noticed a little bit of a limp. Little enough that I had to watch closely for a few weeks to be sure of what I was seeing. A little stiffness, it seemed. Given that the boys chase her, and given that she’s never been a good jumper and has always been a bit of a klutz, she has missed her target now and again, so I wasn’t sure if she was just bruised or if it was something long-term.

I started to notice how careful she was when she jumped down from things. She would jump so that she’d land with both rear feet, and sometimes she’d still stumble on landing.

I noticed her start to use her left rear leg to scratch at her ear, and stop after she’d moved her foot about halfway to her ear.

I noticed that she wasn’t missing her mark just because of being a klutz, but that her ability to jump onto relatively low things, things she didn’t have a problem with just a few months ago, was diminished.

All little things, but the picture was pretty clear after a while – she likely was developing arthritis.

I did some research. Warm beds, steps to help her avoid the jumps that were sometimes just a tiny bit out of reach now, and thus avoid potential falls, joint supplements…

We went to the vet on Monday to make sure it really was arthritis and not something more serious. Or just something altogether different.

The vet did a very thorough physical examination of her joints and muscle tone. We watched her walk around the examination room. Her limp wasn’t noticeable – she’d been having a good weekend – but you could still see that she was stepping gingerly.

I agreed to have xrays done. These aren’t cheap, of course, and the vet had felt for tumors and thankfully found none, so there was no reason to think it was bone cancer or anything other than arthritis, but I wanted the xrays so we’d have something definitive. Also to have something to compare against in the future, if necessary. The peace of mind is worth the cost for me, though I think the physical exam would have likely been enough at this stage if the budget had been tight. (Pet Insurance might cover the cost of the xrays – I’ll submit a claim and see.)

The vet was excellent at explaining the xrays to me. I really appreciated the time she took to show them to me and walk me through everything we were seeing. We looked at Tempest’s good side (which looks really good), and then compared to her bad side. There was no joint swelling, but there were what the vet called “joint mice” in the knee joint, and the patella wasn’t as smooth as would be expected in a healthy joint. They hadn’t been able to get an xray of the hip on her bad side because they were worried about causing her pain by extending her leg to get the xray, but the vet expects that there were similar “joint mice” in her hip joint.

The “joint mice” are minor at this point, and her symptoms are relatively minor as well, so I decided not to see a specialist yet. The vet recommended joint supplements (which I expected and which I had ordered last week) and a few weeks of rest followed by some careful exercise to make sure she doesn’t lose muscle on her bad side. The supplements very handily come in treat-form, which hopefully she will like. It will take 4-6 weeks for the supplements to begin to have a positive effect, and she’ll need to be on them forevermore. They’re not medicine, they’re nutraceuticals, which is apparently somewhere between a nutrient and a drug. I’ll be keeping a close eye on her, monitoring her mobility and comfort. She’s a princess, so this is exactly the kind of attention she sees as her due.

There’s only so much that can be done about arthritis, from what I’ve read, though the vet did mention surgery if the arthritis gets bad. Surgery for an old cat is not ideal, however. I’m not sure if mild pain killers are an option for cats – it’s something I’ll research for the future. I did come across an article about cold laser treatment, which is non-invasive and apparently has great results. (And I also happened to see that my pet insurance covers it, which is nice!) Right now Tempest’s arthritis is mild, and hopefully the joint supplements and the rest followed by exercise will help keep her joints from further deteriorating, or at least keep the deterioration slow. So far she likes the heated bed and hopefully it will keep her comfortable when I’m not around her for her to nap on. She already likes the steps I got her and makes good use of them. I’ll continue to address potential problem areas in the condo to make them Tempest-friendly and Tempest-safe. I saw reference to a book on healing touch that I am going to look into also.

It’s hard to see our beloved companions getting older, but the march of time is relentless, so it’s up to us to make sure that their golden years are as bright and shiny as possible.

Here are a few articles I’ve found so far on arthritis in cats:

This is the first time I’ve dealt with arthritis. Has anyone else had experience with arthritis in cats? Any advice to offer?

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8 responses to “Princesses and Arthritis

  1. veganchai January 5, 2012 at 1:53 am

    you’re such a great mama! ❤ i haven't dealt with it before, but with three animals in the house, i imagine it could happen sooner or later. thanks for sharing your experience! gentle squeezes for tempest.

    • Deb January 5, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Aw, thanks veganchai! It’s weird that this is the first I’ve dealt with it – we had a lot of animals growing up. But then when I was growing up the vets would tell us that cats and dogs “don’t feel pain the way we do”, so I’m sure they wouldn’t have done anything at all. 😦

      One thing I’ve read over and over is that extra weight is bad for animals with arthritis, and of course it puts extra stress on the joints so it likely contributes to the development of arthritis…so if your kitties have the extra poundage, definitely do what you can to slim them up. It’s something I always struggled with for Tempest, though she’s trim (aside from the saggy belly) now.

  2. Mary Martin January 5, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I love that picture of your paw and hers! You are indeed a wonderful mom. Charles did cold laser, and if insurance pays you might as well try it. If she’ll sit still acupuncture might be worth a try. It certainly sounds like you’ve got everything covered. I’ll be interested to know i the joint supplements appear to work. She’s in the best hands . . . I hope her discomfort decreases.

    • Deb January 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks Mary! She’s funny, she likes to grab my finger sometimes – when she’s really relaxed and happy. (We were hanging out in the sunshine, and I was taking her picture, so she was really happy! lol.)

      I’ll look into acupuncture. I think pet insurance covers that as well!

      Did the cold laser help Charles? I found a vet in the area that does it. I’ll definitely look more into it.

      The joint supplements have such good anecdotal evidence that it’s apparently standard procedure now to recommend them as a first step in managing arthritis. (It’s glucosamine-chondritin.) I started her on it yesterday. She threw up this morning’s breakfast (it can apparently cause some GI distress) five minutes after I gave her the supplement, which sucks. Tonight’s seemed to be fine. Hopefully this morning was just an anomaly! I’ll keep you updated on whether I see improvement in a month or so.

  3. Provoked January 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Tempest is beautiful! I hope you find a way to make her more comfortable for many years to come. My 17+ year old dog Midas was on joint supplements for almost 3 years… It made all the difference in the quality of his last years. Hugs to your sweet kitty. ❤

  4. Nancy January 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I am a Traditional Chinese herbalist and my specialty is nonhuman animals. I see a lot of arthritis(wind bi) in companion animals -there are formulas that help alleviate the symptoms.
    I would be willing to help precious Tempest. email me if you are interested.

    • Deb January 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Thanks Nancy, I hadn’t even thought of Chinese herbal remedies! I’ll have to look more into it in a few weeks after the joint supplements have had a chance to have an effect.

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