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Degenerative Joint Disease/ Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis(OA)/ Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) , Arthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is defined as the progressive and permanent long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints.

Arthritis is the medical term for inflammation of the joints, while osteoarthritis (OA) is the term referring to a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by deterioration of joint cartilage. Older dogs are at the highest risk.

Symptoms and Types of Arthritis in Dogs

The symptoms vary in dogs. They may exhibit

  1. decreased level of activity,

  2. occasional lameness,

  3. stiff gait that worsens with exercise.

These symptoms may increase with exercise, long periods of inactivity, or in cold rainy weather.

Causes of Arthritis in Dogs

There are a wide variety of causes such as

  1. trauma,

  2. abnormal wear on joints and cartilage,

  3. congenital defect present at birth such as an improperly formed/ abnormal development of the hip or elbow (hip or elbow dysplasia), dislocation of the kneecap or shoulder, and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), where the bone and cartilage develop abnormally so that a flap of cartilage develops within the joint.

  4. Obesity, as it increases stress on joints.

  5. Hyper laxity (an excessive looseness of the joints) may also be at higher risk for DJD.


Prompt treatment of DJD is important to help reduce the disease’s progression of symptoms. It is generally important to avoid trauma or excessive pressure to joints. Exercise and a healthy diet can also prevent obesity, which adds stress to joints.


Physical therapy designed to maintain or increase joint motion is very beneficial and may be done with various motion exercises, swimming, and massage.

Exercise designed to strengthen muscle tone is also useful. The pain that comes with arthritis can be managed by cold and heat therapy, such as with heating pads.

Long-term medication may also be helpful in reducing joint swelling and pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, are often recommended.

A diet including omega fatty acids is sometimes recommended to decrease inflammation.

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