Pet World: Can cats get arthritis?

 Watch your animals for signs of trouble with their joints.  They can mask pain easier than humans.

MorgueFile photo
By Steve Dale
Tribune Content Agency
  Q: Our veterinarian says Tabitha has arthritis. I never knew cats could get arthritis. I suppose it makes sense, though, since she’s 16. She doesn’t act lame. My vet suggested a drug called Metacam, but I’ve read bad things about it on the Internet. Any advice? – V.D., St. Paul, MN
  A: Cats are prone to osteoarthritis, as are people and dogs. However, cats are typically so good at masking pain that they don’t act lame. Look for more subtle signs, like not jumping up on counters or scampering up and down stairs as enthusiastically. 
  Dr. Robin Downing, past president and founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a certified pain practitioner, notes that used appropriately, Metacam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is safe for cats. 
  “We have many years of data, which can’t be thrown out the window,” she says. “Metacam is used around the world without fanfare. We have a set of excellent guidelines to help veterinarians make the best decisions about using Metacam.”
  Downing, of Windsor, CO, adds, “Pain relief is the first step to break the pain cycle. About half of all cats are overweight, which most certainly may contribute to the problem. Weight loss is very important, not only to lessen the impact of arthritis, but also for overall health.” 
  With your veterinarian’s guidance, your cat can slowly begin to exercise. Additional options include physical therapy (including underwater treadmill), acupuncture, chiropractic and therapeutic laser.
  Q: Recently, I had to have my 18-year-old cat put to sleep. In searching for another cat, I’ve found that most breeders have their kittens neutered four months before they’re sold. Isn’t this too early? Are there any side effects to early spay/neuter? – B.M., Hudson FL
  A: I’m very sorry for your loss, and it’s great that you’re willing to open up your heart to a new best purring pal. 
  It’s very safe to spay/neuter cats at four months. I also endorse spay/neuter for the health of your cat. Spaying greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer and completely eliminates the threat of uterine and ovarian cancer. Also, spayed/neutered cats are simply better pets; there’s no need to roam and no mess, and life is quieter. Spay/neuter also eliminates the over-population problem in cats. 
  However, new research indicates that with early spay/neuter, some changes do occur. Almost immediately, there are changes in hormones, which can cause “fixed” cats to be hungrier (explaining what can seem like inordinate begging). Spay/neuter surgery can trigger up to a 30 percent drop in caloric needs and up to a 20 percent boost in appetite. 
  Royal Canin has launched a new line of spayed/neutered formulas. The diet contains controlled fat levels and a unique blend of fibers to support the decreased energy and increased appetite of spayed/neutered cats. Cats on this diet aren’t as predisposed to be overweight, and may not beg so much.
  Q: Toby, our newly adopted 2-year-old beagle is stealing my daughters’ underwear and chewing on it. I’ve purchased more underwear for my daughters in the past few months than I have for their entire lives. I’m finding more underwear in the backyard than I am in their underwear drawers. The dog has a million toys, and gets rawhide to chew on. What can I do? – C.B., Chicago, IL
  A: Your problem isn’t as uncommon as you might think. If Toby is actually ingesting the underwear, a serious obstruction could occur. If Toby is simply chomping on the unmentionables, then relocating them to the yard, it’s like burying bones. This is what dogs do with their favorite things and your daughter should take it as a compliment.
  Dogs live by their noses, and your pup is smitten with the smell. You can’t turn off a dog’s nose. The only real solution is to pick up those unmentionables before Toby does. Meanwhile, continue offering your dog appropriate toys to chew on.
Write to Steve at Tribune Content Agency, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 144, Buffalo, NY. 14207. Send e-mail to [email protected] DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state.
This column was printed in the January 25, 2015 – February 7, 2015 edition.