Canine rheumatism isn't a specific medical condition, but rather a general term that describes a number of illnesses, all of which can result in pain or inflammation in your pup's joints, muscles and ligaments. The primary cause of joint issues in pups is arthritis, which can be triggered by other conditions including dysplasia, underlying illnesses and physical injuries. Arthritis is a very painful condition which can limit your pup's mobility and requires veterinary treatment.
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Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis
One of the causes of canine rheumatism is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive degenerative condition which affects the joints. It's caused by a disease of the immune system in which the body attacks its own joint tissues. This non-infectious disease slowly destroys the cartilage between the joints and the ligaments that support them, causing the joints to become unstable. Over time, the cartilage and bones connected by the joint can become so eroded that they actually fuse together, making the joint immobile. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in toy and small dog breeds, usually affecting middle-aged or senior dogs.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that develops over time due to the wear and tear that happens to your pup's joints. It is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and affects around one in five of them at some point during their lifetime, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Large dog breeds, older dogs and overweight dogs are most prone to osteoarthritis. Common triggers for osteoarthritis include hip dysplasia, trauma to your dog's joints, ruptured cruciate ligaments and patella luxation. As with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis can lead to the erosion of the layer of cartilage between bones, causing pain and inflammation when your pup moves.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
No matter what the cause of your pup's joint pain and inflammation, you'll notice that a pup suffering with canine rheumatism will have trouble walking, lameness in one or more legs and swelling in the area of the affected joints. Your pooch may also experience changes in his behavior, a decrease in appetite, lethargy and fever. Bring your pup to the vet for a physical exam if you notice these symptoms. She'll also perform blood tests and X-rays to determine the exact cause of his joint issues so that she can formulate a treatment plan.
Treatment and Considerations
Some infectious diseases can cause joint pain, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease, which can be cured with antibiotics including doxycycline or tetracycline. Other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, have no cure and sometimes require surgery. The effects of joint issues can be lessened by keeping your dog at a healthy weight for his size and providing him with moderate exercise to keep his joints mobile. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and steroids, like prednisone, can be used to decrease the inflammation and pain caused by arthritis. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin or omega-3 fatty acids can also help to provide relief for your pup's achy joints.
By Susan Paretts
Arthritis Foundation: Spotting Arthritis in Spot
petMD: Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs
WebMD: Arthritis in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes
North Carolina Responsible Animal Owners Alliance: Canine Arthritis
Pet360: Arthritis in Dogs
VCA Animal Hospitals: Arthritis in Dogs
Michigan Veterinary Specialists: Surgery: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Cesar's Way: Hip and Joint Problems in Dogs
WebMD: Dog Joint Health: Pain, Osteoarthritis, and Other Joint Problems
Hartz: Identifying and Treating your Dog's Joint Problems
VetInfo: Rheumatism in Dogs
Hill's Pet Nutrition: Arthritis and Joint Pain
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.