As our cats age they may play less, become more hesitant to jump onto surfaces or sleep more. This is often attributed to ‘old age’ but actually may be down to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and inflammation of the joint. It is a chronic (long term) pain and usually creeps up on us without realising as signs can be very subtle, especially in our cats.
A diagnosis of osteoarthritis from your veterinary surgeon may therefore come as a bit of a shock. But rest assured that with a management plan including anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication prescribed by your vet alongside other lifestyle changes we can get your cat feeling like the cat that got the cream again! One aspect of arthritis management that could be considered as part of your plan is dietary changes. When we search feline arthritis online, we are often inundated with a barrage of information. How do we know what to believe? From claims to cure pain with diet change, to miracle supplements the market is hard to navigate. So, let’s investigate.
Owners feed a wide range of diets to cats. We have dry complete commercial, wet complete commercial, homemade, raw and many others. There are specific arthritis diets available on the market. Many contain a number of substances such as omega-3 fatty acids and have calorie control too. Omega-3 fatty acids, usually derived from marine based sources have a fairly good evidence base for mild positive effects on the signs of arthritis in a number of species. So these diets may be of benefit to your cat alongside other management options.
At present the WSAVA state that there is no evidence that raw meat-based diets provide health benefits over commercial or balanced homemade cooked diets. Therefore, despite claims it may be superior for management of arthritis, the risk of pathogens and other factors may suggest that it is not in the best interest of your cat or family to change. Other supplements don’t have a huge body of evidence to support their use; so should not be the sole focus of your efforts when looking to add to cat’s diets.
Our pet population is overall getting larger, and obesity is likely to exacerbate osteoarthritis clinical signs. This is down to both physical load through the joints being increased. And also because obesity appears to be linked to increased levels of inflammatory chemicals which could contribute to clinical signs. Studies have shown that weight reduction in obese animals can positively benefit our arthritic pets. So controlled weight loss alongside your veterinary team is something you should enthusiastically engage in if your pet has a high body condition score.
So… is it worth changing your cat’s diet?
Nutritional pet advice can be a minefield of information and confusing to decide upon. Your veterinary team is well placed to give nutritional advice. They are able to help guide you to bring in ‘multimodal’ management interventions to help support your arthritic cat. The main aim is to work holistically to use lots of changes to help make things easier and more comfortable for your beloved cat. When it comes to diet the most important factors include; using a diet appropriate for their age and lifestyle; maintaining a good lean body condition score; and feeding a good quality complete food, supplementation with support such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids or using diets specifically made with higher levels of these will potentially help as part of a wider plan.
- Impellizeri JA, Tetrick MA and Muir P (2000). Effect of weight reduction on clinical signs of lameness in dogs with hip osteoarthritis, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 216(7): 1,089-1,091.
- Marshall WG, Hazewinkel HA, Mullen D, De Meyer G, Baert K and Carmichael S (2010). The effect of weight loss on lameness in obese dogs with osteoarthritis, Veterinary Research Communications 34(3): 241-253
- Osteoarthritis in the cat: 2. How should it be managed and treated? – David Bennett, Siti Mariam bt Zainal Ariffin, Pamela Johnston, 2012
- Fritsch, D; Sparkes, A; Allen, T; and Hahn K (2010) A multicenter clinical study to evaluate the effect of a specially formulated food on osteoarthritis in cats
- Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs
- Raw Meat Based Diets_Jan2021 (wsava.org)