Cats hide their pain well, but for Animal Pain Awareness Month, we take a closer look at a health problem that hits close to home.
It happened in a matter of hours. That morning, Loki the Therapy Cat was a happy, playful kitten. By that afternoon, he was curled up, in pain, and unable to move.
Cats are really good at disguising their pain. A prime example would be my cat Misha, but hers is a tale I will have to tell later this month.
Loki the Therapy Cat (who is actually still a kitten) developed crippling arthritis in mere hours. We were all incredibly puzzled, and we immediately took him to the vet. The diagnosis? Immune-mediated polyarthritis.
What Is Polyarthritis?
I should be more specific: immune-mediated polyarthritis was the vet’s most likely bet. We never did get a 100% sure diagnosis for him, but the symptoms for this particular ‘strain’ were there.
Polyarthritis is when pain and inflammation in the form of arthritis attack multiple joints. “Immune-mediated” means that it is brought on by an abnormal response from the cat’s immune system. Basically, your cat’s immune system is attacking the cat’s own joint cartilage.
Symptoms Of Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis
With Loki, the main symptoms were a drastic decrease in activity and movement, but he also cried out whenever we touched him. He wouldn’t even move when placed on the floor of the examination room. This is a very active, very mischievous kitten we’re talking about.
The arthritis quickly took over his body. It started with a slight limp, then difficulty walking, and then a cease of movement altogether.
Other visible symptoms of immune-mediated polyarthritis include:
- Decrease in range of motion
- Shifting of pain from one limb to another
- Cracking of the joints
- Lack of appetite
It’s important to take your cat into the vet right away if you notice these symptoms.
Treatment For Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis
Immune-mediated polyarthritis is sometimes a lifelong condition in which the cat suffers relapses. Physical therapy can be beneficial in severe cases, but most cats with IMPA are put on anti-inflammatory medications. This calms the immune response and gets your cat’s body back to normal.
If you catch IMPA early enough, your cat has a much better chance of remission. Loki’s immune-mediated polyarthritis cleared right up as soon as we gave him his medications. This was thanks, in part, to how quickly we got him into the vet.
Now that his arthritis has cleared up, I try to give him a daily supplement of turmeric or coconut oil. Both are anti-inflammatory and are safe for cats in small doses. DO NOT give your cat over-the-counter pain medications from your medicine cabinet, as many of these are poisonous to cats, if not lethal.
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