Have you noticed decreased activity in your dog or cat? Perhaps your canine or feline friend is slower on walks, stiff when rising after resting, reluctant to climb stairs or hesitant to get in and out of the car. It is important to notice these changes in behavior as they may be more than just the “indifference of age” and can all be signs of emerging Osteoarthritis.
Also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), Osteoarthritis is a common condition in dogs and cats. One in every five pets will be affected by this painful condition with age. DJD is the progressive degeneration of cartilage in the joint. This loss of healthy cartilage leads to arthritis, which can include abnormal bone and mineral formation in the joint space, as well as abnormal fluid accumulation (effusion). As the condition advances, limping and pain of the affected joint when touched or manipulated become evident. Since DJD is a progressive disease, early recognition is important so that measures can be taken to address the disease and slow its progression.
The end result of Osteoarthritis (DJD) for a dog or cat is pain and function loss of the joints and limbs. DJD can be a primary condition or can be caused by other factors, such as trauma, obesity, malformed joints (hip dysplasia), or other medical conditions including diabetes and adrenal disease (Cushing’s disease).
There are several things you can do to help your pet with DJD. Maintaining an appropriate weight for pets is important throughout their lives, but this is especially true for pets with DJD. Supplements specifically designed to support joint and cartilage health in pets can also be beneficial. These supplements are available in oral and injectable forms. Anti-inflammatory medications are often recommended in conjunction with supplements. Complementary medical therapies such as acupuncture and physical therapy can be invaluable as well. Human medications can be fraught with risk and should be avoided.
If your dog or cat is “slowing down”, it is important to see your vet to determine if DJD is part of that picture. An appropriate diagnosis and therapy now can make a big difference in the quality of your pet’s life in the future.
Originally published July 2015 in the Weekly Herald