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Overview of Canine Degenerative Arthritis
Degenerative joint disease (DJD), or arthritis, affects the smooth articular cartilage of the joint, which is the covering of bone in the joints that is responsible for the smooth, non-painful motion of joints. When it becomes worn, raw bone surfaces become exposed and rub together. DJD is the result, causing pain and lack of joint mobility.
DJD can occur over a lifetime of wear or as a result of injury. The soft tissue lining of the joint (synovium) is the first tissue in many animals to be affected in the disease and the subsequent irritation of the joint lining (synovitis) liberates chemical mediators that have been shown to be responsible for cartilage degeneration.
Primary cartilage damage can also initiate a cascade of events that result in further cartilage damage and synovial lining inflammation. This results in a vicious cycle of cartilage degeneration, release of degenerative factors and continued cartilage degeneration.
Normal cartilage is composed of cartilage cells (chondrocytes) and a supporting substance (matrix) that is produced by the cells. DJD involves the derangement of chondrocyte metabolism and subsequent matrix alteration.
What to Watch For
Signs of degenerative arthritis in dogs may include:
- Swollen joints
- Muscle atrophy
- Dry crackling sound upon movement of the joint (crepitation)
Diagnosis ofDegenerative Arthritis in Dogs
Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize DJD and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:
- Complete medical history and physical examination
- A thorough orthopedic examination. DJD is usually characterized by a slow-onset, waxing and waning lameness pattern of the affected joint. Depending on the length and severity of the disease pain, swelling and grinding may be felt.
- Radiographs (X-rays) of the suspected joints. These will show evidence of the degenerative process. If the DJD is secondary to a primary problem, evidence of the primary problem is frequently discovered. Occasionally the introduction of contrast material (“dye”) into the joint (arthrogram) may uncover a primary problem. Advanced imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or bone scan (scintigraphy) is occasionally of diagnostic value.
- Force plate analysis. A computer measures the amount of weight placed on a flat surface and can be used to evaluate subtle lameness.
- Joint fluid analysis. This test can help differentiate between degenerative joint disease and other causes of more inflammatory joint disease, such as canine rheumatoid and infectious (bacterial, fungal etc.) arthritis.
Treatment ofDegenerative Arthritis in Dogs
Treatment for DJD may include one or more of the following:
- Medical treatment and weight reduction are often the initial hallmarks toward treatment of DJD. Weight reduction decreases stress placed on the joints and a number of older and newer drugs have been used to alleviate the clinical signs associated with DJD. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have been used for years since Bayer marketed acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) in 1899. All drugs have potential side effects; however, the newer NSAIDs seem to have less side effects than aspirin in animals. Corticosteroids (cortisone) decrease the inflammation of DJD, although it is a well-established scientific fact that chronic steroid use causes cartilage damage and should not be used for long-term therapy.
- Surgical treatment of traumatic causes of secondary DJD (such as knee ligament rupture), seem to slow the progression of the degenerative process.
- Either arthrodesis (fusion) or other arthroplasty (joint replacement or excision) procedures are usually very successful in restoring pain-free range of motion in selected cases of DJD.
Home Care and Prevention
After your dog’s surgery, follow your veterinarian’s specific instruction concerning medications, care and recheck examinations. Limited range of motion and physical therapy exercises are usually beneficial.
Since some of the developmental orthopedic conditions that result in DJD have some component of inheritability, selective breeding of unaffected animals will help decrease the incidence of the disease in the population as a whole. This can decrease the incidence of many of the congenital orthopedic problems.
Proper nutrition is also important in order to have a normal weight gain during development. Over-nutrition and over-supplementation can lead to an increased incidence of hip dysplasia and other development orthopedic diseases in large breed puppies.
In-depth Information on Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
It has been estimated that as much as 20 percent of the canine population over one year of age has DJD. The unifying theme in DJD is degeneration and destruction of articular cartilage – the cartilage looses its elasticity and softening occurs. Fissures can form and result in fibrillation and cell death. The altered chondrocytes release mediators (enzymes and other factors) that cause the cartilage to break itself down in a vicious cycle of degeneration.
The importance of the anatomy and disease process of DJD becomes meaningful when discussing the action of many of the newer drug therapies. Normal articular cartilage covers the bone on both sides of a joint and provides nearly friction-free motion of the joint. It also provides a “shock absorbing” protection to the joint and associated bones. When the articular cartilage structure is altered, the biomechanical properties of the joint change.
Normal articular cartilage is made up of cartilage cells (chondrocytes), an extracellular matrix and water. The chondrocytes manufacturer much of the extracellular matrix. The matrix is made up of microscopic fibers called collagen, which provides a structural support for the cartilage matrix and a complex biochemical “goo” called proteoglycan. The chemical chondroitin sulfate makes up much of the proteoglycan.
The tissue surrounding the joint is called the joint capsule and it contains a thick fluid (hyaluronic acid) that is partly responsible for joint lubrication. The joint capsule becomes inflamed with DJD and the quality of the joint fluid decreases, which causes more changes to the cartilage.
There are a number of congenital orthopedic diseases that occur in the dog that can lead to DJD at an early age. Many of these are related to the osteochondrosis syndrome:
- Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can occur in the shoulder, elbow, stifle or hock joint in the dog and can cause joint inflammation and secondary DJD at an early age.
- Fragmented medial coronoid process (FCP) of the elbow produces secondary elbow DJD in dogs as young as six months of age.
- Ununited anconeal process (UAP) can produce severe elbow DJD.
- Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) begins as a laxity (looseness) of the hip joint that progresses into secondary DJD.
- Joint trauma can also lead to secondary DJD, including any fracture that involves a joint surface. Joint fractures need to be reduced and stabilized precisely to prevent the occurrence of DJD. Any incongruity during healing will result in degeneration. Hip and elbow fractures occur fairly frequently. A traumatic dislocation of a joint can produce severe DJD if not treated appropriately. Dogs are susceptible to ligament injuries, in particular the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) of the knee, which is the most common injury to the canine stifle. Cranial cruciate rupture causes variable amounts of DJD.
In-depth Information on Diagnosis
Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize DJD and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:
- Orthopedic examination. A thorough orthopedic examination to reveal the presence of joint pain, swelling and tenderness. A careful history will also tip the veterinarian’s suspicion toward a specific primary disease process. A ten-month-old Labrador with difficulty rising in the rear legs has to be looked at as a prime candidate for canine hip dysplasia. Obviously there are other differential diagnoses, but many are more common in particular ages and dog breeds.
- Radiographs. X-rays are usually an essential diagnostic tool. Since the majority of DJD seen in small animals is secondary to some congenital or acquired event, radiographic diagnosis of this inciting cause is important. With OCD of the shoulder a characteristic “bony defect” in the proximal humerus is detected. With FCP variable amounts of bone production are evident over the bones making up the elbow joint. Free fragments and bony changes are present. With UAP, the anconeal process has not developed properly and fused to the ulna. Canine hip dysplasia initially occurs at less than a year of age with evidence of looseness or laxity of the hips. The femoral head does not ride within in the bone socket of the pelvis (acetabulum). As CHD progresses, large amounts of free bone and loss of articular (joint) cartilage destroy the normal hip architecture. When dogs with CCL rupture in the knee or hock, problems such as joint swelling and bony production may occur.
- Contrast studies. Usually the diagnosis of DJD is fairly straightforward, but sometimes, additional views or “stress” views may be necessary. Injecting contrast (dye) into the joint and obtaining a radiograph is seldom necessary. Also, advanced imaging techniques such as CT and MRI are seldom necessary. Bone scans involve injecting a small amount of a radioactive material in the body that would normally accumulate in bone. When a camera is used to record the nucleotide at the joints, an area of increased accumulation may help the clinician detect a subtle area of lameness.
- Force plate. Although used primarily as a research tool to assess a degree of lameness and response to various treatment modalities, the force plate can be used in the clinical setting to help evaluate the degree of lameness. A plate or mat is placed on the floor and the dog is allowed to make numerous passages across the plate. Sensors in the plate are attached to a computer that analyzes the force each step makes on the plate. There are a number of variables that can occur, but force plate analysis can be helpful.
- Aspiration of joint fluid. Degenerative joint disease is just one of many types of joint disease that can occur. The other large category of joint diseases is termed “inflammatory.” With these diseases, a large amount of white blood cells are attracted to the joint from various disease processes. The most common of these are “autoimmune” diseases where the body recognizes certain portions of an individual’s joint to be foreign or abnormal and tries to destroy it. Canine rheumatoid arthritis is an example of this type of arthritis. This type of arthritis is uncommon when compared to DJD. Aspiration of joint fluid can be helpful in determining is the arthritic process is inflammatory (rheumatoid like) or non-inflammatory (DJD).
In-depth Information on Treatment
Medical therapy, exercise restriction and loss of excess weight are the hallmarks to medical treatment. Treatment for DJD may include one or more of the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs primarily inhibit inflammation activity. In particular, NSAIDs they inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. While this is good, there is also a major side effect. In the stomach, prostaglandin helps protect the stomach lining from the normal stomach acids. People and animals on some of the early NSAIDs (aspirin, phenylbutazone and ibuprofen) experienced variable gastrointestinal side effects. Deracoxib (Deramaxx®), carprofen (Rimadyl®), meloxicam Mobic® or Metacam®), Tepoxalin(Zubrin®) and etodolac (Etogesic®) are cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) inhibitors that specifically act against the pathway directed at the joints but selectively leaves the pathway to protect the stomach (COX1) intact. Although these drugs alone can produce idiosyncratic side effects, they appear to be superior over earlier NSAIDs.
- Osteoarthritis agents. This slow acting class of drugs help to modulate the progression of DJD. Many of the oral varieties are not regulated by the FDA and fit in the classification of nutraceuticals (vs. pharmaceuticals). The majority of these supplements contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (remember, these are the main chemical substances making up the cartilage matrix). Cosequin contains purified glucosamine, condroitin sulfate and manganese ascorbate. It is hypothesized that, with DJD, the demand for cartilage precursors or building blocks is greater than the body’s ability to make them. This results in a diminished repair capacity. This is only theory and no hard scientific evidence illustrates the cartilage cells are nutritionally deprived. A number of studies have shown that these compounds do incorporate in healing cartilage and anecdotal reports are favorable. Many times these compounds are used in conjunction with NSAIDs.
- Dietary therapy with diets such as Hill’s® Science Diet® j/d™ or Purina® JM Joint Mobility™ brands may be beneficial in some dogs. These diets are formulated with Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate and help to maintain weight, reduce pain and improve mobility in dogs with osteoarthritis. It is also extremely beneficial for dogs with joint disease to maintain an ideal body weight.
- Surgical treatment of end stage DJD results in either removal of one side of a joint and allowing a “false joint” to form. Since there is no longer any rubbing of the joint surface, much of the pain is eliminated. This classically was done for hip dysplasia (femoral head ostectomy). Obviously the joint has been de-stabilized, but many smaller animals can accommodate very well.
- In larger breeds of dogs, prosthetic replacement has a much more predictable outcome. Total hip replacement has been successfully performed for 30 years in the dog.
- In other joints, surgical fusion of a joint might be helpful. By eliminating the joint surfaces and allowing the joint to fuse in a functional, anatomic position, many dogs can have a pain-free existence with adequate mobility.
Follow-up Care for Dogs withDegenerative Arthritis
It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for pet care, especially if surgery was performed. Rest and limited leash walks are usually recommended for three to four weeks postoperatively. Watch any incision your dog has for heat, pain, swelling or discharge.
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Dr. Robert Parker
September 28, 2015
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How long can a dog live with degenerative joint disease? ›
Fortunately, dogs often live comfortably for years following a DJD diagnosis, so long as proactive steps are taken to manage this condition.How can I help my dog with degenerative joint disease? ›
Your veterinarian may recommend injections of chondroprotectants (brand names Adequan® or Cartrophen®). These medications promote cartilage repair, help slow down cartilage damage, aid in other aspects of joint repair, and stimulate the production of more joint lubricating fluid.What is end stage arthritis in dogs? ›
An arthritic dog may have difficulty navigating stairs and jumping onto furniture. As arthritis progresses, your dog may be very stiff throughout the day, take short, choppy steps, and struggle to get up and down. Stairs may become difficult to impossible. End-stage arthritis can lead to the inability to stand at all.Can dogs live a long time with arthritis? ›
Arthritis is a long-term condition that needs life-long management. Arthritis slowly worsens over time, but if well managed, most dogs can live happily for many years after diagnosis.Should you walk a dog with arthritis? ›
Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Your arthritic dog may have less enthusiasm about walks, as well as decreased stamina. However, exercise is still essential. Instead of one long daily walk, try taking multiple short, slow walks a day. As your dog tolerates it, try short and steady walks up and down steep hills.
It is time to euthanize an arthritic dog when their pain is greater than their quality of life, and pain management is no longer enough. If they struggle to get up by themselves, they're whimpering or yelping, they've lost interest in food and toys, or other big changes, it might be time.What is stage 4 arthritis in dog? ›
Severe Osteoarthritis (STAGE 4)
A dog often becomes restless when standing and may be reluctant to stand or move. Other signs include consistent severe lameness, weight shift and abnormal limb loading.
A: Chronic pain caused by the degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis when left untreated can worsen quickly and cause severe disruption in normal movement, making it difficult to perform daily tasks.How can I strengthen my old dogs back legs? ›
Walking is a great way to strengthen your dog's back legs. If you're walking your pet, keep it slow and short. After all, a long walk could end up doing more harm than good. You could take your dog for a swim or try stretching your pet's hind legs for more strength.Does CBD Oil Help arthritis in dogs? ›
CBD oil is a great option for treating dogs with arthritis because it is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. It can also help to improve your dog's appetite and energy levels. CBD oil is safe for most dogs, but you should always talk to your veterinarian before giving it to your pet.
Should you walk a dog with osteoarthritis? ›
'Little and often' is the best approach when it comes to exercising arthritic pets. It may suit them better to take them on several short walks each day, rather than one long walk. Keep their exercise pattern as regular as possible – try to avoid short walks during the week and a really long walk at the weekend.Are dogs with arthritis in pain? ›
Similarly to humans, arthritis in dogs causes changes in the affected joints that can be incredibly painful for your pet. Arthritis can occur in any joint, but is most commonly found in the shoulders, hips, elbows, and knees.Can you reverse arthritis in dogs? ›
There is no cure for osteoarthritis and reversing the disease process is unfortunately not possible at this point (neither in pets nor in people). The best treatment for arthritis is prevention, and understanding osteoarthritis is important even if your pet may not have significant arthritis at this point.How do I know if my dog is in pain from arthritis? ›
- Stiffness and difficulty getting up from a sitting or lying down position.
- Limping, trembling, or tenderness when walking.
- Trouble climbing stairs or jumping up on couches and chairs.
- Less interest in going for walks or engaging in other activities.
Yes, stairs are bad for dogs with arthritis. This is because stairs may strain the areas of the body that suffer pain during movement – mainly the joints of the limbs. Stairs are also a potential accident hazard – one that is more real because the motions of the arthritic dog are not properly controlled.Is massage good for dogs with arthritis? ›
Massaging your pet with arthritis can significantly improve its quality of life. The purpose of a massage is to provide relief, ease sore muscles, and reduce stress.Do dogs cry with arthritis? ›
The signs of arthritis in pets can often be subtle. Typically our pets will not cry or whine in pain. Instead, the most common signs of arthritis are changes in your pet's mobility or behavior. These signs may gradually creep up and go unnoticed until there are significant changes to your pet's mobility.Should you put a dog down with severe arthritis? ›
Stage 4: Pain can be severe at this stage. Lack of mobility is a life threatening disease – dogs who can't get up or walk anymore usually are euthanized. This is the stage we are trying to prevent by intervening early. At this stage, the pet may resist, cry or even scream when the joint range of motion is tested.Should you put your dog down if they cant walk? ›
Lack of muscle can cause arthritis pain to become extreme. They can no longer tolerate the pain and their mobility and function become very poor. This pet wants relief and doesn't want to live like this. There is no right time to euthanize this pet.Does gabapentin help dogs with arthritis? ›
Why Gabapentin Is Prescribed in Veterinary Medicine. Gabapentin is most commonly prescribed to treat dogs suffering from chronic pain associated with arthritis, cancer, hyperalagesia (a heightened sensitivity to pain), or allodynia (a sensation of pain to normally non-painful stimuli).
What is end stage arthritis? ›
End-stage arthritis is the progressive wearing down of the cartilage that is present between the bones of a joint causing the bones to come in contact with each other and painfully rub against each other during movement of the joint. This results in severe pain with loss of movement and function.How effective is gabapentin for dogs? ›
There are conflicting clinical reports about its efficacy when used for this purpose, although some studies report improvement in as many as 50% of dogs studied. In dogs, oral Gabapentin is well absorbed in the duodenum, with peak levels occurring approximately one to two hours after administration.What is the difference between arthritis and degenerative arthritis? ›
Arthritis is an umbrella term for diseases that affect a person's joints. Degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, is a form of arthritis that develops due to aging or overuse.What is the difference between arthritis and degenerative joint disease? ›
Arthritis is a general term that means inflammation in joints. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body.Can you reverse degenerative joint disease? ›
Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be managed, although the damage to joints can't be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and receiving certain treatments might slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.When do you know it's the right time to put your dog down? ›
Some common signs that it may be time to put your pup down include the inability or refusal to eat or drink, labored breathing, an inability to get up for potty times without help, urinary or fecal incontinence, and immobility. Essentially, this can come down to your dog's quality of life.When is it time to put your dog to sleep? ›
Persistent and incurable inability to eat, vomiting, signs of pain, distress or discomfort, or difficulty in breathing are all indications that euthanasia should be considered. You and your family know your dog better than anyone else, so try to make a reasoned judgement on his or her quality of life.What do you do when your dog can't walk anymore? ›
What to do if your Dog is Unable to Walk. If your dog is truly unable to walk, you must take him in for a veterinary examination immediately. A dog's inability to walk is indicative of a very serious underlying condition. Joint disorders are easier to treat than spinal cord issues, though all are challenging.How long does it take for CBD oil to work on dogs for arthritis? ›
When it comes to chronic joint pain relief, anti-inflammation effects, and the many health benefits that hemp oil (FYI hemp oil and CBD oil are the same thing) might bring, your dog will show signs of significant relief within 2-4 weeks.Do vets recommend CBD oil for dogs? ›
While veterinarians shouldn't recommend CBD products, they can help pet owners weed through the myriad of companies offering products, according to Golab.
How can I treat my dogs arthritis at home? ›
- Create a prescription medication plan with your vet and track your dog's progress. ...
- A supplement a day keeps the joint pain away. ...
- Keep tabs on your dog's diet. ...
- Bring on the exercise in moderation. ...
- Help your dog get a grip. ...
- Splurge on that fancy dog bed.
Heat is a great way to reduce pain, joint stiffness, and muscle spasms. It also improves blood flow especially in dogs with injuries and osteoarthritis. The increase in blood flow can help bring in oxygen and nutrition to the cells.How do you stop osteoarthritis from progressing? ›
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
- Control Blood Sugar. ...
- Get Physical. ...
- Protect Joints. ...
- Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.
Stage 4 (Severe)
Stage 4 OA is considered severe. People in stage 4 OA of the knee experience great pain and discomfort when they walk or move the joint. That's because the joint space between bones is dramatically reduced.
Avoid inflammatory foods including sugar, deep-fried foods, saturated fats, full-fat dairy, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and preservatives like MSG. Anti-inflammatory foods can relieve pain from osteoarthritis. These include fruits, vegetables, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains.What is the best pain relief for arthritis in dogs? ›
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) play a major role in controlling dog joint pain and inflammation. Prescription medications such Galliprant, Carprofen, and Meloxicam are the safest options for controlling pain and inflammation compared to over-the-counter, non-veterinary products.What causes arthritis flare ups in dogs? ›
The three main causes of osteoarthritis are: Wear and tear of the joints due to age, especially in overweight dogs. Joint damage in growing puppies, usually in larger breeds, due to some combination of genetics, over exercise, rapid growth and incorrect diet.How painful is dog arthritis? ›
Osteoarthritis is a common ailment found in older dogs, as well as some larger breeds that are genetically prone to it. Similarly to humans, arthritis in dogs causes changes in the affected joints that can be incredibly painful for your pet.How effective is gabapentin for dogs? ›
There are conflicting clinical reports about its efficacy when used for this purpose, although some studies report improvement in as many as 50% of dogs studied. In dogs, oral Gabapentin is well absorbed in the duodenum, with peak levels occurring approximately one to two hours after administration.What causes bone deterioration in dogs? ›
The causes of bone diseases in dogs include poor nutrition, infections, tumors, and trauma. An in-depth understanding of the signs of bone disease can help you detect and treat any disorders early enough to protect your pal's health, mobility, and happiness.
What is degenerative bone disease? ›
Degenerative joint and bone disease, or osteoarthritis, is a chronic process of wear and tear on the joint that progresses with time. It's also the most common form of arthritis, which affects about 27 million Americans.