Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Dogs

Although rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is not nearly as common as osteoarthritis, it can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to be much more common in toy breeds and smaller dogs than it is in larger breeds, and it most commonly affects these dogs in early adulthood. If you suspect that your dog may be at risk for rheumatoid arthritis based on his age, breed or other predisposing conditions, monitor him closely for the following warning signs of the condition.

Joint Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the dog's immune system attacks its joints. The result is that the joints become very sore and difficult to walk on. You may find your pet licking at his legs repeatedly, especially around the various joints. It may also be clear that your pet experiences pain as he tries to get up or sit down. Some dogs with rheumatoid arthritis have trouble climbing up or down stairs as well.

Swollen Joints

Another major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis tends to be swollen joints. The joints of the legs and paws tend to swell up the most. If your pet suffers from this condition, it's likely that you'll be able to either feel the swollen joints by tenderly palpating them with your hands, or to even visibly see the swelling in certain cases as well. For dogs that are naturally very small jointed, such as toy breeds, the change in joint size can be dramatic.

Difficulty Walking

As a result of the swollen and painful joints associated with rheumatoid arthritis, your dog may have a difficult time walking. The signs may be visible most clearly early on in the morning, when swelling tends to be worst, or late at night, after your pet has been awake and active for an entire day. Look out for tenderness of the gait while walking or for unusual stepping patterns. Also pay attention if your dog is not willing to run or jump as much as previously, or if he doesn't seem to generally be as enthusiastic when moving around.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

When you notice the symptoms listed above, pay attention to how severe they are and when they are first present. The difficult thing about diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is that the symptoms themselves may increase or decrease seemingly at random. Therefore, you'll need to keep a very accurate log of the severity of your pet's symptoms in order to give the vet the best possible chance to determine what is causing those symptoms. Due to several other joint and bone conditions that have symptoms that may mimic those that are listed above, it's important that you provide a detailed and thorough account for your vet each time you take the dog in for an examination.

For more information, ask your vet about how to diagnose and treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in dogs.