Scottish folds are sturdy breeds that can live up to fifteen years. However, these felines are subjected to strict guidelines when it comes to breeding to aid in maintaining their health. The general rule is that only one cat parent should have the folded ear gene. That is the reason why responsible breeders would mate the Scottish fold to a British shorthair or American shorthair, rather than another Scottish fold. If that happens, their kitten will likely experience congenital osteodystrophy.
What is osteochondrodysplasia?
Osteochondrodysplasia is a developmental deformity affecting the development of cartilage in the body. This would cause the malformation of the Scottish fold’s ear. It also affects other parts of the cat’s body such as the limb bones, which is more crucial. These abnormalities in the bones would lead to intensely painful arthritis.
This disease will be evident in homozygous cats that are as young as seven weeks and are believed to happen in some heterozygous cats that are six months old. This disease will cause chronic pain, crippling, and lameness. Unfortunately, the disease does not have any cure.
History of osteochondrodysplasia in Scottish folds
This breed of cat is native to Scotland during the 1960s, where they are believed to be the result of British shorthairs, local farm cats, and cats that naturally had folded ears. After a few years, the breed was recognised by the Cat Fancy of Great Britain. But in 1974, they were excluded in the recognised breed list because of the evident and crippling malformation of their limbs and tail. They are also banned by an international cat society called Fédération Internationale Féline. However, breeders elsewhere, as well as ones from the US, are doing a continuous perpetuation of the breed.
Severity of osteochondrodysplasia
This serious condition results in deformities, and most frighteningly, ongoing joint issues that will eventually lead to crippling disability accompanied by severe suffering in homozygous folded ear felines.
This condition might turn out very mild amongst some heterozygous cats. Unfortunately, in other heterozygous cats, deformity and joint diseases can occur, which may lead to disability and pain.
Symptoms of osteochondrodysplasia
Affected cats will be evidently deformed and are likely hesitant to jump. Seriously affected cats are prone to get crippled, and in severe cases, they may lose the ability to walk. Symptoms can worsen with age. With that said, here are the common symptoms of osteochondrodysplasia:
- The cat’s affected bones will appear thickened or protruded.
- Affected bone areas will be soft to the touch.
- The tail will be thick and short.
- Lack of coordination and slower movements.
- Lethargy and disinterest in moving around.
- The cat may be reluctant or have difficulty with jumping or running.
- The feline may start limping.
- The cat might start walking or running with its legs stiffly swinging outwards. This may occur when the disease becomes more serious or as the cat ages.
- The cat will display extreme pain.
Osteochondrodysplasia causes the cat’s cartilage to thicken. When that happens, the tail will start to grow thicker but shorter. The legs of the cat might thicken as well, which may lead to lameness or losing the power to move its feet.
Despite being incurable, this disease is not life-threatening. However, this will hurt your cat badly. To help relieve discomfort and the stiffness of the joints, joint treatments and glucosamine supplements can be used. But if the cat is severely affected, your vet might recommend putting it down to prevent further suffering.
How can you tell if the cat is a carrier of the disease or if it is likely affected?
There are no carriers of the disease but all folded ear cats are susceptible to developing osteochondrodysplasia.
Diagnosis of osteochondrodysplasia
Osteochondrodysplasia can be diagnosed through computer tomography (CT scan), X-ray scanning (radiographs), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Is there a way to eliminate or prevent the disease from happening?
Cessation or ending the breeding of cats with folded ears is the only way to avoid the condition. However, it also risks ceasing the entire folded ear cat breed.
Other health issues in Scottish folds
Scottish fold cats having folded ears were originally thought to be invulnerable to ear mites and/or ear infections, but this was proven to be untrue. To further promote hygiene in order to avoid these possible occurrences, it is best to have regular ear cleaning. Additionally, the short hair must be groomed at least once a week, whilst the longhaired ones must be groomed two times every week.
Standard care for the Scottish fold is similar to all the other cat breeds, which include:
- Yearly vaccination, check-ups, and dental care
- Regular grooming
- Healthy, balanced food intake
- Clean environment
- Unlimited access to fresh drinkable water
- Toys and playtime
- Lots of patience and love
Know more about preventive measures for different cat health concerns here!