WHAT IS DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE (DJD)?
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is more commonly known as osteoarthritis. It is a progressive, non-infectious condition of weight-bearing joints leading to the loss of joint movement and, in many cases, pain. Degenerative joint disease is characterized by thinning cartilage, buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony outgrowths (osteophytes) around the joint. This joint degeneration can be caused by trauma, infection, the body’s own immune system, malformation during development but is most commonly caused by aging changes in a joint or by mechanical instability (hip or elbow dysplasia, torn anterior cruciate ligament, luxating patella, etc.). This ultimately leads to inflammation of the joint membrane, continued cartilage destruction and abnormal joint function.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE (DJD) IN DOGS?
Degenerative joint disease is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs, affecting one in five adult dogs, with the incidence more than doubling in dogs seven years and older. Most often, the clinical signs of degenerative joint disease (DJD) include:
Limping: Limping is the number one sign of degenerative joint disease in dogs. If your dog is favoring one or more limbs, especially when they stand up from a lying or seated position, there’s a good possibility they are dealing with arthritic joints. Often, the limp will be less pronounced after they have been moving around for a while.
Changes in Daily Activity: Dogs with degenerative joint disease often display reluctance or an inability to do certain things they once did with ease. For example, your dog may be hesitant to jump into or out of your car or they may have trouble with stairs.
Poor Posture: Degenerative joint disease occurs in certain areas of the spine which can cause your dog to have abnormal posture. They may hold their head lower than normal or have an inability to raise or turn their neck properly. They may also adopt sort of a hunchback posture or lameness in one or both hind legs. You may also notice that your dog is favoring one side while sitting which is called ‘puppy sitting’; your dog should be sitting evenly on both legs.
Fatigue: Dogs with degenerative joint disease tend to tire more easily than dogs with healthy joints. They may also be reluctant to go on walks or want to go on shorter walks. Overall, you may notice your dog is spending less time moving around and more time resting or sleeping.
Irritability: The discomfort of degenerative joint disease can make even the most easy-going dog a bit snappish, especially if they’re being pet or handled in a way that increases their pain. They may also hide away in a corner, tucked away from other pets and family members.
Licking, chewing and biting at specific areas of the body: Some dogs with degenerative joint disease lick, chew or bite at the skin overlying a painful joint in an attempt to get some relief. If this behavior becomes obsessive, your dog can develop inflamed skin, hair loss and hot spots over the affected areas.
If you start noticing any of the changes in your dogs’ behavior mentioned above, the best place to start is to see your veterinarian so they can assess the severity of the condition and properly diagnose your dog. Your vet will typically examine the joints, feel the range of motion and may even take x-rays. And don’t forget, dogs mask their pain, so even the smallest indications are worth the trip to your veterinarian.
HOW CAN CHIROPRACTIC HELP DOGS THAT HAVE DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE (DJD)?
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a progressive disease, and there is no cure. But there are still many ways to manage DJD effectively. Most dogs can alleviate their degenerative joint disease symptoms with a combination of weight control, exercise, medication, supplements and chiropractic care.
The goal of chiropractic care for dogs that have degenerative joint disease is to improve joint mechanics by improving spinal motion, reducing inflammation, slow down joint degeneration and reduction of compensation of other limbs.
Improve Joint Mechanics by Improving Spinal Motion: If your dog has degenerative joint disease in their spine or extremities it can cause restrictions which presents as abnormal motion. A certified animal chiropractor will evaluate all of the joints in your dogs body to make sure that they are working properly. If the chiropractor finds a restriction, an area where the spine or extremity is not moving properly, they will apply a gentle thrust to fix the misalignment therefore allowing your dog to move with ease without the pain and restrictions the misalignment was causing.
Reduction of Inflammation: Inflammation in itself is not harmful. In fact, it’s a normal and healthy attempt by the body to preserve itself. Inflammation helps remove harmful debris like irritants and pathogens from the body so that the healing process can begin. The problem begins when regular inflammation becomes chronic. Degenerative joint disease causes chronic inflammation of the affected joints. Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments help reduce the production of two inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and CRP), which can reduce inflammation throughout the body therein reducing pain for your dog.
Slow Down Joint Degeneration: One of the main causes of joint degeneration is misalignment of the spine or extremities which causes chronic mechanical stress on a joint and causes joint cartilage to soften and degenerate. When your dog receives chiropractic care and their joints are aligned properly, this reduces the ‘wear and tear’ on the joint that the misalignment was causing therefore slowing down the degenerative process.
Compensation of Other Limbs: In order for your dog to function and move properly, all of their limbs need to be applying the same amount of force while bearing weight. If your dog develops degenerative joint disease they typically won’t put weight on the affected area, causing extra strain on the other healthy parts of the body. Receiving chiropractic care will ensure that the affected area is moving properly and that your dog can distribute their weight evenly so that they won’t compensate and injure the healthy parts of their body.
If your dog has been diagnosed with degenerative joint disease and you’re looking for a way to get to the root of the problem and find relief, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation. We’re here for you and your dog’s healthcare needs.