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Caring for a Pet with Degenerative Joint Disease

What is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)?

Degenerative Joint Disease is more commonly known as arthritis or osteoarthritis. DJD is a progressive condition where the cartilage between the joints gradually deteriorates over time. Cartilage becomes brittle and, in severe cases, breaks away, wearing at the bone, leading to a decreased blood supply, bone spurs, and even joint instability.

In most cases, DJD in dogs is genetic. Although other factors such as a dog’s nutrition and the joint conformation can also contribute. An overweight dog will place additional weight and strain on it’s joints which can put them at a great risk of experiencing joint pain and discomfort.

Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Joint Disease

Rear keg adjustable splint for dogs

Obese dogs are most at risk for developing DJD; weight and diet management of overweight dogs is recommended to lower the risk of developing DJD. Signs of degenerative joint disease usually show in middle-aged and senior pets. Signs include:

  • Reluctance to go on walks or walking at a slower pace
  • Lethargy and sleeping more often
  • Joint stiffness
  • Taking more time to stand up
  • Difficulty getting in the car
  • Sitting with their hind legs stretched out

In more advanced cases the dog may refuse to walk on the affected leg, which leads to other mobility issues.

Dog wheelchair for rehabilitation therapy
Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair

Treating Canine Osteoarthritis and DJD

Damage caused by DJD is irreversible, although there are many steps you can take to alleviate your dog’s joint pain and improve their quality of life.

NSAIDS and Medication

Joint inflammation from DJD can be medically managed using NSAIDs, pain medication, and daily joint supplements. Your vet will develop the correct course of treatment for your pet.

Laser Therapy for Joint Pain

Laser therapy is a painless, non-invasive treatment option to reduce inflammation and joint pain in pets with DJD. In most cases, laser therapy is only one component of a pet’s treatment plan. And for the best outcome, laser therapy should be combined with other forms of canine rehabilitation.

Canine Joint Support

Dogs dealing with degenerative joint disease in their lower legs may need the joint to be braced. Wearing a leg brace or splint provides stiff support along with joint stabilization.

While DJD isn’t typically a condition with a lot of inflammation, an arthritic joint may swell. A pet with swollen carpal or hock joints will need an adjustable splint. An adjustable splint allows the splint width to be increased or decreased to accommodate any swelling. A neoprene wrap or hugger protects the joint for lighter-weight leg support. If you think your dog would benefit from a splint, please speak to purchase through your veterinarian.

Wheelchairs Keep Pets Active

dog in wheelchair playing

A dog wheelchair is ideal for the more severe cases of degenerative joint disease where bearing weight on the back legs becomes impossible or too painful for a pet.

The wheelchair provides a dog or cat the support they need to maintain their active lifestyle without bearing full weight on their hind legs. If a pet is experiencing joint pain in all four legs, a full-support quad wheelchair will keep them fully supported.

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