You have probably heard of monoclonal antibodies as drugs that help fight COVID-19. Now, a monoclonal antibody developed strictly for relieving arthritis pain in cats has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Called Solensia (generic name frunevetmab injection), it is actually the first monoclonal antibody approved for use in any species other than humans.
All monoclonal antibodies act by blocking the action of something in the body that causes a problem. Solensia acts by binding to a pain-regulating protein, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain and allowing cats to jump, twist to self-groom, and use the litterbox more easily. With more than 90 percent of cats over age 12 estimated to develop arthritis and almost one in two cats experiencing arthritis pain, every bit of pain relief helps.
Administered by vets only
Solensia is not a pill. It’s an injection that a veterinarian has to administer once a month. Some cats experience side effects: vomiting, diarrhea, injection site pain, scabbing on the head and neck, dermatitis, and itchy skin. But the FDA says these effects were relatively mild in studies and did not require cessation of treatment.
The drug should be available sometime in the second half of this year. In the meantime, don’t forget the four other mainstays of arthritis treatment in cats. The synergistic effect is greater than just the effect of a single drug.
- Help an overweight cat take off excess weight. Extra pounds are only second to advancing age as a cause of feline arthritis pain. Helping your cat lose just a couple of extra pounds will take pressure off compromised joints.
- Moderate exercise. Gentle physical activity — chasing a feather, working with a food puzzle — can build up muscles that then act as shock absorbers for the joints.
- Medical therapy. Pain relievers that don’t target arthritis specifically may still be of use. These include anti-inflammatory drugs as well as gabapentin.
- Supplements. Supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin — cartilage-protecting agents — may help slow joint deterioration. Their quality varies, so choose one with your veterinarian’s help.