Dog Arthritis Diagnosis

Dog arthritis is often thought to be an illness of old dogs. As a matter of fact, dogs of all ages can be affected by the illness, but the diagnosis is often given only late in the dog's life. This happens because the joint cartilage is not equipped with nerves, so the dog will not be feeling pain until the joint is badly damaged.

Types of Arthritis

Canine arthritis can be:

  • Degenerative (1 in 5 dogs is affected): Acute traumatic arthritis or repeat trauma-induced arthritis
  • Inflammatory (a less common kind of arthritis): Can be caused by an infection or an autoimmune condition

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

The symptoms of arthritis are similar to those of old age. However, if you notice any symptoms that you suspect as being arthritis, you should contact your veterinarian. If untreated, arthritis becomes painful. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Limping
  • Dropping of the hip
  • Unsure, imbalanced gait
  • Changes in behavior
  • Slower movement
  • Refusal to play
  • Difficulties when trying to stand up
  • Swollen joints
  • Pain when joints are touched
  • Constant licking of the joints
  • Sometimes even fever and lack of appetite

Diagnosis of Arthritis is Dogs

Arthritis is hard to diagnose, especially if the disease is in the incipient phases. Often the symptoms of arthritis are confused with those of old age. In order to diagnose arthritis, your veterinarian will first have to know about the dog's history (i.e., any injury or trauma). An orthopedic consult can show if there is any joint pain, swelling or whether the joints are tender.

Some tests will be needed:

  • X-rays are the most important diagnosis tool because these can show if there is damage to the joints. The veterinarian will often need to anesthetize the dog for the radiography. This is necessary in order to obtain the clearest x-ray images possible. A dog that is not anesthetized may move during the test.
  • Contrast radiography involves liquid that is injected into the joints before the radiography. This is a method used to look for cartilage pieces that might be broken off.
  • A force plate can be used in order to analyze the force of the dog's steps. Sensors are attached to a plate and the dog is allowed to pass over it. The sensors register the force of each step, recording the degree of lameness in the legs. Even though many variables can occur, this is still a helpful diagnosis method.
  • In order to determine whether the arthritis is inflammatory or degenerative, joint fluid is aspirated and analyzed.
  • Arthroscopy is a sophisticated method consisting of the insertion of a small camera inside the joint. If the cartilage is not mineralized, some of the changes cannot be seen on x-ray but will be visible with arthroscopy.
  • Blood samples are often used in order to diagnose arthritis (there may be a higher white blood cell count).