It can be very difficult to tell if older cats are in pain for several different reasons. It is not unusual for felines to lounge around, they are often very stoic, and they are great at hiding pain or disease. Since changes are often gradual and signs can be subtle, detecting there is an issue can be challenging.
Chronic pain is commonly associated with malignancy, kidney disease, chronic inflammation, orthopedic disorders, and chronic soft tissue and nervous tissue injury. Therefore, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about potential age-related changes. Typical changes will become more noticeable as your cat approaches the ten-year mark.
Things to consider as you observe your feline friend are:
Does my kitty still jump on furniture or go to the high spots that she used to seek out?
Does my cat still play with his favorite toy(s)?
Is my kitty starting to have accidents around the house or around the litter box?
When I am petting my kitty the way I always have, is there a spot that she is sensitive about me touching now?
Is my cat still grooming his entire body as normal or does your long-haired cat now get mats that he didn’t before?
If your cat is still acting relatively normal but seems to be slowing down, this may be due to arthritis. Any concerns you may have about your cat’s aging process can be addressed at an appointment with your veterinarian.
When you bring your aging cat to the veterinarian, they will conduct a physical exam, may recommend blood work to check for any changes in organ functions, and can check for any arthritic changes. This can provide a baseline for the doctor to reference if repeat blood work is needed for a future incident or to see how medication is influencing their body. If they suspect your pet is in the early stages of arthritis, a good quality joint supplement or a prescription joint diet may be all that is necessary to help regain some of the lost function.
Other treatment options are available if needed and may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your cat’s condition. Some of these include:
Therapy laser treatments
Works through a process called photobiomodulation (PBM)
Results are achieved when a sufficient dose of light energy reaches target tissue
Results in decreased inflammation, decreased pain, and accelerated healing
Requires a 15-30 minute trip to the vet
Magna Wave PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy
Works by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the circulatory system
Nitric oxide supports the healing of tissues and bones
Healing process is shortened and pain is reduced more quickly
PEMF ring can be purchased for use at home
If things progress and your pet’s condition gets worse, there are other medications that can be considered and discussed with your veterinarian. The key to successful treatment is to start early and manage it throughout the rest of their life.
Since chronic pain can lead to other challenges for our pets, it is being recognized in veterinary care as an important issue to address. Cats are unique and have unique requirements, but advances in veterinary medicine are enabling us to provide many felines a long and pain free life.