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Everything you Need to Know About Supplements for Cats with Arthritis

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

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Arthritis is a debilitating disease that affects the cat’s quality of life significantly. However, in the past, it was believed that arthritis in cats is not particularly common.

Today, thanks to the news and advances in veterinary medicine, cats live longer and vets have more accurate ways of diagnosing early arthritis. These advances debunked the claims that arthritis is not common among cats.

In fact, a study from 2002 demonstrated that 90% of cats older than 12 years have evidence of arthritis. However, age is not a limiting factor. Another study showed that 20% of cats around 1-year-old are affected with arthritic changes.

These statistics are quite concerning and accenting the need for proper arthritis management in cats.

Understanding Cat Joint Health

Normally, in healthy cats, the cartilage acts like a buffer that prevents bone friction and enables smooth gliding.

If the buffer is damaged or starts degenerating, the two bone surfaces forming the joint will rub from each other, resulting in pain and inflammation.

The pain is mostly accented when the cat is moving. In fact, joint health decline is the most common cause of reduced cat mobility.

Osteoarthritis Signs and its Causes in Cats

Joint degeneration and damage can occur due to several reasons:

  • Natural wear and tear – it is normal for the joints to weaken with age
  • Orthopedic abnormalities – hip dysplasia and ligament issues
  • Injury – injuries or fractures of the joints
  • Obesity – it worsens the joint issues
  • Genetics – some cat breeds are more prone to joint health problems (Siamese, Maine Coon, Scottish Fold, and Persian)

Decreased mobility is the telltale sign a cat is arthritic. Here are some signs that can help you evaluate your cat’s overall joint health and mobility:

  • reduced jumping
  • spending more time on lower surfaces
  • limping
  • resting more frequently
  • lethargy
  • walking with a hunched back
  • sensitivity on brushing, petting, or even touching
  • more pronounced hiding behavior
  • unkempt coat
  • weight gain
  • constipation

 

How Supplements Can Help with Arthritis

There are several ways to support your cat’s mobility and improving overall joint health:

  • Maintain normal body weight
  • Provide the right diet
  • Exercise
  • Use joint health supplements.

Weight Management

Preventing obesity and maintaining lean and healthy body weight is important because:

  • The excess body mass over-stresses the arthritic joints
  • The fat tissue secretes hormones that support inflammation.

The best way of keeping your cat a bit more on the skinny side is to make the right food choices and promote physical activity.  

Dietary Choices

Dietary modifications are the basis of managing feline osteoarthritis. Cats with arthritis will benefit from protein-rich diets. Proteins build muscles, and a cat with compromised joints needs strong muscles for adequate support.

When choosing the food, make sure the first ingredient on the label is a high-quality, animal-based protein source (no less than 35%).

Exercise

Regular exercise is important because it strengthens the bones and joints, thus increasing flexibility and injury prevention. The micro-injuries that develop from natural wear and tear are the triggering factor for osteoarthritis.

Joint Supplements

Cailin Heinze, VMD, assistant professor of nutrition in the department of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Vet. Medicine at Tufts University supports the use of dietary supplements in the management of feline osteoarthritis.

She states that “these substances may improve comfort in some situations—perhaps through an anti-inflammatory mechanism and if you’re using a high-quality product from a reputable source—a product that actually contains what the supplier says it contains—then the safety level is pretty high.”

How to Shop for the Best Arthritis Supplements

As a customer, you have the right to be picky when choosing the right arthritis supplement for your cat.

According to Dr. Gary Richter, an award-winning vet and holistic practitioner, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Search for a reputable brand that has commissioned clinical studies
  • Read the labels carefully and if you have doubts, ask your veterinarian
  • Pay attention to the brand’s confirmed expertise (positive feedbacks, customer services, return policies)
  • Make sure the product you chose has lot numbers (it means the brand practices quality control checks)
  • Be skeptical when reading the claims on the product (supplements are not so strictly regulated as drugs)
  • Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your cat something new

Best Joint Supplements for Cats

As news in the field of arthritic management emerges every day, the pet market offers more and more joint supplements for cats. Not all supplements are equally good, and not all brands are selling what they advertise.

To help you navigate the minefield of choices, we have reviewed the ingredients in the best supplements for cats with arthritis.

Glucosamine 

Glucosamine is one of the main building blocks of cartilage. Studies show it can support cartilage renewal by inhibiting its degradation and stimulating a more intense synthesis of proteoglycans. To be more accurate, a study showed that it inhibits type II collagen degradation and stimulates its synthesis within the articular cartilage.

Glucosamine tips and considerations:

  • The supplement is available in several forms, including chews, capsules, powders, and liquids.
  • If possible, opt for a brand that enriches its glucosamine formula with other chondroprotectants, fatty acids, vitamins, and natural anti-inflammation extracts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are helpful for cats with arthritis because they have proven anti-inflammation properties which may be effective in easing joint pain and discomfort.

Many studies have shown that fatty acid supplements derived from salmon, mackerel, and trout tissues improve mobility in cats, dogs, and humans.

For example, one study demonstrated that compared to the placebo group receiving corn oils, cats supplemented with fish oil were:

  • More active
  • Less reluctant to go up and down the stairs
  • Less stiff during gait
  • Capable of making higher jumps
  • More willing to interact with the owner.

Fish oils – tips and considerations:

  • It would help if you were mindful about your cat’s caloric intake – your arthritic cat needs to stay slim, which is why you are feeding a low-calorie diet. Given the fact that omega 3 supplements are quite caloric (one capsule has around 10 calories), you need to subtract their value from the daily intake.  
  • When using fish oil, Dr. Jennifer Coates suggests “mixing the content of a one-gram capsule into your cat’s food two or three times a day.”
  • Some extra sensitive cats may develop side effects in the form of mild digestive upsets.
  • If used in excess amounts, fish oils can trigger immunosuppression and bleeding issues. Always ask your veterinarian what the best dose for your cat is.  

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan naturally present in cartilage and recommended for cats with arthritis because of the following features:

  • Promotes water retention and increases the cartilage elasticity
  • Ensures adequate shock absorption
  • Provides proper nourishment to the joint structures
  • Inhibits the production of inflammation mediators.

Chondroitin sulfate tips and consideration:

  • These supplements are available in oral and injectable forms
  • Despite the glucose content, the supplement does not affect the blood sugar levels meaning you can use it in diabetic cats.

CBD Oil

Pet CBD oil is helpful for cats with arthritis. It promotes healthy joints by alleviating the pain and discomfort, relieving the stiffness, and reducing the inflammatory processes within the joints.

Simply put, CBD products are good for cats with arthritis because of the following features:

  • Promotes healthy bones
  • Supports joint health and flexibility
  • Eases stiffness due to normal daily exercise and activity
  • Provides connective tissue support
  • Can help with degeneration processes 
  • Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response in the body
  • It can help reduce occasional discomfort 
  • May help discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity

CBD products – tips and considerations:

  • CBD products for arthritic cats are available in the form of oils, capsules, and treats; choose the type that is most convenient to you and your pet
  • Mild side effects (headshaking, drowsiness, dry mouth, low blood pressure) seldom develop, but their development is a sign your cat may need a lower dose
  • Search for the right pet CBD product for your cat – the words THC-free must be clearly stated somewhere on the label
  • Make sure the ingredients are sourced, and the product is manufactured in the United States.

Green Lipped Mussel

Green Lipped Mussels (GLM) is the perfect joint supplement for cats because they have strong anti-inflammation and antioxidant properties and contain a number of joint-friendly compounds like glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Basically, Green Lipped Mussel offers everything your pet needs to sustain healthy joints and maintain normal mobility levels.

Green Lipped Mussel – tips and considerations:

  • When choosing the right GLM supplement for your pet, pay attention to the brand (the mussels’ sourcing (local bays), harvesting (timing), and manufacturing (extraction method) are important quality indicators)
  • There is not much evidence regarding the Green Lipped Mussel potential side effects. However, you cannot use this supplement in cats allergic to shellfish, pregnant or nursing, and cats with heart, liver, or kidney disease.
  • Depending on the GLM supplement product, you can expect positive effects in around four to six weeks.
  • GLM extract supplements are available as powders that you can add to the cat’s food and tablets.

When You Should Start Giving Your Cat Supplement

A healthy cat eating quality food (breed-specific, nutritionally balanced, and complete) does not need any dietary supplements.

However, as soon as you notice decreased mobility in your cat, you need to make a trip to the vet’s office. If your cat is diagnosed with arthritis, your veterinarian will recommend adding joint protectants to the arthritis management strategy.

Joint supplements act in the long run and do not offer immediate relief. That is why they are used in combination with painkillers. In most cases, it takes them between four and six weeks to achieve mobility improvement.

Our Final Thoughts

As a cat parent, it is comforting to know your feline baby can lead a happy, active, fulfilling, and painless life despite its arthritis diagnosis.

It is also comforting to know that breakthrough discoveries in the joint health field are made every day, and consequently, new supplements emerge on the market.

With so many natural supplement choices today, keeping your cat’s joints healthy has never been easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best joint supplement for cats?

Based on current studies, the best joint product should contain omega 3 fatty acids and a number of chondroprotectants, including glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and MSM. It is advisable to talk to your veterinarian when choosing the best joint supplement for your cat.

What can I give my cat for arthritis pain?

The medications of choice for managing arthritis pain in cats are non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. If leaning toward a more natural approach, CBD oil may help reduce your cat’s pain and discomfort.

How can I treat my cat’s arthritis naturally?

To avoid conventional medications, you can try certain natural, herbal arthritis management options like CBD oil, Devil’s Claw, Boswellia Serrata, Ashwagandha, Pau D’Arco, and Turmeric. It is vital to talk to your veterinarian before adding one of these natural arthritis remedies to your cat’s menu.

What can I feed my cat with arthritis?

Cats with arthritis have specific nutritional needs. They benefit from high-quality and protein-rich diets (with animal-based protein sources as the first item on the ingredients list).