People suffer from gout when they have excessive uric acid in their blood. As a type of arthritis, gout causes stiffness, swelling and pain in joints, particularly in the big toe. Dogs don't suffer from gout when they have excessive uric acid. Instead, dogs with too much uric acid develop uric acid stones in the bladder or kidneys.
Uric acid is a chemical derived from the breakdown of purines, substances found in some food and drinks. Normally, it dissolves in the bloodstream, makes its way to the kidneys and leaves the body in urine. When a person has too much uric acid in his body he develops gout, a form of arthritis. If your dog has a high level of uric acid, he's at risk for urolithiasis, or uric acid stones.
Common signs of urolithiasis include:
- Frequent urination
- Blood in urine
- Painful urination
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating in inappropriate places
Besides being painful, uric acid stones are potentially dangerous because the stones can obstruct the urinary tract, stopping urine flow. Acute kidney failure can develop, leading to lethargy, appetite loss and vomiting.
Surgical removal is usually necessary for uric acid stones that cause an obstruction. Surgery allows for complete removal of the stones and mineral analysis so the vet can determine what type of stone the dog has. Occasionally lasers or ultrasound waves can be used to break down the stones to pass in the urine, but this is often limited to a specialized veterinary facility and not readily available in many areas. Antibiotic therapy may be helpful to clear up a urinary tract infection, and depending on the type of stone, a change of diet to discourage the formation of crystals may help.
Arthritis in Dogs
Uric acid won't cause arthritis in your dog but he can develop arthritis, which is pain and inflammation in the joints. Causes of arthritis in dogs include:
- Inherited condition
- Joint infection
- Injury, such as bone fracture, dislocation or muscle, tendon or ligament injury
- Age and natural degradation of cartilage.
Signs of arthritis include:
- Limp or favoring certain limbs
- Stiff gait
- Stiff, swollen or sore joints
- Hesitant to run, climb steps or jump
- Loss of flexibility
- Discomfort standing up
- Difficulty finding a comfortable position
Treating arthritis is focused on managing the symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight minimizes the effects, and diet and low-impact exercise are beneficial for an arthritic dog. Your vet may prescribe medication to help, such as:
- Steroids, such as prednisone and other corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin to reduce inflammation
- Nutraceuticals, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to promote rebuilding of damaged cartilage and repair damaged tissue.
Do not administer human medications to a dog with arthritis without consulting a veterinarian. Dosage and use vary according to a dog's medical condition, and some medications may cause serious illness, such as liver and kidney dysfunction.
You can make your dog more comfortable by providing him with soft, comfortable bedding, ensuring his food and water is at a height that won't strain his neck or spine and giving him access to areas such as the car or favorite chair with a ramp. Massage and short, easy play sessions may also help him.