Osteoarthritis afflicts many dogs and more cats than most in the veterinary profession have previously recognized, and today
many treatment modalities are available to veterinarians. As nutraceutical research emerges and veterinarians gain experience
with these products, it is evident that a complementary role exists for nutraceuticals in clinically managing joint health
in companion animals.
In September 2013, an international group of clinicians, including orthopedic specialists, gathered in Vienna, Austria, to
discuss their therapeutic strategies and the efficacy and usefulness of a multimodal approach in canine and feline patients
with joint disease.
Osteoarthritis in dogs and cats
Dr. Brian Beale: Let's first discuss how you recognize joint health problems in your patients. Does the presentation differ between cats and
Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS (Moderator)
Dr. Thibaut Cachon: Most of the time dog owners come in because their dog is lame. Cat owners come because their cat is not acting normal; it
is less active, less willing to jump. Cat owners do not clearly recognize an orthopedic problem in their cats. And, for cats,
a full physical examination — including an orthopedic and a neurologic examination — is difficult to perform and to interpret.
It is important to be calm and a bit more patient with cats in order to do a good physical examination.
Thibaut Cachon, DVM, MsC, DECVS
Dr. David Bennett: Osteoarthritis is common in cats, particularly in older cats. Cats over 6 or 7 years of age may start developing osteoarthritis
and it will progress. It's different than in dogs. In cats, osteoarthritis tends to be generalized — nearly every joint in
the cat can be affected or will become affected with time. Yet, it seldom produces lameness in cats.
David Bennett, BSc, BVetMed, PhD, DVM, DSAO, FHEA, MRCVS
Changes in behavior or lifestyle at home alert us to the fact that the cat might have osteoarthritis. These cats stop jumping.
They don't play with the owners like they used to or with other cats in the household. They don't hunt or groom themselves
like they used to. They have problems using their litter tray. While all these clues could indicate other problems, they are
highly suggestive of osteoarthritis, which should be at the top of the differential diagnosis list.
Owners often interpret these changes as part of the normal aging process. You've got to ask the owner specific questions relating
to the cat's behavior. Owner assessment forms are being developed by a number of groups. The form we use is divided into four
behavioral domains — mobility, activity, temperament, and grooming habits.1
The behavioral changes in cats with osteoarthritis are also seen in dogs. That is important because in some small dog breeds
lameness can be less evident. Cats with osteoarthritis pose other diagnostic challenges. With cats, arthritic joints often
are not thickened to the same degree as in dogs, and cats don't have the large synovial effusions. Crepitus is also rare in
Dr. Sune Jerre: For dogs, you need an area where you can conduct lameness examinations the same way every time. I always do my lameness examinations
outdoors. Sometimes I let the dogs do some of their normal work — catch a ball or other activities.
Sune Jerre, DVM, Swedish Specialist Surgery
Dr. Martin Unger: Always try to evaluate the patient for proprioceptive deficits, and look at the animal's muscle mass. Then palpate the joints.
The workup is much more difficult in cats. Most of the time it does not work to palpate a cat symmetrically on both sides
at the same time, and they move totally differently when they are in your hospital, so you cannot evaluate them easily. More
owners now show me short videos on their phones to demonstrate their cats' behavior.
Martin Unger, DVM, DECVS