Joint problems are more common nowadays in our pets than they are us, with both young and older cats being affected
If your cat does get a joint problem it can significantly affect their day-to-day life and maintaining good joint health is a lifetime commitment.
So how do we do this? Well, firstly, it is important to give our cats the right joint supplement, containing the right ingredients, in the right composition that the cat will effectively absorb, getting the full benefit from the supplements which will help to support the joints – sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, let’s try to understand it.
A joint supplement is a nutraceutical – nutraceuticals are substances that are required for the normal body structure and function. Nutraceuticals are given orally in a purified form which can help improve the health and the well-being of the cat. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not medication but a feed supplement that is designed to support the healthy function of a joint. Look at your cat now, and imagine that inside the cat’s joint, the bone surface is covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage which is lubricated with a small amount of joint fluid. This joint fluid allows the bones to glide quite freely over one another with minimum friction.
The most common joint problem is arthritis – this is normally seen in older cats but it can develop in younger cats too. Cats that have got arthritis can suffer discomfort, as the cartilage within the joint becomes less smooth and this results in the bones rubbing together (friction). This increase in friction can be caused after ligament damage, damage to the cartilage/abnormal cartilage development or by a trauma such as a fracture – this is similar to the discomfort that we humans experience.
Another important factor to healthy joints is synovial fluid – this lubricates (feeds) the joint, a bit like oil does on a bicycle. When the joint becomes inflamed, then the synovial fluid becomes less effective, which in turn reduces its feeding of the joint, causing stiffness and pain. In response to this pain, the cat’s body stabilizes the joint by building new bone around it – leading to the cat suffering from further pain and stiffness.
Some signs are obvious but sometimes signs of joint problems are more subtle. Signs to look out for include:
- General stiffness
- The cat has difficulty getting up and
- General changes in behavior
- Licking a limb or joint – this could be
- a sign of the cat is in pain
- Sleeping more
- Restlessness, as the cat cannot get comfortable in one position
These are the obvious tell-tale signs but if there’s another symptom that’s not on the list and you are worried, then please go to your veterinary surgeon.
Why do we give joint supplements?
Well, giving a cat joint supplements can help maintain healthy joints by stimulating the cartilage. These supplements, containing different ingredients, also help support the joint.
Glucosamine is one of the main substances involved in the joint cartilage, with its main action being to stimulate the formation of new cartilage and help promote the production of collagen in the cartilage – with glucosamine hydrochloride being the purest form of supplement, giving the cat the greatest benefit. Glucosamine also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect with many companies pairing glucosamine with chondroitin, as the two substances have complimentary benefits.
Chondroitin adds the elasticity element to the joints and gives the cartilage in the joint its shock-absorbing properties. The action of chondroitin perfectly complements the actions of glucosamine and the result is a healthy joint.
Other ingredients that can be found in joint supplements include:
Green-lipped muscle. This contains numerous active substances that can help relieve stiffness and can improve joint mobility.
Joint supplements can also contain omega-3 fatty acids, similar to those found in human supplements; these can aid in an anti-inflammatory action to help soothe stiff joints.
Vitamin E can be added in the joint supplement as this supports the normal structure of the joint’s cartilage. Zinc has the properties to heal the body and is also required for the production of collagen; as I’ve already explained, collagen is the main supportive protein found in the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons in the joint.
So what do we need to look out for? Firstly they are available pretty much everywhere and come in many forms, like a chewable tablet, liquid or as a powder in a capsule. These can be given as a treat, be mixed with food or ingested directly into the cat’s mouth.
Remember, it is most important that we follow the recommended strength and give the correct dosage – as some joint supplements need a loading dose to ensure that the active ingredient reaches a beneficial level in the cat’s system – before the cat goes down to a maintenance dose for long term use.
As owners, it is important that if we have any concerns about our cat’s joints then we seek veterinary advice. Sadly, joint problems like arthritis are unable to be reversed; however, the discomfort that the cat feels can be managed, and they can continue to lead a good quality of life.