Solensia: A New Way To Treat Feline Arthritis

Updated November 16, 2023

Despite the fact that cats suffer from arthritis at least as much as dogs, they have always been the losers when it comes to having a good range of treatments. Up to now we have been forced to rely almost entirely on meloxicam. Reasons for this might be:

  1. A poorer recognition of the signs of arthritis in cats and therefore lower demand
  2. The smaller market and financial benefit to drug companies (dogs visit the vet at least twice as much as cats)
  3. The difficulty in giving medications to cats
  4. The increased risk due to the prevalence of kidney disease

Now, in 2023 we are witnessing the appearance of a wholly new approach to treatment that might overcome many of these concerns.

These are exciting times, but we also need to be cautious and realistic. You’ll see in this article that it is by no means a silver bullet. However, with Solensia there is real hope for cats that we have a new and effective tool to improve their quality of life.

What is Solensia?

Solensia is a trade name for frunevetmab in Australia. It neutralises nerve growth factor (NGF), which has been shown to be involved in the perception of pain. As a monoclonal antibody, it has the potential to be highly specific to its target, and block it almost completely.

In Australia, Solensia has been registered for the alleviation of pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats.

How Well Does It Work & How Quickly?

solensia effect vs placebo

In our clinic, we have seen some cats benefit greatly after starting Solensia, but what does the evidence say? The results of a single placebo-controlled study conducted by the parent company are shown here and referenced below.

There are three important things to note here:

  1. All arthritis treatments show a caregiver placebo effect, but for this particular product, it is especially large
  2. The difference between the two groups is statistically significant for Months 1 and 2, so we are confident that Solensia is helping at least some cats
  3. Unquestionably, there will be many others who receive insufficient benefit and require different arthritis remedies

My view is that the large placebo effect is a direct result of the difficulty we have in correctly identifying signs of pain in cats. However, it is also possible that it only brings benefit to a minority. Our own experience is that Solensia can be very effective in some cats, but hard to judge as well.

A further clue that anti-NGF treatments are helpful is in the clearer results we see for the canine equivalent, Beransa.

Based on laboratory studies, a positive response would be expected to appear at around day 6.

Solensia Dosage & How Often

Solensia is given by vets at a dose of 7 mg by subcutaneous injection for cats between 2.5kg and 7kg.. Above this, two vials are needed but I would suspect that most of these cats would benefit more from weight loss. If desired, the dose is repeated every month. It is generally recommended to try at least two doses before deciding whether it is effective enough.

NGF is important for foetal and juvenile development. Therefore, Solensia must not be used in breeding, pregnant or lactating cats, or those less than 12 months of age.

Human Health Risks

Similarly, pregnant women, women trying to conceive, and breastfeeding women should take extreme care to avoid accidental self injection or needle stick injuries. To be safe, it is best that they take no part in giving the injection or even holding their pet.

Just to be clear, a treated cat poses no risk to humans.

Solensia Side Effects

Up to 10% of cats given the injection showed signs of hypersensitivity such as skin itching, hair loss, and dermatitis. When this occurs, it is advised to stop the treatment. The itch does not respond well to normal treatments for dermatitis until the injection is stopped

If you read the comments section below, you will see that it is dominated by reports of adverse skin effects. In our clinic we have indeed seen a few reactions, but not much more than the reported 10%. My view on this is that although the rate here appears much higher, owners with affected cats will be more likely to post than those with no problems.

In other ways, our prior experience with monoclonal antibodies like Cytopoint shows us that they are much safer than traditional drugs like anti-inflammatories. This is because as naturally occurring proteins, they require minimal metabolism or detoxification by the liver or kidneys.

It is therefore likely that Solensia can be used at normal doses in cats with kidney disease, unlike anti-inflammatories which become more dangerous. However, until there are studies of their use with liver or kidney disease, caution is still advisable in these cats.

Solensia appears safe when used in combination with other drugs, and at the time of vaccination. The only concern with using multiple treatments could be that if an adverse effect occurs, you may not be able to work out which one caused it.

How Much Does Solensia Cost?

The cost in 2023 for a single injection of Solensia is around $90. This is in the same region as the higher priced anti-inflammatory drugs.

Our experience so far is that for some cats, it maintains their quality of life when other choices fail. It can also be used when other treatments aren’t safe enough to use and for those cats that owners cannot easily medicate. In summary, we believe is worth a try if costs allow.

Anyone who has an arthritic cat knows that we still aren’t doing enough for them. The development of monoclonal antibodies brings us just one step closer, and just might give us more time to enjoy our lovely old cats.

Therefore, talk to your vet about whether it might be good for your cat.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

54 Replies to “Solensia: A New Way To Treat Feline Arthritis”

  1. My going on 17 year old Puddy had his first injection four days ago. He has shown no improvement at all, is now more lethargic, eating much less and appears really depressed. Am I expecting too much this early? I am fearful that he has another problem that has not been detected as when he eats, he appears to cough or gasp or something that causes lung movements, sometimes sharp. The vet dismissed these symptoms and said arthritis and hence the solensia.

  2. Tegan, my cat Sheldon has recently developed red sores in those exact same spots! It started just in front of one ear, but now he has them in front of both ears. The first side is finally just about all healed up. He is due for his 12th Solensia injection later this month, and has had great results other than those sores. I’ve been treating the sores with Zn7 gel, but my other cat loves to lick that off!! The sores don’t really seem to bother him too much, but I have some concern that they might get infected. I’m probably going to try going every other month with the Solensia for a bit and see if that helps.

  3. My 11-year old cat just received his fourth dose of Solensia. I did notice a dime-sized scab on the back of his neck after dose two. He had scratched the scab open and it was bloody. Asked the vet and she indicated she had not seen this as a side effect in cats she has treated. However, after reading these comments I am convinced my cat’s dermatitis is due to the injection. His scab has healed and I haven’t seen any more. I do keep his nails trimmed and try to brush him a few times a week. Perhaps this has helped a little. For now, I am monitoring, but I appreciate reading about other’s observations and experiences.

  4. Anyone’s cat vomiting post Splendia injection? My cat (12.5 yrs) has had 5 shots so far. All fine until 72 hours after the last injection when he vomited about 6 times during the day. Happy in himself and fine a few days later. Now he’s started vomiting again. Still happy in himself and blood serum results all ok. Waiting on further bloods as vet couldn’t get blood – it clotted as soon as it was in the syringe which is unusual. On antiemetics and pain killers. I’m actually hoping this is due to Solensia and nothing more serious!!

  5. My 12 year old cat had 3 doses of solensia and showed marked improvement after just one week following injection. However after the 3rd dose she developed red sores around her neck and kept licking/scratching. Reluctantly we have stopped the medication and the sores have healed. However her arthritis is worsening again .. I’m returning to the vet this week to discuss options ???? Maybe less frequent injections ???

    1. Hi Jacqui. My feeling is that once they start reacting it gets worse with each injection so I would suggest finding an alternative. Here in Australia, we find that we can use meloxicam safely long-term as long as we keep an eye on kidney function.

  6. Ugh. My 15 yo nm cat has had 4 injections and they have massively improved his arthritis symptoms. He no longer flinches when we pet his power back, he runs and jumps and plays more, and generally seems happier. However, I have noticed a pair of itchy bright red irritated spots on his forehead right in front of each ear that were not there before, and the inside of his ears looks and smells clean. After reading this, I am now concerned it might be caused by the Solensia. I will certainly speak with my vet about it at his next appointment, but I don’t want to have to stop the treatment because I have seen such a positive difference in his quality of life otherwise. He was on twice daily gabapentin before, which helped with the worst pain but did not leave him as active and playful as he is now. What’s a pet-parent to do when her kitty can’t talk?

  7. My cat has been arthritic and overweight since we adopted him 6 years ago. He is in his teens now, weighs 22 lbs. Waiting on senior bloodwork panel results to rule out anything prior to starting Solensia . After reading reviews I have 2 questions: Should I try gabapentin first?
    If Solensia is dosed by weight, am I correct to assume that my cat will have to get 2 vials instead of one per injection?

    1. Hi Susan. I certainly would not try gabapentin first. It’s somewhat sedating in cats and probably less effective. As for using two vials, talk to your vet, but I would try one.

  8. My 8 year old, 4lb cat has had six Solensia tx for OA (every 4 weeks). It’s hard for me to compare the first month as she was staying with family. I notice an improvement in her willingness to be groomed and using a scratch post (she normally showed pain when her hips/paws were manipulated). She has always had bursts of energy throughout the day and it seems in the first months she was able to jump from higher surfaces while running (like she was a kitten again). At 7 months, I’m not confident the tx is remaining as effective. She is sleeping more, itching/licking (with small ulcerated lesions compounded from another condition), and scratching her ears, which twitch constantly through the day. She is always begging me (meowing loudly) to scratch her ears with a comb.
    The vets believe it is an ear infxn, but this issue was treated 3 months ago and supposedly resolved. As long as the itching pain isn’t as severe as her arthritis pain, I’m willing to continue the tx, but sometimes I see her sway while sitting/standing and staring at me which is more concerning. Typically she was alert and “analytical” in her movements like a normal cat, enjoying games like fetch, hide and seek, and puzzles.
    At 3 weeks post tx, the effects seem to wear off significantly and she can be quite irritable; avoiding me (unusual for her), and eating/using the litterbox less while drinking a lot of water.
    Our clinic recommends coming in shorter intervals; I rather be extra cautious until longer/larger studies come out, particularly with data for weaning cats off long term tx, or risks related to surgeries/other injuries while treating, mainly because my cat is younger and expected to continue this regimen for many (cat) years. With the lack of options in treating cat OA, I am torn on what is most reasonable for her, and hope the side effects I’m seeing are from a discrete issue, or from me projecting my worries. Fortunately my cat is very tolerant of travel, vet appointments and medication. If anyone’s cat has been on a long term and 3-4week treatment interval, I would love to hear their experiences.

    1. Hi BH. A couple of points come to mind. In such a young cat, I would be careful that you have achieved an accurate diagnosis via x-rays. Osteorthritis is definitely a possibility but this age is unusual, so I would ensure that it’s not other problem which might have better treatments. Secondly, in the USA, we see very little use of long-term use of meloxicam, due to concerns with its long-term safety. With regular bloodwork, we find it to be very safe and effective and a valid alternative, if Solensia is causing skin irritation.

  9. My 11 year old female kitty had her first shot today. The veterinarian talked me into it.
    I wish I had read these comments prior to the shot. I hope she doesn’t get the itchies.

    1. Hi Patty. I wouldn’t be too concerned. Our experience is that it’s about the same rate as described in the literature, and as long as you recognise the side-effect is caused by the Solensia, it isn’t too bad in the first month. The only time I’ve seen it out of control was when the itching wasn’t linked and a second or third injection were given.

  10. My 7 year old cat was given a shot of Solensia 4 days ago because of unidentifiable lameness in her front leg that developed after she got a FVRCP vaccine shot in that leg. The limp went away in two days and she became a lot more active – running full speed, jumping up on high places, very playful. But now she’s started scratching her head, ears and neck constantly. I have to physically stop her from scratching holes in herself. Plus her ears are really hot. She has a history of being itchy and getting allergies, which are treated by small doses of prednisolone for a couple days. Do you know if she can take small, occasional doses of the prednisolone while the Solensia shot is active to mitigate the itching?

    1. Hi Kat. I have seen this happen once, and unfortunately the prednisolone did very little, which is not surprising for this type of reaction. We ended up having to use antibiotics and fit a cone (‘elizabethan collar’) to prevent further self-trauma.

      1. Just an update – kitty was put on 2.5 mg of Prednisolone for 5 days and has now been weaned down to every other day. It completely relieved the itching in less than 36 hours. She now just has dozens of small miliary dermatitis like scabs all over her ear , side of her head and chin from the pruritus eruptions, but they are healing fine and she’s itch free. Keep this option open for Solensia reactions!

  11. My 17 year old cat has had Solencia for two months. I am concerned as even after adjusting his Thyroid Medicine he is getting diarrhoea (he also has IBD and early stage kidney disease). He is also off his food, and I’m struggling to find wet food he will eat. I feel he is more crouched in his back end legs since the injections, I don’t know if that is because I’ve had to change from a kidney mobility diet to an IBD diet or the injections. Doesn’t really want to jump on the bed and cuddle, stays downstairs on his cooling mat. Any examples of interaction with Thyronorm or knowledge of worsening IBD symptoms while on Solencia?

    1. Hi Zaa. Im not aware of any interactions. Sorry to hear about your kitty’s complex health issues.

  12. Jessie is due for her 4th injection next week. Mobility much better. But vomiting alot,and has bad itching, skin lesions, hair loss,very vocal and appears disorientated! Should I continue? Or go back to umove capsules xx

    1. Hi Carol. In the face of suspected adverse effects, it’s not a good idea to keep using Solensia, but I am not convinced that going back to the YuMove is a good idea either – it is very unlikely to be in the same league of pain control. If I were you, I would ask your vet about using meloxicam or another anti-inflammatory – not every vet will be happy about this and it will require regular monitoring of kidney function, but it would be much more likely to give a good pain relief over the long term as long as it’s tolerated.

    2. Personally I wouldn’t give her any more it seems too much of a risk. Also imagine that you yourself have constant beside and itching. Not good for quality of life.

  13. My 16 year old boy was starting to limp and back legs were weak. He’s had two injections so far and I have noticed a huge improvement. I can tell he is feeling better and more stable with respect to his back legs.

  14. My 16 year old cat has had 3 injections now and it has improved her quality of life markedly. She took Loxicon orally before this and we continued with that while we assessed how the injections worked. The vet has now recommended her without the oral medication as the combination may have adverse effects. We will see. She is generally in a bad mood after the injection but I think that is due to the transport to the Vet and back. She does seem to get slower and grumpier for a few days before the injection too but her mood quickly improves afterward. Last time however she was quiet and ate very little for a couple of days but then bounced right back.

    1. The beautiful thing about this medicine is it’s a subcutaneous injection and it’s something you can learn to do easily with your vets guidance.
      You will still buy it from them, but you don’t need to transport anything but the medication (which must stay refrigerated until you want to use it).

      You can do it at home quickly and easily with less stress on kitty.

      1. Hi Callix. That’s interesting- not every vet will be comfortable with owners giving it but it’s OK to ask.

      2. Federal law in the USA restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. I will grant you that “on the order of” is a little vague, but we understand it here to mean that the injections can be given at the vet’s office by a vet tech / nurse. It’s not really meant to be dispensed for cat owners to give at home.

    2. Your cat might be grumpy for a few days before injection because the previous injection has worn off and she’s in pain. My cat had her 2nd injection yesterday. The 1st injection worked well but the last week or so she reverted to her earlier self because injection had worn off. Vet said she’s been seeing this happen with clients on Solensia.

  15. My 15-year-old cat had been in decline with respect to her ability to jump/run, and I noticed her hind legs appeared to be getting weak. We started injections and she was almost immediately stronger, and better yet after her second. She’s had five so far and improvement has leveled off but we’ll keep getting them, because aside from her arthritis, she’s very healthy. One question, though – at some point later in the day of the injection, she’ll vocalize very loudly and it sounds as though she’s in distress until I go find her and sooth her. I don’t know if this could be some negative reaction that subsides within a day (I hope)? Has anyone else’s cat exhibited this behavior? Thank you!

    1. Hi Linda. You are right to continue using the treatment, as the improvement will only be sustained if you do. As for the vocalisation, I haven’t heard of it before, but I’m wondering if it’s just as much a after effect of the stress of transport to the clinic as it is due to the Injection itself.

      1. Our 16 year old Walter has been struggling with osteoarthritis and hop dysplasia for years. Because of his age, as well as his lifelong adverse reactions to most meds, we were very hesitant to try Solensia. Well, we were wrong. His second day after his first injection and I can already see improvement in his mobility. However, we did have the same problem with approximately 8 hours of howling after he returned from the vets. Walter has always had a major problem with transportation and I did not attribute the howling to the injection. Hopefully next month won’t be as bad. I watch him very closely and I really believe this medication has already relieved at least some of his pain. I’m sorry I waited to try it. The helplessness feeling you get when you know your little guy is suffering and you don’t know what to do is terrible. I’m hoping that the time he has left with us continues to benefit his painful condition with future injections.

  16. My 22 year old cat was struggling to walk. Sometimes back legs would sometimes give out. Vet suggested Solensia and this is day 2 of her not able to use her back legs at all. Must be carried to water, food, litter box. Be careful.

    1. Your kitty may have had an allergic reaction. Mine did the same thing, not to Solensia, but to a vaccine. It was scary and horrible for both of us. Now, the vet will administer benadryl prior to rabies and leukemia vaccines. Hopefully your kitty gets better.

      1. My cat has kidney disease and pain. He had his 6th shot of solencia today. The last three shots his discomfort after has been growing. The tech suggested it was from the transport but he likes to travel and does it every week with no discomfort. Last month he obviously felt bad and unsocial for @ 30 hours. Then he was pulling at his fur for a few days. This time he was extremely vocal and vomited violently after two hours. Now after 13 hours he is still very vocal and restless and wants to pull at his fur. He is enjoying me scratching his spots. I am staying up with him because he can’t settle. It really helps with his pain. He was always uncomfortable and vocal before and had gotten to the point where he would jump on kitchen counters. Now I can’t keep him off of them.

  17. My 17 yr old kitty responded very well after the fist couple of monthly injections. However, we have just completed her 5th injection and the effectiveness seems to be much less. Since she is very difficult at the vet, I’m wondering if the treatments are still viable?

    1. My cat has only had one injection so I don’t have the problem but I would like to know, too, if Solensia is known to become less effective with time, like painkillers can be in humans. My cat has just turned 2 and will have to be on Solensia for life, so…..

      1. Hi Karen. Only time will tell, but my view is that worsening would be due to the underlying disease process worsening rather than loss of efficacy.

  18. My cat just turned 20 yrs. So far she had 2 injections. My concern is she has kidney problems, I did read that you need to be careful when the Kidneys are not doing well. I definitely see a difference in a good way. How long do I give her shots? And can I miss months.
    Thank You

    1. Hi Lisa. I would be very interested in hearing where you are reading about kidney problems and Solensia. There is not much evidence either way, but its mode of action would suggest that it has minimal effects on the kidneys. Missing months would likely lead to a loss of the benefit, unless it is longer acting in your cat than typically occurs.

  19. My 17 yr old Siamese gets her 2nd shot tomorrow. During the cold months she was stiff & withdrawn, spending all her time on a heating pad and not going to a litterbox despite being on glucosamine. Within a week of the 1st shot she was more engaged, walking around, and defecating near a box. The warmer weather may be helping, but I’m hoping the next dose will increase her comfort level.

  20. Hi. I’m in California and my 17 year old kitty is like a different cat. I couldn’t believe it when my previous lethargic boy jumped up on a counter he hasn’t been able to negotiate for years. 3 treatments of Solensia so far but results were almost immediate. Hopefully no side effects. He’s on steroids for other issues so those will probably shorten his life. But at least l know his arthritis is being managed – poor baby used to squeal in pain when l picked him up. So thankful this is now available.

    1. Hi Laurel, I live in Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. My 15 year old cat Jeanie has just started Solensia. My vet did not know how long it would take to have an effect, if it did at all. Jeanie has slow growing mouth cancer, which interferes with her eating and she can’t have oral meds. She’s on steroids now, to reduce mouth swelling, which it does. She had Solensia yesterday and she seems to be a different cat today. She’s jumped onto window cill, she’s engaging more with us and our other cat . True, this could be the steroids, but she had steroids alone last month, and the reaction was good but not this strong. This is different, something has changed. She may only live a few weeks or months, as she’ll probably not eat enough to sustain her weight, BUT I feel she probably won’t spend her last weeks with arthritic hip pain, on top of her other problems. What I’m trying to say, is that your post about your cat is very heartening and I hope your puss enjoys a happy, positive older life.

    2. Thanks for sharing, Laura. My 13 yr old kitty just got his first dose of Solensia. We have been waiting to try it as my kitty is on steroids for IBD. I’m thrilled to learn your kitty has had such a positive response and hopeful mine will too!

  21. Hi Andrew, I have two cats that got this medication, one unfortunately started itching and developed bloody skin lesions, but my 18 y old is getting her 4th injection tomorrow. her mobility improved almost immediately and 3 days before her 2nd shot she started running on cat wheel, what she never done before! she continues running since. I wonder how many shots she should get? continue taking it for the rest of her life? at this point it seems like she is moving too much, she’s losing wt and her gait is wobbly sometimes….
    thank you

    1. Hi Katarina. The drug does not cause excessive activity, so it just means that your cat is finally doing what she wants to! As long as your vets agree, I would continue to give the injections every month to her so that she is not limited by discomfort as she must have been in the past.

  22. My 16-year-old kitty has now had two injections of Solencia. I was a skeptic, but quickly became a believer 6 days like clockwork after the first treatment. I was amazed by the difference. He was like a new kitty! For months he had spent all his time in a box on my bed. I didn’t even know he was in pain. I didn’t know what was wrong, or whether his lethargy was just a sign of old age, as my previous vet had told me.. I’m so glad my new vet mentioned Solencia and that I tried it. Suddenly he was up and about again, wanting to go outside, and even going up and down the steep kitty ramp from the back deck to the ground which he hadn’t used for so many months, and which I hadn’t thought he’d ever use again. It does make me a little nervous using a new drug which was considered too risky for human use, not knowing the long term risks, but he’s almost 17 and I want him to have quality of life! So it seems worth taking the risk given how dramatic the benefits have been.

    1. Hi Evelyn. That’s great to hear. We too see these improvements, it’s just sad that it’s not for every cat. I think you are making a very good judgement in choosing quality of life over possible health risks, especially with this particular treatment.

      1. Greetings…I have been trying to read all I can about Solensia. My 19+ year old kitty, Purrl, has had 2 shots. Her third one is coming up this Saturday. I cannot say that I have seen any kind of noticeable improvement. In fact her plantigrade stance/walk has gotten worse. Sometimes she’ll take a few steps and then will sit down. For 24 hours after the injection, she howls and is very restless. She also becomes very finicky with food — and normally she is a vey good eater. After 24 hours, those symptoms subside. (I am curious to know if others have seen these reactions.). Not sure if I should continue with the shots — because I don’t know if I should’ve seen some kind of improvement by now. (I appreciate being able to share and to read what others have experienced.)

      2. Hi Susan. It’s reasonable to assume that Solensia would have worked by now if it was going to do any good. I would use your upcoming appointment to ask your vet if there are any other options. I assume that the fact that you call her posture ‘plantigrade’ means you have already excluded diabetes, another of its common causes?

  23. My cat has experienced sores on the back of her head from Solensia.
    It started three months into treatment.
    The sores are so bad that after 6 months I have decided to suspend injections.
    There had been improvement to her joint pain, but the quality of life trade off is not sustainable.
    Christy H
    Santa Fe NM

    1. Where do you stand now? My cat had 2 shots, saw marked improvement, developed one sizable lesion above eye.

      1. I will never use solensia for my 15 years old Ivo. He develped severe itching and wounds arround his year, chicks, neck and troat. One year i am currying him for his wounds. It was horrible to look at and more horrible for the animal, because he was in constant pain. I think that cat owners should speak with 3 doctors first, before starting any treatment with solensia. i have picures to proove, but unfortunately i cannot download them here…. This solensia should be more improved before starting any treatment.

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