Osteoporosis is a fairly common bone disorder in people, especially senior women. The condition is caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D, and combined with several factors, such as the absence of enough exercise, it can cause a number of debilitating pathologies, such as the animals being more prone to bone fractures.
In today’s article, we’re looking at several possible causes of feline osteoporosis, its signs and symptoms, diagnosis, and whether or not it can be treated.
What Causes Osteoporosis in Cats?
While this disease is perhaps less common in cats than it might be in people, especially those that lead a sedentary lifestyle, it has become a problem that pet owners have to manage, especially in the past several years.
Osteoporosis can be caused by three different factors.
The first is a dietary deficiency in calcium, phosphorus, as well as vitamin D, with the latter being in charge of storing calcium and other minerals in the cat’s bones.
The second possible cause of feline osteoporosis is a hormonal imbalance which leads to a lower estrogen production than normal. Apparently, cats that are spayed before they reach their sexual maturity or even intact ones that have a lower estrogen production as a result of going into menopause are far more likely to develop osteoporosis than the rest.
Does that mean that you should not spay your cat, though? Unfortunately, no. Cats that are not spayed go into heat fairly often, which means that there will be a number of kittens that you will try your best to place in homes.
Besides that, spaying your cat can prevent a number of health conditions, especially those related to the reproductive system, such as ovarian cancer and cancer of the uterus, as well as pyometra, which can be deadly.
The last possible cause of feline osteoporosis is hyperparathyroidism. The parathyroid hormone is important for all cats, and it is secreted by the parathyroid gland. However, in cats that have hyperparathyroidism, there is too much of this hormone in their system, which leads to mineral imbalances.
All cats that have this health issue have lower levels of calcium, phosphorus, as well as vitamin D, both in their blood and in their bones. Hyperparathyroidism causes a variety of clinical signs such as urinary health problems, nausea, loss of appetite, and lethargy. There are several ways of treating this condition, whether they involve significant changes in your cat’s diet or even surgery.
Symptoms of Feline Osteoporosis
Since osteoporosis tends to affect senior cats more than it does adults, going to the veterinary clinic for check-ups at least once or twice a year once your cat gets to be 6-7 years old is the best way of finding out if your pet is at a risk of developing this disease.
Those that are not diagnosed early, though, can show a range of clinical signs such as fatigue or difficult movement until they sustain a fracture. Cats with osteoporosis are more likely to break their tails compared to their healthy counterparts, which can be worrying given that tail fractures aren’t common thanks to their design.
Once the cat’s tail is broken, you’ll notice significant changes in your cat’s walking; the animal might also drag the tail on the floor.
Depending on the severity of the fracture, the tail can sustain other injuries, especially since the cat is going to become incapable of keeping it up. This can lead to necrosis and local infections, so going to see the vet right after the fracture has happened is of utmost importance.
Treatment of Feline Osteoporosis
First of all, if your cat has been diagnosed with this disease, you should know that it is a degenerative condition and that curing your pet completely is virtually impossible.
However, some cats can be prescribed a number of medications depending on their specific condition, whether they take hormonal drugs or you make changes on your pet’s diet so that he or she gets more calcium and vitamin D. There are many supplements available today, especially in the form of capsules or tablets.
Vitamin D can be administered in the form of a liquid supplement. There’s also the option of you giving your cat less conventional ‘medicine’ such as ground eggshells (which are rich in calcium) or animal bone meal powder mixed with your cat’s canned food.
A bone density test where the vet finds out exactly what degree of osteoporosis your cat has is necessary in order for them to select the appropriate type of therapy for your pet.
More often than not, osteoporosis evolves alongside other bone, joint, and muscle disorders, such as osteoarthritis.
While the disease itself can’t be completely treated, so you will have to keep giving your cat supplements or hormone medications in the future, the development of osteoporosis can at least be slowed down.
You might be able to prevent it from developing by making sure that your cat eats a well-balanced and healthy diet and by going to the vet regularly. Some tests, especially blood ones, can reveal any imbalances that your cat might have, so you can do your best to prevent osteoporosis.
Even though making sure that your cat gets enough exercise, especially if he/she only lives indoors, can be difficult, it can be done.
Play with your cat for at least 15-30 minutes every day as this can also prevent dementia and depression, two other issues that some cats can develop. Let your cat bask in the sun in the summer, but do it in a controlled manner since some can enjoy it too much and can develop lung congestion.