What does Osteoarthritis look like with cats?

Toodles and Zane enjoyed an afternoon at the vet office together.

As our pets age they experience many of the same conditions that we go through including osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that stems from the breakdown of cartilage in the joint and sets off a cascade of additional changes that leads to pain, decreased joint movement and bone spurs.  

It also is a progressive condition as the changes tend to snowball and lead to further and further degeneration.  

In dogs it can often be easy to recognize. Our friends may have trouble with stairs or jumping off or onto the bed or into the car. They can often even limp and show us which limb is an issue for them.  

But what about cats?  

They are masters at hiding pain and discomfort often only limping with very severe pain. Most cats have much more subtle symptoms such as a decrease in grooming, withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities or even changes in litter box habits.

It is easy to attribute many of these signs to getting old, but experts say this chronic disease is extremely prevalent in our feline friends, affecting about 45% of all cats and 90% of cats older than 12.

It has been very difficult to treat these patients due to their sensitivity to medications that work well in humans and dogs as well as difficulty in administering oral medications especially on a daily basis.  

Hopefully, this will all change soon with the release of Solensia. This is a new treatment that contains Frunevetmab- it is a monoclonal antibody (a type of protein) that recognizes and binds a protein called nerve growth factor that is involved in the regulation of pain.  

When it binds the nerve growth factor it prevents the pain signal from reaching the brain.  

Because it is a protein, it is eliminated via normal protein degradation pathways like naturally produced antibodies, with minimal involvement of the liver or kidneys which can be more poorly functioning in older cats.

The initial data says that the most common side effects seen in cats treated with Solensia included vomiting, diarrhea, injection site pain, scabbing on the head and neck, dermatitis and pruritus (itchy skin). These effects were relatively mild and did not require cessation of treatment.

It is given once a month under the skin and the dose is based on the weight of the cat.  

We are eagerly awaiting the release of this medication and cannot wait to start helping our patients regain some of their youthful spring!

NSAIDS must also be taken orally, which Kieves says can be difficult for cat owners to administer at home.

“Feline (arthritis) pain is typically undertreated because of a lack of effective solutions that are safe to use long-term, along with how difficult it can be for cat owners to administer oral medicines,” Mike McFarland, chief medical officer at Zoetis, which manufactures the recently approved drug, said. “The approval of Solensia is a significant step forward.”

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