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Available information suggests a mismatch between radiographic and orthopedic examination findings in cats with DJD. However, the extent of the discrepancy between clinical and radiographic signs of OA in companion animals has not been described in detail. This study aimed to evaluate the relationship between orthopedic examination findings, joint goniometry, and radiographic signs of DJD in 100 cats, in a prospective observational design. Cat temperament, pain response to palpation, joint crepitus, effusion and thickening were graded. Radiographs of appendicular joints and the axial skeleton were made under sedation. Joint motion was measured by use of a plastic goniometer before and after sedation. Associations between radiographic degenerative joint disease (DJD) and examination findings were assessed to determine sensitivity, specificity and likelihood estimations.
Pain response to palpation was elicited in 0-67% of the joints with DJD, with a specificity ranging from 62-99%; crepitus was detected in 0-56% of the joints and its specificity varied between 87 and 99%; for effusion, values ranged between 6 and 38% (specificity, 82-100%), and thickening, 0-59% (specificity, 74-99%). Joints with DJD tended to have a decreased range of motion. The presence of pain increased the odds of having DJD in the elbow (right: 5.5; left: 4.5); the presence of pain in the lower back increased the odds of spinal DJD being present (2.97 for lumbar; 4.67 for lumbo-sacral).
Radiographic DJD cannot be diagnosed with certainty using palpation or goniometry. However, negative findings tend to predict radiographically normal joints. Palpation and goniometry may be used as a tool to help to screen cats, mostly to rule out DJD.