Septic Arthritis in Dogs

Septic arthritis is somewhat of a misleading term, as it is generally unrelated to most other forms of arthritis. It is similar to other types of arthritis, however, in that it affects the joints and causes pain, tenderness and swelling. In the case of septic arthritis, however, the situation is most often acute and caused by an influx of bacteria in the joint area. The infection of the joint causes it to become inflamed and irritated. As with other infections, treatment must be accomplished immediately or else there is a risk that the infection can be carried through the bloodstream and into other organs, thereby causing additional health problems as well.

Septic Arthritis Causes

Septic arthritis is caused by a number of different potential sources. Among these are any other surface level infection that can then have bacteria travel into the bloodstream and to the joints. Dermatitis, open sores, particularly those around the affected joint, and other causes of surface level infection can commonly lead to septic arthritis. In some cases, septic arthritis may result as a side effect to surgeries or other operations that were not done in a completely sterile or clean manner. When the bacteria reaches the joint, it grows and multiplies, thereby causing an infection.

Septic Arthritis Symptoms

Because septic arthritis is acute and different from other standard forms of arthritis, it's typically shown to have symptoms only in one part of the body. You should not be alarmed, then, if you see that only one joint in your pet's body seems to be affected by the following symptoms:

  • Inflammation
  • Fluid discharge
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Redness and skin irritation
  • Difficulty moving or walking on the affected limb

If you detect any of these symptoms in your pet, make a list of when you first noticed them and how severe they have been. Subsequently, take your pet in to the vet's office for a set of examinations and to diagnose the issue. if you are able to, bring along the list of other concurrent symptoms as well, as this will help your vet to accurately diagnose the problem.

Septic Arthritis Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to diagnose the problem, your vet will generally take a small biopsy or fluid sample from the affected joint. This sample can be tested in the lab for the presence of infection and bacteria. The presence of such bacteria confirms that the issue is septic arthritis. If this is the case, your vet will likely recommend using an antibiotic to treat the condition. Antibiotics work to eliminate bacteria throughout the body, including both the healthy bacteria that lives in your pet's system and the harmful bacteria in his joint. This is crucial to do as soon as possible, as left untreated the bacteria can spread to other parts of his body. Some infections of this type may even be fatal if left for too long. Ask your vet for more information.