Osteoarthritis (OA) is a term a lot of us have heard before. As we age, it is a condition that some of us are all too familiar with. Are you aware that our 4-legged companions can also be affected?

As we get better at treating and preventing disease, our patients are living longer. As a result, we are seeing more and more patients with some form of arthritis. Degenerative joint disease (DJD), which includes OA, is one of the most significant and under diagnosed diseases in dogs and cats. Recent studies suggest that 40-92% of all cats have some clinical signs of DJD (1).

DJD is a state of chronic pain and discomfort. Unlike acute pain, like limping from spraining a joint after chasing a rabbit, signs of chronic pain are more subtle. These signs are harder for owners to recognize since they progress more slowly. Anytime I hear an owner attribute their pet’s behavior to, “He’s just getting old,” I often find their pet is suffering from some form of DJD.

Some of the signs of DJD include a lot of what we chalk up to normal aging. Like when a pet is doing less of or having more difficulty with common activities – going up/down stairs, jumping in the car, not playing as long at the dog park, etc. Other signs include: sleeping more, less interaction with family, resisting handling/petting, changes in posture, restlessness, laying in unusual positions, more difficulty finding a comfortable position to lay down, house soiling, taking longer to go to the bathroom, increased matting of the hair coat, etc.

Some of these signs can also be caused by other diseases. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is suffering from DJD or another condition. If DJD is found in your pet, your veterinarian can discuss with you various options available to get your pet feeling and acting better. These options we’ll also discuss in future posts, so stay tuned!

If you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from early or later stages of DJD, please give us a call today!

(1) Lascelles BDX, Henry JB 3rd, Brown J, et al. Cross-sectional study evaluating the prevalence of radiographic degenerative joint disease in domesticated cats. Vet Surg 2010;39(5):535-44