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So I've been having some issues with my 16 years old cat peeing on the floor around her litter and it has been suggested that she might be having arthritis problems. Hence my question,

Are there sure signs I can see she might have arthritis? Also, is arthritis something that would normally come up in a full check-up exam at the vet?

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90% of cats have arthritis by age 12.

Signs of arthritis are:

  • Trouble getting in or to the litterbox.
  • Greasy, unkempt fur - unable to groom themselves.
  • Missing jumps, hesistant to jump.
  • No longer using scratching posts (nails become overgrown)
  • No longer wanting to play
  • Difficulty climbing stairs

How to help

  • Veterinary consultation for anti-inflammatories - this will require blood work to check for signs of kidney or liver failure as these medications can be hard on those organs.

  • Have large low-rise litterboxes on each floor of the house for ease.

  • Brush fur daily and dry bath once a week - some cats are VERY sore so pain medications will be required prior to brushing.

  • Check claws periodically and trim as needed to prevent them from overgrowing into the paw pads.

  • Veterinary approved joint supplements.

You will see a major difference in your cats well-being with appropriate pain control.

What to expect during a senior health exam

At the age of 8 our cats and dogs are considered to be heading into their senior years, with that means a few things:

  • Yearly blood work - Once a year your cat should get a Blood Profile to be proactive in screening for diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes and the big one kidney disease.

Study from IDEXX labs

CKD is a common disease in cats. Previous studies have found that 1 in 3 cats are likely to develop kidney disease in their lifetime.1 However; earlier studies used azotemia to make the diagnosis of kidney disease and likely missed nonazotemic cats with CKD, particularly those with IRIS CKD Stage 1 or Stage 2 disease. In a recent study in cats, the prevalence of CKD was even higher than previously believed, with 50% of cats of all ages and as high as 80.9% of cats 15 years of age and older diagnosed with CKD.

  • Your veterinarian will discuss joint supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3's, green-lip mussel and devils claw to help ease the discomfort and damage to the join. A product we sell often is Flexadin. I would stay away from human supplements as there are no regulations ( i.e 500mg glucosamine only contains 20mg). This is true for Canada so I would check with the regulations in your country.

  • Typically your veterinarian will assume at 16 your cat has some form of arthritis - they may ask you how they are getting along with day to day life. It is not standard for veterinarians to give pain medications for arthritis (they will suggest joint supplements first unless case is severe) so it is important for you to bring up that you feel your cat is painful if this is the case.

  • Diet - There will also be a discussion on switching your cat to a senior formula, this food will be formulated to prevent or slow down common diseases in our cats such as heart disease, kidney disease and arthritis.

Along with these discussions your vet will do a thorough exam of heart, chest, eyes, mouth, abdomen, paws, skin, uro-genital and address what's needed.

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The answer to your question given in great details in the sites:

http://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-arthritis-symptoms-pain-relief and https://icatcare.org/advice/cat-health/arthritis-and-degenerative-joint-disease-cats

Points to mention here are:-

Symptoms of arthritis:

  • Reduced mobility:
    • Reluctance, hesitance or refusal to jump up or down
    • Jumping up to lower surfaces than previously
    • Jumping up or down less frequently
    • Difficulty going up or down stairs
    • Stiffness in the legs, especially after sleeping or resting for a while; occasionally there may be obvious lameness
    • Difficulty using the litter tray
    • Difficulty going through the cat flap
  • Reduced activity:
    • Increased time spent resting or sleeping
    • Not hunting or exploring the outdoor environment as frequently
    • Sleeping in different, easier to access sites
    • Reduced interaction and playing less with people or other animals
  • Altered grooming:
    • Reduced frequency of time spent grooming
    • Matted and scruffy coat
    • Sometimes overgrooming of painful joints
    • Overgrown claws due to lack of activity and reduced sharpening of claws
  • Temperatment changes:
    • More irritable or grumpy when handled or stroked
    • More irritable or grumpy on contact with other animals
    • Spending more time alone
    • Avoiding interaction with people and/or animals

Diagnosis of arthritis by vets:

As arthritis is more common and more severe in older cats, it should be looked for in any mature (7 years plus) or older cat.

When your vet examines your cat, they may be able to detect pain, discomfort, swelling or other changes affecting certain joints. If there is any uncertainty, your vet may suggest taking X-rays of the joints, but this is not always needed, and in some cases if the diagnosis is uncertain a simple trail treatment (with anti-inflammatory drugs) may be used.

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