Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis Prognosis

Canine rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can afflict dogs of all ages. This disease isn’t contagious and isn’t very common in dogs. Breeds that are prone to rheumatoid arthritis are small and toy breeds.

Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis

Canine rheumatoid arthritis is chronic and idiopathic in nature (with no known cause for its onset). Due to an overreaction of your pet’s immune system, the body produces antibodies, also known as rheumatoid factors, to fight its own proteins. This happens because the immune system mistakes your pet’s own proteins for foreign substances.

The immune complexes formed by the antibodies and proteins are deposited in the joint. As the body tries to rid itself of these immune complexes, it further damages itself causing an erosion of the cartilage and bone in the joint and subsequent deformation of the joint.

Symptoms of Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Stiffness
  • Sudden onset of lameness
  • Pain in the joints
  • Difficulty in walking, rising and climbing stairs
  • Mild or severe lameness that shifts from one limb to another
  • Swelling in smaller joints such as the wrists and hocks
  • Wasting of muscles near the affected joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inflammation of several joints
  • Kidney disease
  • Tonsillitis 
  • Pneumonia

Diagnosis and Treatment of Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis

A medical history and physical examination can help the vet diagnose canine rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays can help highlight loss of bone. The bones appear to have holes in them and the joint surfaces appear irregular as a result of the spurs. The presence of the rheumatoid factor can be confirmed with a special blood test. However, the rheumatoid factor is often present in dogs not afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. A thinner and cloudy synovial fluid can also confirm the disease.

You should ensure that your pet gets sufficient amount of rest, and if he shows improvement, moderate exercise should be introduced to his daily regime. A weight control program is essential in order to decrease the stress on the joints. Medications such as pain killers and steroids help decrease the pain and discomfort suffered by your pet.

Prognosis of Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a degenerative and progressive disease that generally strikes older dogs and for which there is no cure at the present time. Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms and lessening the pain and discomfort. It’s essential to ensure that further injury to the joint is prevented. Dogs with rheumatoid arthritis seldom recover completely from the disease.

However, care and management of the disease can greatly decrease the discomfort experienced by your pet and improve his quality of life. Medications such as pain killers and steroids can also provide additional relief.

Rheumatoid arthritis can alter the life of your pet but with proper treatment and tender loving care, you can ensure that he lives as full a life as possible and is comfortable and happy till the end of his days.