Working dog Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Working dog Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
By Lucy Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

A common cause of working dog retirement is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), also called osteoarthritis or arthritis. It is characterized by the progressive loss of joint cartilage, bony spurs/growths, and the thickening/scarring of the connective tissue around the joint.

Primary arthritis is caused by aging and use, and secondary by trauma or poor joint conformation (called hip or elbow dysplasia). Injuries such as anterior cruciate disease can also lead to arthritis as instability in the joint can damage the cartilage.

The first sign of primary arthritis seen is stiffness, then occasional lameness which becomes increasingly more common over time. Often this decreases as the dog warms up, but then is worse after rest. In the clinic we commonly see enlarged joints and feel decreased ranges of motion.

So, what can we do?

Once arthritis has been diagnosed, we cannot halt its’ progression, but we can slow it down and treat the pain and inflammation that goes along with it. The goals are to alleviate discomfort, minimize further changes and restore functionality.

Options we recommend specifically for primary arthritis in working dogs include:
  • Diets that include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chrondroitin additives for joint health and mobility.
  • Pentosan or Synovan. These are a course of injections that are repeated monthly after the initial course. This drug has anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and chondroprotective properties.
  • Prescribed pain relief such as Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).
We may recommend x-rays to determine the extent of the joint damage, location of damage and any sign of an underlying disorder. We may also recommend basic blood panels if we want to put a patient on long-term medications.

Early intervention in arthritis can greatly lengthen a working dog’s career, and we are passionate about welfare of working dogs, so get in contact today if you want to talk about arthritis in your dogs.

Date Added: Monday, 1st March 2021