Cat health problems are difficult to diagnose because cats are so good at hiding pain. Scientists at the University of Montreal have found a way to diagnose and treat osteoarthritis, a disease that affects as many as 80% of cats over age 11.
Until this time, there has not been a way to diagnose or treatment this illness in cats. Osteoarthritis causes chronic pain in cat’s elbows, back and hips, leading to a decrease in activity, particularly a reluctance to jump.
The researchers examined 120 cats, and found that 39 had osteoarthritis. To measure the amount of pain cats were enduring, the scientists used a kinetic gait analysis. This analysis revealed the amount of impairment in the limbs. Cats daily activity was measured by an accelerometer, and their sensitivity to touch was tested by determining the level of force that would cause the cats to withdraw their paw.
Cats were given various doses of the drug Meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory drug currently in use for treatment of other animals, for 74 days. Cats given high doses of the drug enjoyed pain relief for up to five weeks after the administration of the drug was stopped. In addition, none of the cats that received high dosages suffered any side effects.
Unfortunately, Meloxicam did not reduce the pain associated with touch that sometimes comes with osteoarthritis. This is a problem for humans with osteoarthritis as well.
This is good news, since cats were able to interact more with their people and return to a more active lives. Research will continue, with scientists looking at ways brain scans can help them learn more about pain in cats.