Subtle signs and conflicting physical and radiographic findings make feline osteoarthritis (OA) challenging to diagnose. A physical examination-based assessment was developed, consisting of eight items: Interaction, Exploration, Posture, Gait, Body Condition, Coat and Claws, (joint) Palpation-Findings, and Palpation-Cat Reaction. Content (experts) and face (veterinary students) validity were excellent. Construct validity, internal consistency, and intra- and inter-rater reliability were assessed via a pilot and main study, using laboratory-housed cats with and without OA. Gait distinguished OA status in the pilot ( p = 0.05) study. In the main study, no scale item achieved statistically significant OA detection. Forelimb peak vertical ground reaction force (PVF) correlated inversely with Gait (Rho s = -0.38 ( p = 0.03) to -0.41 ( p = 0.02)). Body Posture correlated with Gait, and inversely with forelimb PVF at two of three time points (Rho s = -0.38 ( p = 0.03) to -0.43 ( p = 0.01)). Palpation (Findings, Cat Reaction) did not distinguish OA from non-OA cats. Palpation-Cat Reaction (Forelimbs) correlated inversely with forelimb PVF at two time points (Rho s = -0.41 ( p = 0.02) to -0.41 ( p = 0.01)), but scores were highly variable, and poorly reliable. Gait and Posture require improved sensitivity, and Palpation should be interpreted cautiously, in diagnosing feline OA.
Keywords: behavior; degenerative joint disease; metrology; osteoarthritis; pain measurement; psychometric.