DJD in cats is not quite as common as in dogs, but it is estimated that over 30 percent of all cats have this very painful condition and the number is growing every year.
This painful condition can be caused by a lifetime of wear, by injury, or it can be self-induced by weight.
However, it is very hard to argue that the cause of DJD is the result of a lifetime of wear when over 30 percent of all cats over one year of age have this condition, and that number is growing every year.
DJD is the medical term for this ailment and it is also referred to as Degenerative joint disease, arthritis, or osteoarthritis.
Many pet owners associate this disease with large breeds of dogs, but the reality is that it is becoming very common among cats as well.
However, the number one cause is not from a lifetime of wear or even injury; it is obesity.
Overweight cats have two strikes against them; they are not very active because of their weight and as a result do not exercise, and the extra weight puts an extra burden of all of their cartilages.
Cats cannot use a can opener or open a refrigerator; it must be the owner that helps in controlling weight in this rapidly growing disease.
The good news is that there are several new drugs as well as several nutritional advancements that are available to help your cat fight this very painful disease.
It may never be totally prevented, but it can certainly be controlled.
There are several potential causes for DJD in cats, but controlling your pet’s weight will relieve the stress that is placed on their joints.
DJD in cats affects the smooth articular cartilage of your cats joint which is the covering of the bone in their joints that makes it possible for a smooth and non-painful motion.
When this cartilage becomes worn by too much pressure, time, or an underlying infection, raw bone surfaces become exposed and rub together, causing DJD in cats.
The soft tissue linings of the joint, referred to as synovium, are the first tissues in your cat that is affected by this degenerative disease.
The irritation that it starts basically sets free chemical mediators that are believed to actually cause the cartilage to degenerate.
Primary cartilage damage can also result and once triggered, set off a vicious cycle of degeneration.
Your cat’s articular cartilage is made up of cells known as chondrocytes, which is a mixture of what is called extracellular matrix and water.
The matrix portion is made of very small fibers called collagen which supplies both structural support as well as connective components called proteoglycan.
The chemical chondroitin sulfate makes up most of this component.
When the joint capsule becomes inflamed with DJD, the quality of this fluid is reduced, and it causes even more damage to your cats cartilage.
There are some congenital diseases that can cause DJD in cats at very early ages.
OCD, also known as Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition that can occur in your cats shoulder, elbow, stifle, or their hock joints, and as a result cause joint inflammation and DJD.
Joint trauma can also cause a secondary form of DJD in cats especially if your pet suffers a fracture.
Any type of a joint fracture needs to be immediately stabilized by a veterinarian simply because if it does not heal properly it can rapidly start to degenerate.
The same is true with any type of a dislocation, especially hip or elbow dislocations.
Cats are also very susceptible to ligament injuries, especially to the knee. These types of injuries are perhaps the most common cause of DJD in cats other than being overweight.
There are several symptoms that you can watch for that your cat may be developing DJD, and some will depend on their age as well as the severity of the disease.
The first symptom is almost always an altered gait, as your cat is forcibly placing more weight on the limbs that are not affected.
The next symptom will be muscle atrophy, which is where your cats muscles start to shrink because of lack of usage.
This will become very visible as the disease progresses simply because as one muscle shrinks, others may grow because your cat is using more of those muscles.
But the most telling of all the symptoms will be where your cat starts to have difficulty is getting up or lying and down.
This is especially true if there is a dry cracking sound that is associated.
This dry sound tells you all you need to know.
All forms of treatment for DJD in cats will be centered on your cat’s weight, as any surgical or medical treatment will work much better if your cat is not overweight.
It is estimated that over 50 percent of all cats worldwide are overweight and this is why DJD in cats is growing at the rate that it is.
Getting your pets weight down and then keeping it down is the most important thing you can do in helping your cat in treating DJD.
Exercise is the next step in treatment, and although it seems odd to place you cat on a leash and walk them, you may have to do this to get them to exercise.
Keeping your cat warm, especially when they sleep, is also very important.
Massaging your cat will help to reduce the pain, but some cats may not like this much human contact.
If this is the case, start slow and build their trust.
Glucosamine and Chondrotin are two extremely important treatments that are used.
Glucosamine is the major sugar found in the building blocks of your cats joint cartilages, and Chondrotin enhances the synthesis of the intracellular matrix as well as inhibits enzyme damages to your pets joints.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are also used because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
Avocado and Soybean extracts in supplement form have recently proved to be extremely effective in enhancing the actions of Glucosamine and Chondrotin, and when combined, they are very effective.
Corticosteroids have been used for years to treat both pain and inflammation, but they are becoming more controversial every day because of their side effects.
Surgery is used as a last resort and is not only very expensive, it is also very difficult.
Although it may be tempting to use aspirin to help your cat with pain, cats are extremely sensitive to aspirin.
It should only be given with veterinarian care, and even with care, it must be limited to every other day in very small doses.