Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

 

Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

X-Ray of Dog with Normal Hips

 

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in dogs is a condition in which the cartilage, or padding tissue, within the joint degenerates resulting in inflammation inside the joint. This inflammation is painful and over time worsens, creating a vicious cycle. The other terms used to describe degenerative joint disease in dogs are osteoarthritis and osteoarthrosis.

Causes of Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

There are two primary causes of degenerative joint disease in dogs. One is congenital, meaning that some dogs are born with an abnormality leading to degenerative joint disease.  An example of this would be a malformed elbow or knee joint. Over time, the malformation (also called dysplasia) can cause the cartilage to be rubbed away, initiating the inflammatory cycle and osteoarthritis. The second cause is traumatic, meaning an injury to a joint. If a joint is damaged by an accident such as a broken bone or car accident, a similar cycle can occur.

Signs of Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

The major sign of degenerative joint disease in dogs is pain in the joint due to inflammation. This

Dogs and Degenerative Joint Disease

X-Ray of a Dog with DJD

can be manifested as limping, guarding of the affected joint, crying, reluctance to rise, get in the car, or go up and down stairs. Often larger breed dogs with degenerative joint disease have more obvious joint pain due to the fact that they are bearing more weight on each joint. Smaller dogs with degenerative joint disease tend to compensate more easily for joint pain due to the fact that they are bearing less weight.

Diagnosis of Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

The diagnosis of degenerative joint disease in dogs is based on the dog’s history, physical examination findings, and radiographs (x ray evaluation) of the affected joint. On physical examination, the veterinarian will often feel a thickened joint, elicit a pain response when flexing and extending the joint, and sometimes feel crepitus (grating, crackling, or popping sound and sensation).  Radiographically the joint will have proliferative changes to the bones, and soft tissue swelling of the joint.  The proliferative boney changes to the joint makes the bones appear thicker and not smooth.

Treatment of Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

There are multiple treatment options for degenerative joint disease in dogs.  Weight control is very important.  If a dog has degenerative joint disease and is overweight  the added pressure on the affected joint will worsen the dog’s pain and decrease their mobility.  Low-impact exercise is best for a dog with degenerative joint disease.  Swimming is the best low impact exercise, but walking or running through shallow water is also good.  This is not to say that leash walking or running is not beneficial for a dog with degenerative joint disease.  Nutraceutical products, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate contain compounds that support the cartilage in the joint, prevent further deterioration, suppress inflammation, and reduce free radical damage to the joint.  There are other nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oils), that can have a beneficial effect for dogs with degenerative joint disease.  There are non-traditional forms of treatment for dogs with degenerative joint disease that include acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy, and even chiropractic care.  These type of therapy are becoming more popular.  Finally, there are prescription medications, which have been used in dogs with degenerative joint disease for many years.  These drugs are used primarily to suppress inflammation and pain.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
avatar

Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

More Posts