One of the unfortunate truths is that as our pets age, their body will begin to break down. What we can do is provide them with the means to stay as comfortable and pain-free as possible. Here, our Nashville vets talk about degenerative joint disease in dogs and how treatments such as cold laser therapy can help.
What is degenerative joint disease (DJD) in dogs?
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a type of arthritis or osteoarthritis caused by the gradual deterioration of articular cartilage in one or more joints. When we talk about arthritis we use it as a blanket term to cover all inflammatory conditions.
If your dog is obese then they are more likely to develop degenerative joint disease and require joint replacement surgery. When DJD is severe, the cartilage may split away from the bone and become loose within the joint. DJD can also develop due to a variety of joint diseases, including infection, and it can also be caused by injuries or past surgeries.
Dystonic Joint Degeneration occurs when cartilage cells are damaged and release substances that cause inflammation, resulting in pain and further cartilage damage. The joint will form scar tissue or growths in an attempt to stabilize itself as the degeneration progresses, adding to the damage.
What are the signs and symptoms of DJD?
When it comes to DJD in dogs, the most commonly reported symptom is lameness. Dogs, however, exhibit a variety of symptoms other than limping that indicate arthritic pain, including:
- they may be sleeping more than usual
- slower on walks or not wanting to walk as far
- resent being touched or brushed in certain areas
- accidents in the house or walking while urinating or defecating
- taking more time standing up from a lying down position
- difficulty getting into the car compared to usual
- carrying their heads or tails lower than normal
- sudden reluctance to go up the stairs
- sitting with their hind legs stretched out (lazy sit)
What are the treatment options for DJD?
Medication to alleviate the symptoms of degenerative joint disease
A dog with (DJD) can be treated by making the environment more accessible to the dog and providing pain relief. Modern analgesics (pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications) can effectively control pain with few side effects. There are medications and nutritional supplements that can slow the progression of the disease and promote cartilage healing.
You should not give your pet any human pain reliever unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause serious problems and side effects.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to control joint inflammation and provide pain relief. Meloxicam (Metacam®), carprofen (Rimadyl®), and deracoxib (Deramaxx®) are among the medications used. Once treatment for this condition has begun, your veterinarian will also recommend periodic monitoring of your dog's liver and kidney function.
Managing DJD using cold laser therapy
Cold laser therapy is another avenue of treatment for dogs with DJD. Veterinary cold laser therapy employs low-intensity lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help with pain relief, cell stimulation and enhancement, and wound healing. Laser treatment for dogs promotes cell regeneration and circulation, making it beneficial for dogs with DJD.
Does veterinary cold laser therapy work on dogs?
Yes. The veterinary industry has deemed pet laser therapy safe and effective. It can effectively be used to treat diseases, injuries and conditions such as tissue injuries (including strains and sprains) and arthritis.
We often use it to supplement other treatment options to give our pet patients an improved outcome.
As for benefits, laser therapy can:
- Enhance circulation
- Decrease nerve sensitivity
- Reduce pain and swelling
- Speed the healing process
In addition, cold laser therapy for dogs does not have any negative side effects and no sedation is required as well as no need to shave the fur of the affected area before treatment. Fortunately, dogs often live comfortably for years following a DJD diagnosis, so long as proactive steps are taken to manage this condition.
How is veterinary cold laser therapy used?
The slow movement of a warm laser over the affected area is normally welcomed by pets receiving cold laser therapy. Each session may be roughly a half hour or less on average and the frequency and recommended number of treatment sessions will depend on the symptoms and severity.
Is it possible to slow the progression of degenerative joint disease?
Current arthritis research has resulted in the development of medications and supplements that effectively reduce the degeneration of the cartilage in dogs affected by DJD. They function as follows:
- improving the blood supply within the joint
- preventing the formation of some of the harmful enzymes that continue the destruction of cartilage within the joint once it has started
- promoting the formation of fibrous tissue to heal damaged areas, and
- promoting cartilage repair.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.