Degenerative Joint Disease (Osteoarthritis)

The signs of Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) – or Osteoarthritis – are usually slow in onset and, as a result, can be difficult to see. Difficulty rising, reluctance to go for a walk, ‘getting old’, and stiffness after exercise are all commonly reported early indicators.

This is a condition usually seen in middle aged or older animals as a result of wear and tear on the joint surfaces. It can also be seen in younger pets as a result of injuries and developmental anomalies such as hip dysplasia.

Whilst this is an incurable problem, it can usually be managed and treated very effectively.

The goal is to limit pain and delay future deterioration in the affected joints. Once a diagnosis has been made (usually with X-rays), the following treatment plan is recommended.

Prevention is Key

Further deterioration is inevitable with advancing age, but below are some medications to prolong the life of healthy joints.

  • Cartrophen (pentosan polysulphate) is arguably the most effective treatment we have for this issue. It works by providing the correct nutritional support to the cells that make up joint cartilage, and stimulates joint fluid production- thereby lubricating stiff joints. It is given as an injection course comprising one injection per week over 4 weeks. This course is then repeated at six monthly intervals.
  • Oral joint supplements are an important additional treatment. There are many products available, with varying concentrations of the required active ingredients. Arthri-aid is the product we stock and recommend as it contains adequate concentrations of Omega-3 oils, and various glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) necessary for cartilage maintenance.

Pain Relief

In addition to the above products, most pets eventually need the support of pain relief medications in the form of NSAIDs (eg Metacam, Onsior) and in more severe cases, medicines such as Tramadol and Gabapentin.

A blood test should be performed twice yearly for pets taking NSAIDs as they are not suitable for older patients with liver or kidney dysfunction.

Dog having its hip joints examined by the vet

How to Recognise Osteoarthritis

Difficulty rising, reluctance to go for a walk, ‘getting old’, and stiffness after exercise are all early indicators of osteoarthritis. Please feel free to discuss these or any other symptoms your dog may have.