Treating Joint Effusion in Dogs

Joint effusion is a painful condition that causes fluid to accumulate in the joint space. The treatment of joint effusion may be complex and will depend on the underlying condition. Home care will be necessary.

Causes of Joint Effusion

The treatment of dogs with joint effusion will depend on the cause of the condition. The main causes of fluid accumulation in the joint space may include:

  • Injuries in the joint area
  • Arthritis or polyarthritis
  • Joint or bone infections
  • Bone tumors
  • Autoimmune diseases

Dogs with liquid in the joint space will display symptoms such as lameness, limping and difficulty moving.

Treatment for Joint Effusion

The treatment for joint effusion will vary. Until the vet gets a proper diagnosis, he may apply some treatments that should relieve the pain and possibly reduce the accumulated liquid. Pain medications, antibiotics or IV fluids may be recommended. The dog may also receive a bandage that will support the joint and may reduce the pain.

The treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (non steroidal such as aspirin, or steroidal such as corticosteroids) and pain relievers if the cause of the joint effusion is arthritis or polyarthritis
  • Topical ointments for external wounds and possibly surgery if the disease is caused by trauma or injuries to the joint
  • Immune suppressant drugs, if the joint effusion is caused by autoimmune diseases
  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery, if the dog has a tumor

The vet will establish the best course of treatment and may test a few drugs to find out which is the most effective. Joint effusion is a condition that may require a lengthier treatment, depending on the underlying condition. You should never administer drugs that haven't been prescribed or increase the dosage without consulting the vet. The vet may request periodic visits so that he can monitor the progress of the dog and to see whether the fluid accumulated in the joint space is still in there.

Home Care

A dog with joint effusion should receive special care at home. The dog should be prevented from performing certain movements that could cause a lot of pain. The dog should rest most of the day and get only a few minutes of exercise. The dog should stay in a quiet room, where he can rest and recover. You should offer all the help the dog needs when he tries to move.

You should apply cold compresses a few times per day. The compresses will reduce the pain and eliminate the joint swelling. If there are external wounds, these should be cleaned with antibacterial soap and bandaged. If needed, topical creams will be applied once or twice per day.

If you notice any side effects the joint effusion treatment may have, you should talk to the vet and see if there are alternative treatment options.