Note: We usually feature lolcats here on Science Caturday, because we love both cats and science (and we like to LOL). But today we haz a more serious kitty science post.
Most cats love to be stroked, but many older cats suffer from osteoarthritis, a condition that owners may not notice and can make even petting painful. Scientists at the University of Montreal recently published a study in the journal Research in Veterinary Science on how to recognize and treat osteoarthritis in cats. “Osteoarthritis frequently affects cats’ elbows, backs and hips and joints in the hind limbs, and its prevalence increases dramatically with age. More than 80 % of cats older than 11 years old have it,” explained lead author Eric Troncy of the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
The researchers studied 120 cats and found that 39 of them were suffering from osteoarthritis. They measured the cats’ pain by looking at their kinetic gait analysis, their daily activity, and their sensitivity to touch. (You can tell these scientists are very clever, because they managed to get kitties to walk on a treadmill – video)
After evaluating the cats, the researchers began the treatment part of the study. One group of cats was given an anti-inflammatory drug called meloxicam for 74 days while a control group was given a placebo.
“Our study demonstrated that daily oral meloxicam administration over four weeks provided various levels of pain relief, depending on the amount of the drug the cat was given. Cats that were in treated with the high dosage continued to enjoy pain relief for five weeks after dosage stopped. None of the cats had any side-effects,” Professor Troncy said. Unfortunately, the drug did not appear to reduce pain associated with touch, such as stroking, although the treated cats were more active and sociable. Full results of the study are here (paywall).
The researchers will now start looking at how brain scans may further improve our understanding of pain in cats, particularly with regards to hypersensitivity.