Whereas we have quite a bit of knowledge about the prevalence, impact of lifestyle, and efficacy of therapy in dogs with osteoarthritis, we have much less to go on for our feline patients. This may be due to the fact that they are smaller in stature / body size, are typically light and agile creatures, or that they may compensate for orthopedic disease better than their canine counterparts.
In my presentation on Feline Osteoarthritis - Pain Management and Integrative Care Options, I provided a review of the literature regarding the incidence of osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease in the feline - I think it is worthy of posting here.
The takeaway for clinicians is that, overall, there is very little correlation between clinical signs and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in cats. Past studies have demonstrated that far more cats have radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease than are typically suspected, as many affected cats do not demonstrate overt signs of lameness.
Subtle changes in behavior, house soiling or urine marking behavior, or alterations in their ability to jump / achieve prior jump height may serve as cues to the clinician - to consider investigating further (radiography) even when obvious clinical signs of lameness are lacking.
This post, as reported in our Cat Health News blog, summarizes a recent publication that reported on analyzing gait and jump in health cats. As stated in our summary of the article, a thorough orthopedic examination and detailed quality of life questionnaires are useful tools, but their sensitivity of being able to detect subclinical or undiagnosed osteoarthritis is very low. Radiography is also an important tool in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis, yet radiographically normal joints can still have pathological changes. The pressure mat appears to be a promising objective tool that aids in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis in cats.