Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a condition which results in progressive and long-term deterioration and damage of cartilage within joints. We’re all used to seeing it in dogs as they get old, but how often do we recognise it in cats? The reality is that they too suffer from this painful condition, so it’s important to look out for this with any ageing feline. Indeed, all mammals can develop this medical problem, including rabbits.
Posted: 12 August 2019
Cats tend not to show overt signs of lameness such as limping. They do however have other recognisable problems arising from chronic pain, so be on the lookout for;
We usually don’t find a primary cause of DJD, but there can be a variety of secondary triggers, such as;
This condition is usually confirmed from an assessment of the history together with the clinical signs. Ask lots of questions and have a good feel of the joints, checking for range of movement, pain, muscle atrophy, swellings, effusions and crepitus. Radiography and joint aspirates may be taken to help differentiate the chronic form of DJD from other causes of arthritis, such as infections and immune diseases.
It’s most important to ensure that your client understands and accepts that this disease cannot be cured. Fortunately though, there are some effective medical approaches to the management of DJD aimed at controlling the signs and symptoms of the disease.
1. Analgesics - we are lucky to be able to prescribe a range of helpful analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs. The most commonly used drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). To minimise the risk of side-effects, the drug should be selected with care, using the lowest effective dose for each individual patient.
Other commonly used analgesics include;
When selecting a treatment plan, make sure you prescribe according to the rules of the cascade.
2. Surgery - sometimes you may recommend surgery to alleviate some of the signs of DJD. This may include the removal of fragments of bone or cartilage or the repair of a traumatically induced patella luxation.
3. Physiotherapy and massage – this is used widely these days to help increase joint mobility. If your patient is suffering from chronic joint pain, it may be worth referring to a veterinary physiotherapist. Find out more from the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists.
4. Supplements – many owners are very aware of the potential benefits of using supplements and nutraceuticals containing glucosamine and chondroitin. Whilst there is no conclusive proof they work, there are certainly instances where you might recommend them. There are a wide range of preparations available, some which are considered better than others. Some of the more popular preparations are;
5. Diets - a food rich in omega fatty acids is sometimes recommended for decreasing inflammation. At Burgess Pet Care we stock some excellent balanced diets, all containing omega oils and made using only the highest quality ingredients. Find out more here.
6. Acupuncture - anecdotal reports suggest it can be a useful adjunctive therapy for some cats. More information can be found from the ABVA.
7. Thermotherapy – cold packs and heat pads can also be used for short-term relief of the problems associated with DJD.