Use of Meloxicam in Feline Osteoarthritis
Harriet Woodhall (Vet News Small Animal Editor)
Feline Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition in aged cats and a significant cause of chronic pain in the elbows, hips and knees. Although commonly accepted in dogs, for a while it was not thought that cats suffered from OA, causing it to be much under-diagnosed. Only now is it slowly being recognised.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis involving the wearing of the cartilage that cushions the joint. Over time the exposed adjacent bones can rub together causing pain and reduced mobility.
At the present, diagnosis of osteoarthritis in cats is difficult due to the problems with physical examination. Much of the diagnosis has to be from relying on the owner’s observations. Clinical signs include weight loss, change in attitude, change in grooming habits and reduced mobility, among others. There have also been studies into observing radiographic changes, however these are not as severe as in dogs and some osteoarthritic cats have no observable evidence from the X-rays at all.
Scientists at the University of Montreal’s Quebec Research Group in Animal Pharmacology have completed a study that aims to improve the treatment and diagnosis of OA in cats.
In the study, 120 cats were examined and 39 were identified to have OA. Over 74 days the animals were measured for kinetic gait analysis (a way to measure limb impairment), daily activity levels (using an accelerometer) and their sensitivity to touch (withdrawal of paw after a certain amount of pressure). While on the study they were split into groups; a control group were given a placebo and the others were given different doses of Meloxicam.
Meloxicam is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug); this class of drug is the main treatment option for many other species suffering from OA. It is also practical for administration to cats: it is palatable, can be put in food and is easy to make accurate dosing due to its liquid formulation. The reason it has not been used much for cats is due to the potential for nephrotoxicity (toxic to the kidney), as many osteoarthritic cats also experience some level of CKD (chronic kidney disease).
The study found that cats had various levels of pain relief depending on their dosages; the cats with high dosages experiencing pain relief for 5 weeks after the dosage stopped. However, as expected, the pain relief does not extend to stroking or anything that is associated with touch.
Professor Troncy explained that “the development of adapted therapy protocols to correctly treat arthritis associated chronic pain will provide a better quality of life particularly in older cats and will in turn have a direct impact on owners, as their cat will be more active and sociable.”
As pain in cats is still a developing subject, the researchers are now looking into brain scans to try and understand the theory more and specifically look into the neurophysiological hypersensitive process. Meanwhile, Meloxicam is under consideration for use in cats by the European Medicines Agency in April.
Bennett D, Ariffin S.M.bt.Z, Johnston P. (2012) Osteoarthritis in the cat: 2. How should it be managed and treated? Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Vol 14(1) 76-84