Most dogs will suffer from arthritis at some point of their lives.
What is commonly referred to simply as "arthritis" is the degenerative form of the disease, or osteoarthritis (OA), which is caused by wear and tear of the joint tissue, often as a result of injury (such as a torn ACL), anatomic abnormalities (such as hip dysplasia or luxating patella), obesity or poor physical condition. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in dogs. It is most likely to develop in larger joints such as the knees or hips. While any dog can develop arthritis, it is more common in the larger breeds.
Osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on a dog's symptoms, physical exam and x-rays.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a completely different disease. It is rare in dogs and accounts for a very small percentage of arthritis diagnoses. While it might lag behind in quantity, it surely doesn't come up short in severity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune-mediated disease. This means that your dog's own immune system attacks his joint tissues leading to their inflammation and damage. Small breed, young to middle-aged dogs are most commonly affected, and multiple, smaller joints, such as the toes, wrists) or ankles are typically involved.
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include swollen and painful joints, a lameness that seems to shift from one leg to another, stiffness, decreased mobility and a reluctance to exercise. Dog suffering from rheumatoid arthritis can also have a fever, swollen lymph nodes and experience depression and loss of appetite.
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is not always easy. While your veterinarian may suspect the disease based on your dog’s history, physical exam and the presence of typical joint damage on x-rays, blood work and an analysis of joint fluid or a tissue biopsy may be needed to correctly determine if your dog is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, another type of immune-mediated arthritis, osteoarthritis or infectious arthritis.
Infectious arthritis is an acute form of arthritis caused by infection in the joint. It can be a result of tick-born diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or caused by fungal infection. It often affects only a single joint and it is accompanied by swelling and fever. Rheumatoid arthritis in fact is one of the risk factors to contracting infectious arthritis.
An accurate diagnosis is important, because each form of arthritis requires a different type of treatment. For example, arthritis that is caused by a bacterial joint infection will require antibiotics, while treatment of rheumatoid arthritis might involve anti-inflammatories, steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs.
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Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
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