Rheumatoid Arthritis in Dogs

Rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is a disease which is stems from an improper response by the immune system. Under normal conditions, a dog's immune system is cognizant of the proteins residing in his body for their proper intended usage. But when a dog's immune system becomes confused, it begins releasing antibodies to attack the proteins in his body. When this happens, the response is known as immune-meditated.

What this essentially means is that a dog's body is still releasing protein and antibodies at the same time; so, what effectively happens is that these extra antibodies and proteins end up in the dog's joints where they cause inflammation. This is what is known as rheumatoid arthritis.

Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

While the signs of rheumatoid arthritis can show up at any time, the condition most commonly develops in the twilight years of a dog's life. As a dog ages and begins to show some of the signs of rheumatoid arthritis, it may prompt the dog owner to have him examined.

Be sure to be aware of the following symptoms, as they are all indicative of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Mild Fever
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Partial or complete lameness
  • Difficulty when walking or standing
  • Swelling in the joints

When the condition progresses to a more severe level, a dog can become completely lame and may not be able to get up at all. Other times, only the limbs on one side of the body are affected. At any rate, this is not normal behavior for a dog and it should prompt medical evaluation.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first step in detecting rheumatoid arthritis may be a blood test. There is something known as the rheumatoid factor, which is the response of added antibodies by a dog's immune system. However, veterinarians do not always considered this type of testing to be completely reliable because it can sometimes produce a positive result when a dog is not in fact affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

So, the most reliable method of detecting these conditions remains to be x-rays. X-rays will help to determine if there is any loss of bone and will also show the present state of the joints. It is not uncommon for there to actually be holes in the bone when a dog has rheumatoid arthritis.

Treating the Condition

It is important to note that rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured or reversed, but rather there can be a very solid attempt at treating it. Still, the effects of treatment are not always as productive as a dog owner would hope.

The most common method of treatment for a dog in this condition is a regular routine of medications. Those medications may include an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and alleviate pain or a steroid to be used for the same effect as an anti-inflammatory. The only problem with these medications is that their success has not been entirely proven and every dog will react differently to them.

If the dog is overweight and has rheumatoid arthritis, it goes without saying that some strict dietary measures will need to be put into place. Excessive weight can add a lot of stress and pain on already inflamed joints and the reduction in weight should help to ease that added pressure.