Until quite recently, we believed we had a bit of a clinical problem when treating cats for arthritis when they had evidence of kidney disease.
The most common class of drug for treating arthritis in pets are a class of drug called “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These NSAIDs are very effective anti-inflammatories and pain killers, but can have some side-effects elsewhere in the body including the kidneys.
We used to believe that the effects on the kidneys would mean that any cat with evidence of kidney disease (which is diagnosed with a combination of clinical signs such as increased drinking and urination, blood and urine tests) couldn’t have these medications due to the risk of significant kidney damage, so our treatment of arthritis for cats was very limited.
A recent study has now been published that proves these NSAIDs are just as safe regardless of whether the cat has evidence of kidney disease ore not, and even cats with advanced kidney failure could still be treated safely and effectively with NSAIDs. Cats treated with NSAID’s, even if they had severe kidney disease on averaged lived at least as long as those cats which were not treated with NSAIDs. Many cats even had apparent improved kidney function following NSAID use.
We believe this apparent safety comes about for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly, the cats feel better in themselves so move around more, and are more likely to eat and drink normally because it doesn’t hurt to walk to the bowl. There is also some evidence to suggest chronic kidney disease in cats is due at least partly to a low grade inflammatory condition. These NSAIDs block inflammation, so may help with the health of the kidneys themselves.
So what does this mean for your cat? If your cat has signs of arthritis, which might include grooming itself less, being less active or not interacting with you as much as before, we now know we can use these NSAIDs safely regardless of whether they have kidney disease or not.