Degenerative joint disease (DJD) affects numerous (predominantly older) cats and, if untreated, has been associated with long-term pain and poor quality of life.
Currently there is no cure for DJD; thus, therapy is aimed at improving comfort. However, evidence for developing an effective treatment plan, assessing pain, and evaluating impaired mobility for this population is emerging.1 As DJD is most common in geriatric cats, other diseases may complicate the clinical assessment and treatment plan; common comorbidities include chronic kidney disease (CKD), hyperthyroidism, and diabetes mellitus.2
Related Article: Feline Degenerative Joint Disease Part 1: Diagnosis
Geriatric cats may be less active, but getting old must be differentiated from being painful or developing another medical problem. Chronic joint pain can affect mobility (eg, jumping, accessing a tall litter box), and the cat may appear stiff or clumsy (eg, failing jumps). Cats with DJD may also sleep more and change rest environments because of accessibility challenges, such as climbing (Figure 1). They may have reduced muscle mass (Figure 2), be less playful, more reclusive, and more unkempt (from lack of grooming).