Inflammatory joint disease in cats: Diagnostic approach and treatment

Julie Denise Lemetayer, Susan Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Practical relevance: Osteoarthritis, a degenerative non-inflammatory joint disease, is common in cats, usually causing gradual changes in behavior and lifestyle rather than severe lameness. Inflammatory arthritis occurs much less frequently and is nearly always associated with debilitating lameness. It may have an infectious or immune-mediated cause - but, unlike the canine disease, is much more likely to be infectious in origin. Clinical challenges: Cats with inflammatory joint disease are presented for evaluation of lethargy, anorexia, reluctance to walk or fever. Synovial fluid collection and analysis is required to confirm joint inflammation, but this is a procedure many veterinarians are not comfortable performing in cats. Once inflammatory arthritis is confirmed, extensive testing is required to diagnose infectious causes and determine appropriate treatment. Immune-mediated polyarthritis can be treated with immunosuppressive drugs only after all infectious possibilities are eliminated. Radiographs are used to characterize the arthritis as erosive or nonerosive, but radiographic changes in cats are often subtle compared with those described in canine rheumatoid-like arthritis. Audience: This review, aimed at all veterinarians who treat cats, describes the general clinical approach to feline joint disease, the collection and analysis of synovial fluid, and the diagnosis and management of inflammatory joint diseases affecting cats. The diagnostic approach to an unusual case of erosive polyarthritis is discussed in the Case Notes. Evidence base: To date, the veterinary literature on inflammatory joint disease in cats has been limited to older reviews of immune-mediated disorders and multiple single case reports or small case series describing infectious disorders. This article offers a current comprehensive review of these disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-562
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals


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