Rheumatism in Dogs

Rheumatism in dogs is a degenerative condition that affects the joints and the cartilage in the joints. This progressive condition usually gets worse over time, even when properly treated. Eventually, it can leave dogs in too much pain to move. Read on to learn more.

Causes and Risk Factors for Canine Rheumatism

Middle aged and older dogs are usually at the highest risk for canine rheumatism, because joints can tend to wear out naturally with age. Generally, however, there is an underlying cause to canine rheumatism, be it injury, infection, or a congenital deformity such as hip dysplasia. Joints damaged by injury, infection or deformity can't move properly, and dysfunctional joint movement only contributes to the wearing away of cartilage over time.

While most dogs who develop rheumatism do so when they are older, dogs of any age can develop this condition, especially if they suffer from hip dysplasia, suffer a joint injury, or contract an infectious disease that affects the joints, such as Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Canine Rheumatism

The symptoms of canine rheumatism are often similar to those of canine arthritis. Dogs may display joint stiffness, swelling and pain. Joints may feel warm to the touch. Your dog may develop problems standing up and lying down, and may no longer be able to jump or climb stairs as well as he once did. Dogs with rheumatism may seek cool places to lie down, since the cooler surfaces provide some relieve to aching joints.

Some infectious diseases, such as Lyme Disease, can cause joint symptoms similar to those of canine rheumatism. If your dog has a disease, however, the joint inflammation and swelling may move from one limb or joint to the other. In rheumatism, the same joint or joints are always affected. Inflammation, pain and stiffness only get worse over time.

Diagnosing and Treating Canine Rheumatism

Your vet may want to perform blood or other tests to rule out the possibility of underlying diseases that could cause your dog's symptoms. A physical exam can help your vet verify symptoms, and X-rays may be necessary to evaluate the extent of joint damage.

Canine rheumatism can't be cured, but treatment can help improve your dog's symptoms and restore some of his quality of life. Your vet may prescribe painkillers, or recommend you administer ordinary aspirin, if your dog's symptoms have not yet become severe enough to warrant prescription drug use. Glucosamine chondroitin supplements may be able to support your dog's joint health, and could even restore some of his mobility. While these supplements are generally inexpensive and have few side effects, your dog will need to keep taking him for the rest of his life, or he will experience a recurrence of severe symptoms.

You can expect your dog's rheumatism to keep getting worse, even if he receives treatment. Treatment can only delay the progression of this disease. If your dog's joint damage is particularly severe, your vet may be able to surgically rebuild the damaged joints to restore some of your dog's mobility and relieve some of his pain.