Degenerative Joint Disease Q&A
What is degenerative joint disease (DJD)?
You may know it as osteoarthritis. It causes joint dysfunction leading to stiffness, loss of mobility, inflammation and pain in your pet.
What causes it?
There are many risk factors that can cause and aggravate the disease including traumatic injuries, genetic defects, obesity and age.
How do I know if my pet has it?
Listed below are signs that may indicate that your pet is suffering from DJD. If any of the following are true, a diagnosis can be confirmed by a veterinary exam and radiographs.
- Acts stiff or shaky while walking
- Has difficulty rising, lying down, climbing stairs or getting in and out of the car
- Is reluctant to play and run like normal or shows signs of lameness after playing
- Shows signs of pain such as pacing, restlessness or whimpering
- Has trouble squatting to go to the bathroom
Can it be prevented?
There is no one magic pill to prevent DJD in dogs. However, there are ways to slow the progression of the disease.
- Weight control: Keeping your pet at an ideal weight will help decrease the stress on their joints. In some overweight pets, weight loss alone can improve clinical signs associated with arthritis.
- Low-impact exercise: Regular movement not only helps maintain an ideal body weight but also keeps joints lubricated and prevents loss of muscle mass.
- Nutraceutical Joint Supplementation: Chondroprotective agents such as polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate are found in many joint supplements. They may help counter arthritic degenerative processes and encourage normalization of the synovial fluid and cartilage matrix of the joint. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in many joint supplements and they may help decrease the inflammatory response in the joint.
How is it treated?
In many instances, treatment will require a combination of several of the following modalities and therapy may require redirection based on your pet’s response.
- Weight loss and exercise
- NSAIDs (Need to be used with caution as long-term use can have adverse effects on the GI tract, liver and kidney)
- Analgesics (pain control)
- Laser therapy
- Rehabilitation with range-of-motion and muscle building exercises as well as hydrotherapy
- Surgery (may be an option for pets unresponsive to medical management)