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Metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joint disease in cats

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What are the metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joints?

The metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and interphalangeal (IP) joints are the joints located on each front foot of cats. The MCP joint is the joint between the metacarpal bones (the bones that connect the toes to the wrist) and the phalanges (the bones in each toe). The interphalangeal joints are the joints in between each of the phalanges on the foot.

What is metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joint disease?

MCP and IP joint disease is a broader term used to describe any problem occurring within the joints themselves. These issues can be due to a variety of reasons ranging from systemic disease to a local area of inflammation/infection.

What are the signs of metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joint disease?

Cats with MCP/ IP joint disease tend to present with a sore paw on the affected limb. They will be reluctant to bear weight and it may be painful on palpation. Unlike a fracture, joint disease tends to be slow in onset and therefore the cat may have an increasing degree of lameness as the disease progresses.

Diagnosis of metacarpophalangeal/ interphalangeal joint disease

Discomfort may be seen when flexing and extending the digits of the paws. X-rays under sedation will be necessary to characterise the condition and to see the extent of disease of the joint.

Treatment of metacarpophalangeal/interphalangeal joint disease

Conservative care can be used in the first instance. This typically includes body weight control, exercise control and standardisation, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain killers and dietary supplements. If a causative factor is identified this can be treated. If an infectious process is thought to be the cause then antibiotics may be prescribed in order to combat the infection.

Surgical treatment is uncommon but may be considered if there is luxation (dislocation) or in severally painful cases amputation of the toe may be considered.

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