As our pets age, the tissues lining the joints may deteriorate and degenerate. In today's post, our Poway vets explain degenerative joint disease, how to spot it, and what you can do to help your dog fin relief from this usually painful and annoying condition.
What is degenerative joint disease (DJD)?
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a type of arthritis or osteoarthritis caused by the gradual deterioration of articular cartilage in one or more joints. Arthritis is a catch-all term for any condition that causes joint inflammation.
Obese dogs are more likely to develop degenerated cartilage, which can cause joint damage and eventually lead to joint replacement. When DJD is severe, the cartilage may split away from the bone and become loose within the joint. DJD can also develop as a result of a variety of joint diseases, including infection, and it can also develop as a result of bone or joint injury or surgery.
Dystonic Joint Degeneration occurs when cartilage cells are damaged and release substances that cause inflammation, resulting in pain and further cartilage damage. Scar tissue and/or bony growths will form within the joint in an attempt to stabilize it as the degeneration progresses, adding to the damage.
What are the signs of DJD?
The most obvious sign of DJD in dogs is lameness. Dogs, however, exhibit a variety of symptoms other than limping that indicate arthritic pain, including:
- sleeping more
- slower on walks or not wanting to walk as far
- resent being touched or brushed in certain areas
- accidents in the house or walking while urinating or defecating
- taking more time standing up from a lying down position
- difficulty getting into the car
- carrying their heads or tails lower than normal
- reluctance to go up the stairs
- sitting with their hind legs stretched out (lazy sit)
Is there treatment for DJD?
A dog with (DJD) can be treated by making the environment more accessible to the dog and providing pain relief. Modern analgesics (pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications) can effectively control pain with few side effects. There are medications and nutritional supplements that can slow the progression of the disease and promote cartilage healing.
You should not give your pet any human pain reliever unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause serious problems and side effects.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to control joint inflammation and provide pain relief. Meloxicam (Metacam®), carprofen (Rimadyl®), and deracoxib (Deramaxx®) are among the medications used. Once treatment for this condition has begun, your veterinarian will also recommend periodic monitoring of your dog's liver and kidney function.
Cold laser therapy is another avenue of treatment for dogs with DJD. Cold laser therapy employs low-intensity lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help with pain relief, cell stimulation and enhancement, and wound healing. Laser treatment for dogs promotes cell regeneration and circulation, making it beneficial for dogs with DJD.
Fortunately, dogs often live comfortably for years following a DJD diagnosis, so long as proactive steps are taken to manage this condition.
Can DJD progression be slowed?
Current arthritis research has resulted in the development of drugs and supplements that are effective in controlling cartilage destruction in dogs with DJD. They function as follows:
- improving the blood supply within the joint
- preventing the formation of some of the harmful enzymes that continue the destruction of cartilage within the joint once it has started
- promoting the formation of fibrous tissue to heal damaged areas, and
- promoting cartilage repair.