Bursitis in Dogs

Bursitis is the infection of the bursae, which are small sacs that contain fluids and are found at joints in various areas of the body. The condition is extremely painful and can also affect the pet’s ability to move. The condition can be treated, but if it becomes chronic, the dog will require surgery.

Causes of Bursitis in Dogs

Bursitis may be associated with infections that enter the blood stream, but most commonly, the causes of this condition include:

  • Trauma
  • Injuries to the bones

Bursitis may be related to some autoimmune conditions and the inflammation of the bursa may be caused by some inflammatory cells produced by the immune system.

Obese dogs are more exposed to developing bursitis.

In some cases, the causes of bursitis are considered idiopathic (unknown).

Symptoms of Dog Bursitis

A bursa is a sac that is filled with liquid and may be located at the joints (i.e. shoulders or knees). The bursae are covered with connective tissue and these sacs reduce the friction between bones and the tendons. 1 or several of these sacs can get infected and inflamed. The symptoms will depend on the sac that is being affected. However, you can detect a few symptoms such as:

  • Inability to move (limping,  if the sac located at the knees is affected)
  • Lack of appetite, due to pain
  • Licking of the affected joints
  • Irritability and changes in behavior
  • Swelling of the joints, in some cases, the sacs can be felt under the dog’s skin

In some cases, the bursae may rupture and drain. The fluid may gather under the skin and cause bumps.

Bursitis may be acute or chronic. The condition can become chronic if the dog uses his affected joints or performs excessive movements that involve the affected joints.

Diagnosing Bursitis in Dogs

Bursitis can be detected by examining the dog. A sample of the bursae liquid will also be needed and will be analyzed to establish if the dog is affected by a bacterial infection.

Treatment Options for Dog Bursitis

The dog can receive medication treatment, which may include:

  • Antibiotics, if the dog is affected by an infection. The results of the liquid aspirate test will dictate the best types of antibiotics
  • Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Steroids, such as prednisone, which will be chosen if the dog doesn’t respond to the NSAIDs treatment or if the condition is linked to an autoimmune condition. The treatment will also have an impact on the immune system and stop the production of the inflammatory cells

The dog should also rest and spend more time in bed. Massages can also be applied to reduce the size of the affected bursa. If the condition is serious and the dog doesn’t respond to the medication treatment or the condition becomes chronic, the dog will need surgical intervention.