Degenerative joint disease in cats

1st November 2017


Degenerative joint disease

Also known as DJD, this is a condition where there is progressive and permanent long-term deterioration and damage to cartilage in joints.

What are the signs of DJD?

Cats tend not to show signs of lameness by limping. They do however have other recognisable problems arising from chronic pain such as;

  • irritability
  • stiff-legged gait
  • difficulty grooming
  • swollen or painful joints
  • problems getting in and out of the litter tray
  • reluctance or difficulty jumping onto furniture
  • reduced range of movement in and around the house

What are the causes of DJD?

We usually don’t find a primary cause but there can be a variety of secondary triggers such as;

  • abnormal wear – particularly on the joints and cartilage
  • dislocation of the knee cap – this is often acquired after an accident
  • hip dysplasia – a congenital disease
  • obesity – the extra weight increases the stress on joints

How do we diagnose the condition?

A diagnosis of DJD is usually made based on an assessment of the history and the clinical signs. At Bollington Veterinary Centre our vets will ask lots of questions and have a good feel of the joints and bones. If they suspect a problem they’ll often arrange to take some xrays. Blood and joint fluid samples may also be collected to help differentiate the chronic form of DJD from other causes of arthritis, such as infections and immune diseases.

What treatments are available for feline DJD?

Medical management of DJD is designed to control the signs and symptoms of the disease. It’s really important however to understand and accept that this disease cannot be cured.

  • Drugs - we are very lucky to be able to prescribe a range of helpful anti-inflammatory drugs, so don’t hesitate to talk to our clinical team. Don’t be tempted to dose your pet with paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen, as these drugs can be very dangerous when used inappropriately.
  • Surgery - sometimes we may recommend an operation to help improve some of the symptoms. This may include the removal of fragments of bone or cartilage which may be making the condition worse.
  • Physiotherapy and massage – this is used widely these days to help increase joint mobility. If your cat is suffering from chronic joint pain, it’s worth asking us first if your pet if likely to benefit. We can recommend who and where to go for help.
  • Supplements – many of our clients are very aware of the potential benefits of using supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin. Whilst there is no conclusive proof that they work, there are certainly instances where we would recommend them. There are a wide range of supplements available, some of which are better than others. If in doubt ask one of our vets to explain when they can be used.
  • Diets - a food rich in omega fatty acids is sometimes recommended for decreasing inflammation. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we stock some excellent diets that may help, so ask us for more information.
  • Thermotherapy – cold packs and heat pads can also be used for short-term relief of the problems associated with DJD.