A Long Awaited Treatment for Arthritis in Cats is Finally Here

A brand new treatment for cat arthritis is on the market. This news is surely welcomed as it’s the first time in 25 years we’re seeing a new class of drugs in pain management for our feline companions. Before now, there were very few options for treating arthritis pain and keeping cats comfortable into their older years. Each day as a Hospice Veterinarian, I am euthanizing cats due to debilitating and chronic pain, however I’m hopeful that will be changing. Veterinarians and cat owners are excited about this new medication, but let’s back up for a moment to understand pain and arthritis in cats. 

First, arthritis in cats is severely under-diagnosed but is actually very common. Nearly 40% of cats have signs of arthritis and 90% of cats over the age of 12 have radiographic evidence of arthritis. (1) This is double the amount seen in dogs. Why is that? Put simply, cats are extremely good at hiding pain. Signs of pain can be vague such as: decreased activity, less grooming, urinating in the house and less interaction with the family. As arthritis pain becomes more intense, a cat becomes even more “cat like” in behavior. Most of the time, these changes in behavior are chalked up to old age. On the other hand, when a dog is in pain, it is much more obvious. Dogs limp, whine, and lay around much more than usual. 

How does arthritis cause pain and how does this new treatment help?

Arthritis causes pain when prostaglandins and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) are released from the bone or joint. Both of these cause inflammation and assist the nerves in sending pain signals to the brain. NGF also recruits more nerves to be made which passes along additional pain signals. Essentially, NGF is a “bad guy” in this situation and plays a large part in making the cat uncomfortable. 

The new medication is an injectable medication and works by blocking NGF, leading to less joint pain. In addition, it is a monoclonal antibody treatment meaning it is recognized by the body and is not considered foreign to a cat’s immune system. Studies show it is well tolerated with little to no side effects to the kidneys or liver. 

Prior to this medication, our options were limited to NSAIDS, often putting stress on the kidneys and increasing the risk of kidney failure. Its side effects are mild in comparison to NSAIDS. Things to look for are vomiting, diarrhea and some injection site irritation in a small number of patients. 

Solensia is already on the market in Canada and Europe, and Veterinarians are loving this new option for cat pain relief. 

Benefits of ​​Solensia: 

  • It is well tolerated with minimal side effects.
  • It is very effective. Trial studies report significant improvement in pain control in 3/4 cats.
  • It can be used safely with other pain medications and can actually lower the amount needed of other pain medications like NSAIDS which are not as safe. 

Luckily, we now know that most older cats have arthritis and we can do more to help them live their fullest life. 

Stay tuned to learn more about this new option for pain management in cats and other pet hospice care news.

Author: Dr. Elizabeth Benson

Sources:

  1. (Enomoto M, Lascelles BDX, Gruen ME,: Development of a checklist for detection of degenerative joint disease associated pain in cats 2020. J Feline Medicine and Surgery. DOI:10.1177/1098612X20907424. and Hardie EM et al. J Am Vet Med Assoc 202;220(5): 628-632.)

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