Osteoarthritis in Dogs


This page contains information on osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease in dogs.

  • Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is characterized by the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the ends of bones in a joint.
  • The cartilage has no nerves so when it touches the cartilage of another bone there is no pain.
  • However, when the cartilage wears away, as in DJD, the bone is exposed, this does have nerves, so when the two bone ends’ touch it results in pain and inflammation.
  • In DJD we also see small bony projections forming at the ends of the bone that add to the pain.


  • Can occur as a result of wear and tear on a normal joint as the dog ages = Primary DJD.
  • Can also occur as a result of another condition affecting the joint, such as hip or elbow dysplasia, or an old traumatic injury such as an old fracture or cruciate ligament rupture = Secondary DJD.


Vary depending on joint involved. Age of the dog and severity of the disease, but you may see….

  • Altered gait
  • Muscle wasting
  • Difficulty rising
  • Stiffness after rest
  • Changes in appetite and behaviour


  • History from the owner and physical examination
  • Radiographs


Can be treated medically and surgically, but is generally aimed at trying to manage the signs. DJD is a progressive disease and the severity of the symptoms are likely to increase over time.

  • Weight management; it is important to keep affected dogs slim as extra weight increases the stress on joints.
  • Moderate exercise; short and easy walks every day. Swimming can also help maintain a good range of motion in the joints.
  • Medication; anti-inflammatories, such as ‘Rimadyl’ or ‘Metacam’. Extra pain-killing drugs can be added in at a later stage, for example, ‘Tramadol’.
  • Polysulphated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs) and hyaluronic acid derivatives can also be used in DJD patients and they may help to protect the joint and provide substances needed for joint repair.
  • Acupuncture; has been noted to be beneficial in the management of DJD.
  • Surgery; Some forms of DJD can be treated with specialist surgery, such as hip replacements. Success rates depend on the changes that have already occurred in and around the joint.

At the Ardmore Veterinary Group we aim to provide the highest standard of professional veterinary care. If you find any of the information displayed incorrect please do not hesitate to call us. We are here to listen and assist in any way we can.

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