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Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats
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Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Degenerative joint disease or DJD is a painful condition that can affect any breed of cat particularly as they reach their senior years. It is a progressive, long-term disease that negatively impacts the cartilage found in a cat's joints and it's a condition that's often referred to as osteoarthritis which describes chronic inflammation of the joints due to the deterioration of the cartilage that’s found in a joint.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When a cat starts to develop degenerative joint disease, there are specific signs of there being something wrong with them which could include the following:

  • Cats start to show signs of being constantly lame
  • They have trouble grooming themselves and the result is an untidy looking coat
  • They have difficulty jumping up and down on furniture
  • Cats often even have trouble using a little box
  • When a cat walks, they do so very stiff-legged
  • They are less active
  • Cats are often irritable when they suffer from DJD because of the pain and discomfort they are feeling

The Causes

The reason why cats suddenly start to develop primary degenerative joint disease remains a bit of a mystery. However, when the condition is secondary which in short means a cat suffers from it because of another health issue or injury, the causes could be as a result of them suffering from the following:

  • Trauma
  • An abnormally high wear on their joints and cartilage
  • A congenital defect that was present at birth which could include a badly formed hip joint which is a condition known as hip dysplasia
  • A dislocated knee cap
  • A type of joint disease
  • Obesity - the extra weight puts a tremendous amount of stress on a cat's joints

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would ideally need to know a cat's full medical history and their ancestry too. They would also need to know how the onset of any symptoms first manifested themselves which all helps when confirming a diagnosis. The vet would thoroughly examine a cat which would establish the following:

  • Whether a cat is stiff legged
  • Whether joints have become deformed in any way
  • Whether a cat's joints are swollen and therefore painful

Treatment Options

Once a cat has been diagnosed with DJD, a vet would want to control the symptoms because there is no cure for the condition. With this said, in some cases a vet might recommend surgery which could help alleviate any pain and it could slow the progression of the disease down. When surgery is involved this could include the following procedures:

  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Removal and replacement of affected joint
  • Surgically removing the causes which includes damaged bone or cartilage fragments found in a cat's joint
  • In many instances, physical therapy has proved very effective as it increases movement in a cat's joint. The sort of therapy that vets sometimes recommend could include the following:
  • Swimming
  • Massage

Heating pads and cold therapy have also proved to be beneficial when it comes to making life more comfortable for cats suffering from degenerative joint disease. Cats would also need to be prescribed long-term medication which would help control swelling and pain.

Living with a Cat with DJD

Sadly, degenerative joint disease is a progressive disorder which in short means that as cats get older their condition gradually gets worse. As such, they would need to be regularly seen by a vet who would reassess their condition and adjust their treatment as necessary. It is also important to limit a cat's activity so that it does not aggravate their symptoms or increase any pain they may be experiencing. Diet also plays a key role in controlling the disorder and cats should be fed a diet that includes a lot of omega fatty acids.

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