Osteoarthrisits is a common problem in older cats, who suffer the same swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints as people do. While conventional treatments such as corticosteriods and anti-inflammatories (such as aspirin) can treat the inflammation and pain, the ideal treatment for arthritis would slow down the progression of the disease and possibly even help to heal the joint.
Some clinical studies have found that glucosamine, commonly sold as a supplement for both people and animals, may be able to do just that. The end of each bone, at the joint, is covered with articular cartilage, which cushions the joint as a cat (or a person) moves. In an arthritic joint, the cells that make up this cartilage become degraded, causing damage to the cartilage and inflammation. The joint’s shock absorber beings to wear away.
But glucosamine is an aminosugar that is incorporated into the articular cartilage of the joint, helping it to repair itself. Glucosamine is safe to use and does not cause side-effects. Its use among veterinarians (and orthopedists) is rapidly becoming widespread. It is the supplement most commonly used to treat arthritis.
If you are considering glucosamine for your cat’s arthritis, there are some important points to keep in mind:
- Glucosamine works by acting on living cartilage cells, so it is most effective when used early in the course of arthritis, before the joint damage is extensive. In fact, glucosamine is most effective when it is given before there are any clinical signs of arthritis. Routine screening of older cats for arthritis that has not yet begun to cause pain or limping can be very effective.
- Glucosamine is not a cure for arthritis, but a treatment. This means it must be given every day for the life of the cat. However, the dosage often can be reduced over time as more healthy cartilage is produced.
- Glucosamine is not a drug, and its natural action takes time. It may be four to eight weeks before you see any improvement. If you don’t see improvement after eight weeks, it’s a good idea to have your cat re-evaluated; arthritis may not be the problem.
- Nutritional supplements are not well-regulated in the United States, which means the purity, potency and even the ingredients in glucosamine supplements can vary dramatically among brands. As a rule, the less expensive supplements are either not as pure or may contain lower doses of the active ingredients. Buy only top-quality supplements from reputable manufacturers, because products of lesser purity are also less effective. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
- There are many natural glucosamine products that are formulated specifically for cats and dogs and that contain the recommended dosage of glucosamine and other joint-enhancing supplements. Some are formulated as treats that will be much easier to give your cat than a pill.