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Long article title: Arthritis and the Aging Cat

Intro copy: Would you know if your cat was arthritic? At least 30 percent of felines aged 12+
suffer from some degree of arthritis.

Body copy: Arthritis is a degenerative, painful inflammation and swelling of the joints. While
arthritis can be triggered by an injury or a systemic infection such as Lyme disease, most arthritis is
simply due to aging. As your cat grows older, normal wear and tear affect the smooth layer of
cartilage covering the bones. This buffer eventually erodes to the point where bones begin to rub
together, causing pain and inflammation. Weight-bearing joints, including the hips, elbows
shoulders and ankles are more prone to arthritis, but it also can affect the spine and smaller joints.

Recent studies show that arthritis in cats is more common than previously believed, but many
owners often remain unaware that a problem may exist. For one, cats in general are less vocal
about pain than other animals such as dogs. They typically don’t develop a pronounced limp like a
dog or a horse; and, since many spend a great deal of time outdoors, it is difficult to detect subtle
changes in their gate (how they walk). Cats also don’t exhibit the telltale swelling in their joints like
other animals. As a result, arthritis can go undetected and untreated for many years, causing
significant pain and impacting a cat’s quality of life.

Telltale Signs of Arthritis
Cat owners need to be vigilant of subtle behavioral and lifestyle changes that may indicate a
problem. Some things to look for include:

       Has trouble or is unwilling to jump or climb
       Has trouble getting up after resting or sleeping
       Avoids the litterbox
       Has trouble negotiating stairs
       Socializes or plays less frequently
       Demonstrates increased aggression, nervousness or depression
       Seeks out warm or soft places to sleep
       Favors a limb or limps

Managing Your Cat’s Arthritis
Early detection and diagnosis is extremely important in finding effective medical treatment. If you
suspect your cat has a problem, the first step is to take her to your vet for a proper diagnosis. While
there is no cure, reducing inflammation and pain management are both key to mitigating the
debilitating effects of arthritis. Most vets will recommend a combination of moderate exercise,
weight control, anti-inflammatory medications and, in some cases, surgery.

Weight control/diet: Overweight cats are more prone to developing arthritis because excess weight
overburdens joints and accelerates joint degeneration. Switching you cat to a lite food will help her
lose weight gradually and reduce stress on her joints. Dietary supplements can help fortify cartilage
in damaged joints.

Moderate exercise: The proper amount of exercise for your cat is a balancing act: too much can put
undue strain on her joints and cause her pain, while too little will keep her stiff and sore. Moderate
activity will strengthen muscles, keep ligaments and tendons flexible and help blood circulate to stiff
joints. Keep tabs on how much exercise she’s getting; finding the right threshold may take some
time, but will help make her more comfortable.

Medication: There are several medications that can help control pain and inflammation:
Glucosamines and chondroitin sulfates both increase the production of joint fluid; MSM
(Methylsulfonylmethane) acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, and; omega fatty 3 acids boost the
production of joint fluid. Again, consult you vet for the proper drug or combination of drugs as well
as the correct dosage. Do not give your cat Tylenol, aspirin or Ibuprofin unless directed by your
vet; over-the-counter medications can be toxic to your pet.
Make Life Easier at Home
Modifying your cat’s home environment can make her more comfortable:

       Provide a source of extra warmth with a heated pad or bed
       Make her favorite perch easier to reach with a ramp or climbing stairs
       Keep her food and water dishes slightly elevated and easily accessible
       Use a low-rise litter box and keep it readily accessible
       Keep her away from cold or damp areas

Sidebar 1: Chemically or electrically-heated pads and beds can help ease your cat’s arthritis pain.

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