News & Advice

DJD in working dogs

Jul 4, 2019 | Dry stock, Working Dog

Katrina Crowe, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Huntly

Working dogs are one of the best employees to have on your farm. They are a big investment and so ensuring their longevity is essential.

In a recent survey, degenerative joint disease (DJD) or (osteo)arthritis, was the second most common health event affecting working dogs as reported by farmers. It was also found to be the most commonly reported reason for euthanasia in farm dogs.

DJD, as the name suggests, is a degenerative disease so it gets worse over time. Joints involve the connection between two or more bones. The end of each bone is covered with a smooth layer of articular cartilage, and the joint is held together by a tough joint capsule. Lubricating and nourishing joint fluid is produced by a thin membrane surrounding the joint capsule. As animals age, the articular cartilage within the joints deteriorates.

Initially you may notice lameness and stiffness after periods of exercise, which may worsen in cold and damp weather. Some animals with mild DJD may actually improve with exercise. However, as DJD progresses pain causes these clinical signs to worsen and lack of exercise can lead to muscle loss. The most commonly affected joints are the hips, followed by the carpus, elbow and hock. Multiple joints can be affected simultaneously.

There are a wide variety of causes for secondary DJD, such as trauma and abnormal wear on joints. Unfortunately we cannot prevent or reverse arthritis but there are ways to manage the disease, and the earlier the better.

Talk to your vet about some of the following options:

Pain relief

There are a variety of anti-inflammatory options for effective pain relief. Drugs have different protocols, side effects and contraindications so it is important to make a plan with a vet for long term use to help manage pain. There are daily options and even a monthly tablet that can be used to control pain and inflammation.


We have great success with these easy injections which can help some dogs by limiting cartilage deterioration and promoting new cartilage formation. A course of weekly injections is required, followed by 4-8 weekly booster injections to combat further wear and tear of the joints.


There are specially formulated joint diets which have been shown to benefit joint health as well as control weight. Supplementing with glucosamine, green-lip mussel and chondroitin sulphate can also provide a degree of pain relief.

If one of your working dogs has slowed with the colder weather, make an appointment to get them checked at your local Anexa Vet clinic.

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