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Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also referred to as arthritis, is a common, painful condition in older ducks. In one study, almost 50% of waterfowl kept in a zoo exhibit developed DJD. DJD is a chronic, degenerative process characterized by progressive cartilage deterioration, loss of joint space, bone remodeling, and inflammation of the joint tissues. These processes eventually lead to the breakdown of cartilage in the duck's synovial joint. The most common synovial joints affected in ducks include the stifle (femoral-tibiotarsal joint), hock (tibiotarsal-tarsometatarsal), and foot or toe joints. Many ducks have multiple joints affected.
Ducks with DJD usually have varying degrees of lameness, swelling of the affected joint(s), and 50% developed bumblefoot in at least one foot. Radiographs can sometimes be helpful for obtaining a definite diagnosis of DJD in ducks. Radiographs consist with DJD reveal the presence of varying degrees of erosion and mild to complete loss of articular cartilage of the condyles of the distal femur and proximal tibiotarsus, with severe thickening of the joint capsule.
Ducks with DJD are most often treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs (meloxicam, carprofen, ketoprofen, buprenorphine, and butoorphanol) to help with the pain, on an as-needed basis. Other therapies used include Adequan injections, acupuncture, and physical therapy sessions.