Ask Dr. Suze

One of the most common reasons senior pets struggle this time of year is because of osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). Our resident vet expert Dr. Susanna is here to tell us more!

Author: Dr. Susanna – Founding Director & Veterinary Surgeon of Dr. Suze – My Visiting Vet
Dr Susanna graduated from the University of Bristol in the UK and has over a decade of international veterinary experience including clinical treatment of creatures great and small, veterinary pharmaceutical technical advisory and specialist animal diabetic practice. She loves her job and is passionate about providing the best veterinary solutions with a focus on preventative medicine. Dr. Susanna is a member of the Australian Veterinary Association and currently completing the International Certificate at the Australian College of Veterinary Acupuncture. Susanna started Dr. Suze – My Visiting Vet to provide a more personalised service for pets and their owners, after experiencing how much more comfortable her late Border Collie “Ben” felt receiving care at home. Find out more about Dr. Suze – My Visiting Vet here.

With autumn in full swing preparing to hand the seasons baton over to winter, some of you may have noticed your older pets slower to get up in the cooler mornings. One of the most common reasons senior pets struggle this time of year is because of osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).

What is DJD?

DJD is the progressive deterioration of the hyaline cartilage surrounding the joints. The function of this cartilage layer is to help facilitate the smooth, fluid motion of joints. If the cartilage is damaged the joint becomes inflamed, resulting in stiffness and sometimes painful movement in the affected areas. It is more commonly seen in older patients and affects both cats and dogs.

What causes DJD?

DJD may be the result of natural aging but more commonly secondary to joint trauma such as a previous injury, infection or surgery. DJD can also be seen in younger pets as a result of a congenital joint abnormality, for example elbow, shoulder or hip dysplasia. Other contributing factors to DJD include genetics, age, bodyweight, obesity, exercise and diet.

What are the signs of DJD?

Struggling to get up after long periods of lying down, particularly in cooler temperatures and slowing down on exercise. More subtle signs include hesitation when jumping or seeking alternatives routes and becoming protective of petting in sore areas. Your veterinarian may be able to identify pain or resistance on physical manipulation of your pet’s joints and may suggest further diagnostics such x-ray imaging or blood testing.

If I think my pet is showing sign of DJD, what can be done?

If you feel your pet is showing any of the above signs it might be worth booking an appointment with your local veterinarian. Firstly, to rule out other possible causes such as heart disease and secondly because if the symptoms are due to DJD there are some simple management strategies that can be implemented to help manage the progression of DJD in your pet. Some of these strategies may include modification of your current exercise routine, a tailored pet weight loss program, dietary supplementation, acupuncture, injections to support joint function as well as pain relief medication.

Thank you Dr. Suze! Have questions about your best friend? Don’t be shy – Email us your questions to have them answered.

Please note the information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice. If you have specific concerns about your pet, you should always seek advice directly from your veterinary healthcare practitioner.