Ask the Vet

Arthritis in Cats

Barn cats can be tough, but they still need regular veterinary care to live long, healthy lives. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)


We have an old barn cat that is getting pretty crippled. It's a lot worse this winter than ever before. Is there anything we can give her to help?


She most likely has osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. If she hasn't seen a veterinarian recently, get her in for a checkup so her condition can be fully assessed.

Cats are very different than dogs and often get treated differently when it comes time for us to get them medical attention, largely because they are so independent. Cats are even better than dogs at hiding problems, but they still absolutely need regular veterinary care to live their best and longest lives.

Cats (and dogs) are very sensitive to many drugs that humans can safely take for osteoarthritis. As a rule, never give your pets human medication, or even another pet's medication, without first talking to your veterinarian. Ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are dangerous to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be deadly to cats.

The NSAIDs we use in dogs like carprofen (Rimadyl), Deramaxx, and Previcox cannot be used in cats. There is one NSAID, Onsior, that can be used short-term in cats.

At the clinic, we have had good success using an Adequan injection in cats. This is only approved for dogs and horses, so it is an off-label use. That's why you will need to discuss this option with your veterinarian. We also give some cat-specific glucosamine supplements that we've found can be helpful in some cases.

Lastly, you should be aware that there is something new that just came out this year. Called "Solensia," it is a monoclonal antibody injection for osteoarthritis. It seems to be very safe and effective. We have been pleased with it in the cats we have used it with, and I think it could be a game changer for the treatment of chronic arthritis in cats.


Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask the Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email