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Is Your Cat in Pain? The Hidden Condition

Chronic pain in cats can have several sources including arthritis, abdominal disorders such as pancreatitis and dental disease.

Several studies have shown that while many cats have radiographic evidence of arthritis, only about half of those cats have overt symptoms that are recognized by the owner. In one study, the incidence of arthritis in cats over the age of 12 was 90%, yet of the 100 cats in this study, only 4 had any notation regarding pain in the medical record. These statistics illustrate both the prevalence of arthritis in cats as well as our failure to recognize its symptoms.

Because it is obvious to most of us that acute traumatic injury such as bite wounds and fractures are very likely to cause pain, we take it for granted that these cats need pain medications. But what about the chronically painful cat? Many of the symptoms that we may attribute to aging or other factors may in fact have their basis in pain.

Problems such as constipation, falling when jumping and failure to use the litter box may all be due to chronic discomfort that prevents the normal accomplishment of these routine tasks. Even the older cat that just seems to be slowing down may in fact be chronically painful. Other symptoms of pain may include:

Resistance to grooming
Hiding
Aggressive behavior
Poor appetite
Weight loss
Excessive sleeping or lethargy
Poor coat quality due to lack of self grooming
Obesity

Veterinary medicine has made great progress in the management of pain in feline patients. Cats undergoing surgical or dental procedures routinely receive appropriate pre- and post-procedure pain medication.

For the chronically painful cat, there are a number of good options to manage their discomfort and improve their quality of life. Nutraceuticals containing glucosamine and chondroitin have been scientifically proven to help maintain joint health by providing the substrates for cartilage repair and joint fluid production. These products are extremely safe, affordable and quite often have a big impact on the quality of life in an arthritic cat.

Additionally, low-dose chronic anti-inflammatory use with the new generation of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories has proven safe in a number of recent studies. By no means should a client ever administer any medication to a pet without veterinary advice as some medications are very toxic, especially in cats (aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen to name but a few).

Other modalities we have recently started applying include Class 4 therapeutic laser treatments and acupuncture. Both of these treatments activate pain blocking mechanisms both locally and in the pain centers of the brain to help diminish chronic discomfort associated with a wide variety of conditions.

So watch your cat for these signs of pain and if you think he may be exhibiting them, please contact your veterinarian to arrange for a consultation. Typically and exam, and possibly x-rays will help determine whether your cat has a pain issue.

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