Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in Rabbits

PetMD Editorial
Jul 25, 2008
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Osteoarthritis in Rabbits

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes the cartilage surrounding the joints to deteriorate. Arthritis, on the other hand, is the general medical term for inflamed joints. And much like humans, rabbits can suffer from osteoarthritis.

Symptoms and Types 

Symptoms of DJD vary depending on severity and cause, though affected rabbits may show lameness or a stiff gait, restricted motion, or be unable to hop. These symptoms may also worsen with exercise or after long periods of immobility.

Animals with a history of joint trauma, such as fracture or dislocation, are sometimes prone to arthritis. In addition, a physical examination by a veterinarian may reveal further symptoms such as joint swelling and pain, joint instability, or an inability to properly groom (flaky skin or feces residue on the behind), depending on which joints are involved.


DJD may result as a secondary symptom of an alternate problem such as trauma or joint instability. Or it may be a primary symptom, resulting from long-term joint use which usually comes with aging.

Obesity is sometimes identified as a risk factor, as obese animals place more pressure on the joints. However, there is no predisposing cause that leads to the primary form of arthritis.


Diagnosis of DJD may be done based on an assessment of past symptoms, such as decreased activity or stiffness, as well as a physical examination which will reveal a decreased range of motion, stiff-legged gait, deformity of the joints, and swelling or pain in the joints. Further diagnostic procedures may include X-rays and an analysis of the fluid surrounding the joints.

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