Diagnosing Orthopedic Problems in Cats

July 2, 2018

Do cats have as many orthopedic problems as dogs?

Do cats have as many orthopedic problems as dogs? Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS, orthopedic surgeon and head of education, training, and research at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas, says yes—they are just harder diagnose.

"Cats have many orthopedic problems just like dogs, but oftentimes it's much tougher to diagnose them in cats because cats often don't limp like dogs. When cats have lameness, they just stop doing some of the tasks that they normally do, such as jumping or climbing. And another sign would be just a stiff gait-they look like they're just getting old in other words.

When we're looking at cats, we're looking for things that are similar in dog joint problems, such as arthritis. In fact, one study showed that over 90% of cats have arthritis. So, what that means is that many cats are suffering, but we don't really see the outward signs, and so we have to go look for that, we have to have a high index of suspicion.

The most common joint that cats have arthritis in is the hip joint, and that's followed by the stifle joint and the elbow joint. So, if you have a cat that seemingly seems to be getting old or just isn't as active, maybe won't jump up to that high spot or looks just stiff, I would start with radiographing the hips, elbow, and the stifle, and see if you see evidence of arthritis."