Osteoarthritis (Degenerative joint disease or DJD)

Description and causes

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common problem in man and animals. OA is caused by the degeneration of cartilage and the production of new bone around the affected joint. The cartilage structure in the joint changes due to the loss of compounds called proteoglycans, causing a loss of water from the cartilage and rendering it more fragile.

OA is often either the result of general wear and tear or trauma. Other joint conditions can also contribute to it, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, joint luxation, articular fractures, cruciate injuries and legg-calve-perthes disease. In these cases this is known as secondary osteoarthritis.

There are two other types of osteoarthritis:

  • Primary/idiopathic OA (idiopathic – no known or unidentified initiating factors)
    This is uncommon in dogs, as usually a cause for the degeneration can be found. However a generalized condition has been seen in some breeds; Labrador, Rotweiller, Dalmatian, Chow, this is usually symmetrical affecting the same joints in two limbs.
  • Erosive (atrophic) OA
    Occasionally localised erosive changes can be found, in the OA joints of dogs, on x-ray. The cause is not known, however the erosive changes may be seen in diseases linked with rheumatoid and infectious arthritis.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The main symptom is lameness of varying severity, with or without stiffness of the affected limbs. The joints are usually painful on examination, thickened with a decreased range of motion; there may be crepitus (crackling sensation). X-rays will show osteophyte formation (extra bony growth) around the joint. Other diagnostic techniques include Arthrocentesis and Arthroscopy.


Treatment involves the use of appropriate anti-inflammatory and pain relieving drugs, controlled exercise and weight reduction where necessary. The use of complimentary therapies and supplements can be of great benefit also.

Physiotherapy: the management of osteoarthritis is multifactoral. A good outcome will depend on a balance between controlled exercise and rest, appropriate drug management, weight control and we believe that physiotherapy and complementary therapies can help greatly too. Often if one body part is sore your dog will compensate and alter his movement patterns in order to be more comfortable. Over time the joint may get stiffer, causing more discomfort and also secondary muscle pain, especially in areas of the spine. It is important to maintain mobility in the affected joints (to promote nourishment to the cartilage) as well as the healthy joints and to keep muscles relaxed and supple. Physiotherapy techniques can help to achieve this and optimize your dog’s comfort. There are some techniques that the physiotherapist can show you how to do at home. Laser can be used to reduce inflammation and pain in acute flare-ups of the disease, but the long-term goal is really to achieve consistent levels of comfort and function so your dog can enjoy the best quality of life possible.

Hydrotherapy: swimming in warm water is of great benefit to dogs with osteoarthritis. Swimming offers non-weight bearing exercise, allowing dogs to continue exercising when it would otherwise not be possible or is too uncomfortable, thus maintaining cardiovascular fitness. The water helps to warm and support the joints and encourages a full range of joint motion, thus reducing stiffness. The cohesive and hydrostatic effects of water help to massage the limbs as they are pulled through the water, this resistance helps to increase and maintain muscle mass. Swimming also helps to maintain a positive mental attitude allowing less mobile dogs to move freely and with less discomfort.

Acupuncture is a very effective means of treating lameness and pain due to arthritis. It is also useful for relieving muscle spasm that occurs elsewhere in the body as a consequence of the pet shifting its weight away from its arthritic joints. Fine sterile needles are placed through the skin in positions where they can have an affect on the animal's nervous system by stimulating the release of pain relieving neurotransmitters. Treatments are normally repeated weekly for 3 or 4 weeks and then at increasing intervals as the effect becomes more long-lasting. Acupuncture can be used in addition to medication that reduces pain and inflammation, and can also be used alongside other therapies such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy

McTimoney so where does McTimoney Treatment fit in with all of this? Well, if you imagine the body as a unit, designed to function and perform as a balanced entity, to be as efficient as possible, then it comes as no surprise that the inefficiency of one part, however small, can expose stress on the rest of the body.
You have probably been in the situation yourself, where you had a minor injury, say a sore shoulder, but in the end your entire back is sore, from you mis-positioning yourself, in the endeavour to compensate for your disabled body part. Animals do this, even more so, as they have to appear to their peers and enemies as being 100% functional, so as not to loose their position in the pack or even their lives. This behaviour pattern is still evident in domesticated dogs.

The McTimoney Treatment will try to counteract the stresses that primary conditions put upon the bodily structures, by evaluating gait and body posture. Assessing balance and movement of the whole of the body, helps to identify misalignments and muscle discomfort. Once corrected, the animal’s body is then in a more correct place and position, to heal the injured area.

Other drug therapy

Disease modifying drugs offer “chondroprotection”. These drugs are administered by your veterinary surgeon as a course of injections, they are used to slow the progression of the osteoarthritis. For further information please talk to your veterinarian.

Herbal therapy

Herbal preparations have been used for a long time to help relieve the symptoms of OA, many people find them useful to aid joint motion and relieve pain. It is important to contact a qualified herbalist and to discuss any treatment with your vet before administering to your pets. Herbal medicine can be helpful as part of an holistic approach to treatment.

Magnetic collars

Many people find the use of magnetic bracelets very beneficial in reducing the symptoms of OA, some animals also appear to benefit, particularly for reducing joint stiffness, while others do not respond. It is important to use a good quality magnet. Some manufacturers offer a six month money back guarantee on magnetic dog collars, so it is always worth a try to see if your animal is one of those that will benefit. Please contact us for further details or supply.

Joint supplements

It is thought by many veterinarians that joint supplements can be of benefit in the early stages of OA and as a preventative in young dogs with known joint conditions or from susceptible breeds. Glucosamine and Chondroitin combined are thought to be of more benefit than Glucosamine alone. Use a joint supplement designed for the specific species being treated (not human or equine supplements for dogs) and use the best quality supplement that you can afford. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of nutriceuticals under your pet’s veterinary treatment. There are supplements available that contain added ingredients such a MSM, devils claw, yucca, vitamin C. We are happy to advise you on these supplements as part of your animal’s treatment plan as will your veterinarian.

Surgical options

If these treatment plans fail there are surgical options available. These should be discussed with your veterinarian and if appropriate necessary referral to a specialist centre can be arranged.

Cheilectomy; debridement (cleaning) of the joint and removal of osteophytes
Joint replacement
Excision Arthroplasty ; a salvage procedure used for the hips.
Arthrodesis; fusion of the joint to gain stability and provide pain relief

Meadow farm 2008

Meadow farm 2008

Copyright © 2008 Meadow Farm

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