Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Note: The terms "Osteoarthritis" and "Degenerative Joint Disease" are commonly used to describe the same disorder.

Degenerative Joint Disease affects the articular cartilage. This cartilage acts both as a shock absorber and provides lubrication for joint motion. Basically, DJD is characterized by the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the end of the bones in a joint. If injured, articular cartilage does not heal.

Signs of DJD include off-and-on lameness, altered gait, stiffness, difficulty getting up from a lying position or going up or down stairs. There may also be muscle atrophy in the affected limb as the dog tends to use that limb less. There may also be changes in behaviour or appetite, depending on the amount of pain the dog is in. Generally, DJD develops after a primary joint problem has occured, such as Hip Dysplasia, Osteochondrosis, Patellar Luxation, or traumatic injury. However, primary Degenerative Joint Disease can occur as a result of wear and tear on a normal joint and occurs as the dog ages.

Degenerative Joint Disease is progressive and will continue to worsen. Moderate and regular exercise, such as walk on leash or swimming, is important to manage DJD, helping to build the muscle strength that support the joint. Weight control should also be maintained — weight loss can help decrease pain and increase function. There are also ways to medically treat the disease to slow the progression and, in severe cases, surgery may be performed.

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Note: This section of Canada's Guide to Dogs is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.