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How to treat arthritis of the degus

  • Health

Osteoarthritis is by far the most widespread bone disease. It affects humans as much as animals: mammals, birds, reptiles… nobody escapes it (or almost). Osteoarthritis is also observed in degus, especially in the oldest individuals. But if it often appears with old age, other factors can make it appear in younger degus

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The disease of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a pathology that can affect all joints. The disease is characterized by a progressive destruction of the cartilage and then extends to the entire joint affected, including the bone. To date, there is no treatment for osteoarthritis. The only treatments available are symptomatic, with the aim of relieving severe pain.

Risk factors

Although the causes and triggers of osteoarthritis are not yet well known, there are factors that increase the risk of developing the disease1. When the disease is not related to previous lesions on the joint, it is called primitive osteoarthritis. This is related to aging, but other factors may come into play. Among these are overweight, malformations of the joint, but also metabolic problems, such as diabetes, which particularly affects the Octodon degus. Hormonal causes could also be at the origin of arthrosis. Finally, it is also likely that a genetic predisposition is at the origin of osteoarthritis in certain individuals2.

Finally, osteoarthritis can be linked to lesions of the joint or cartilage diseases, and is then called secondary osteoarthritis. Inflammation, injuries (fractures, ligament damage, etc.) or other damage and deformities around the joint are risk factors for this type of osteoarthritis. 

Osteoarthritis in the degus

Osteoarthritis in the Octodon degus occurs mainly with aging, although it is possible that younger individuals are affected, especially after traumatic injuries, such as fractures3. Symptoms are often difficult to recognize because they are global and it is sometimes difficult to realize the pain in these rodents.

Symptoms in degu

The symptoms of osteoarthritis are quite general and sometimes difficult to dissociate from other health problems, because they have quite general symptoms1, such as :

  • Total or partial paralysis: it happens that some joints are partially or totally paralyzed, this translates into difficulties in locomotion (the degus that limps), or less flexible movements, the joints are stiff.
  • Pain: pain can be translated by screams, difficulties of locomotion, or biting. In many animals, the signs of pain are sometimes difficult to detect, as some can only be discovered by handling or touching the affected joint.
  • Deformations: in the most affected joints, deformations of the joint may appear, related to the disappearance of cartilage.
  • Inflammations: osteoarthritis is often accompanied by inflammations in the area attacked by the arthrosis.

Octodon degus suffering from osteoarthritis – Video Rongeurs.net

Diagnosis

As for all diseases of the degus, only a veterinarian is able to diagnose. In the case of osteoarthritis, the diagnosis can be made via an X-ray, which will then show the possible attacked joints. In older individuals, X-rays may not be offered, and osteoarthritis may be investigated as a hypothesis, given the age of the degus.

Treatments of osteoarthritis in the degus

To date, there is no treatment for osteoarthritis in the degus. As for human beings and other animals, only treatments against the most severe symptoms are proposed. It is thus possible that the veterinarian proposes treatments containing painkillers and anti-inflammatory. 

In addition, it is essential to adapt the cage to the capacities of the Octodon degus suffering from osteoarthritis, so that it can still move while minimizing the pain.

On a personal note, our team used the supplement "Oxbow - Joint support", for an 8 year old degus, who had osteoarthritis. This treatment helped but is quite sweet, so avoid without veterinary advice, especially for diabetic degus.

Prevention of osteoarthritis

It is however possible to prevent the appearance of osteoarthritis in the degus, or at least, to slow down its appearance. This can be done by setting up a healthy lifestyle for the degu, but also by an adapted diet, especially during its growth4.

The overweight can play a role in the appearance of osteoarthritis5, it is thus advisable to pay attention to the ideal weight of its degus, being between 170g and 250g.

The degus must be able to exercise enough and in good conditions. A wheel, adapted to its morphology is essential, in addition to regular outings. This one must be about 40cm in diameter and be full. Moreover, the cage must be spacious and adapted to the animal6, by avoiding too high jumps or too complex climbing points, which could hurt the degus. It is also interesting, to avoid repetitive movements, to change regularly its layout.

Sources

  1. Physiopathologie de l’arthrose : conceptions actuelles[][]
  2. Arthrose du genou et de la hanche et activité : revue systématique internationale et synthèse (OASIS)[]
  3. Diseases in pet degus: A retrospective study in 300 animals[]
  4. Utilisation des procyanidines et de l’hydroxytyrosol dans la prévention nutritionnelle de l’arthrose[]
  5. L’ARTHROSE, UN RHUMATISME DE POIDS[]
  6. Crouched Locomotion in Small Mammals: The Effects of Habitat and Aging[]

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