August 03, 2016 Wellness

Arthritis: Not Just a Single Disease and Not Just a Single Joint

Arthritis: Not Just a Single Disease and Not Just a Single Joint

A dog lying on the carpetI examined the most handsome four year old Labrador with a blocky, square head the other day. Being a very athletic dog, he normally jumps up on the sofa in the waiting area. The other day, he needed help to jump up and couldn’t seem to get comfortable once he was on the sofa. Based on my examination, he did not have any broken bones, no torn ligaments, but his gait was stiff and his lymph nodes were a little enlarged. The veterinary technicians drew blood for analysis and we prescribed a short course of an anti-inflammatory medication. I told the family one of the potential diagnoses was polyarthritis or inflammation of multiple joints. The family only heard “arthritis” and was distressed that a four year old dog could have arthritis.

An x-ray of a dog's shoulder

Arthritis in the shoulder of a canine

What is Arthritis?

The word originates in Greek: arthro- meaning joint and -itis which is both Latin and Greek for inflammation. Arthritis describes the problem, but gives no information about the affected joint, cause or treatment required.

Most Common: Osteoarthritis

The most common type of arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis, which may affect as many as one in five dogs. The typical dog with osteoarthritis is an older large breed dog, but small breed dogs and cats can also have osteoarthritis. As the cartilage overlying the bone in the joints deteriorates, the bones rub together causing inflammation, pain and swelling of the joint. Hip dysplasia leads to osteoarthritis, and a joint injury can also result in osteoarthritis of the hip joint. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are the mainstay of treatment for long-term management of osteoarthritis.

Many Joints: Polyarthritis

Because he was walking funny, I was concerned my handsome Lab patient had inflammation of multiple joints, or polyarthritis. Bacterial infections can spread to the joints via the blood stream or multiple joints may be inflamed because of an aberrant immune process. Blood tests, x-rays and removal of a few drops of joint fluid for analysis in the laboratory help to make a diagnosis. When a bacterial infection occurs in the joint, it is called septic arthritis.

Familial Shar-Pei Fever

Chinese Shar-Pei dogs suffer from a strange form of arthritis. Dogs with the disease have recurrent fevers and joint swelling. The disease results from a derangement of the body’s immune system and causes unchecked inflammation. In affected dogs, the hocks, the joint just above the ankles, are most commonly involved. In this type of arthritis, other organs also become inflamed, leading to kidney and liver problems.

And the Diagnosis is…

The screening test for tick-borne infections came back positive for a bacteria called Anaplasma. Antibiotics were prescribed and immediately the handsome Lab felt better. A more sophisticated test identified the DNA of Anaplasma phagocytophillum as the cause of the illness.

Steps for Pet Owners

Diet is critical to maintaining an ideal body weight and limit stress on sore joints. Specially formulated diets can also help to mitigate clinical signs of arthritis. Exercise designed to minimize stress on joints such as swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill often benefits dogs with osteoarthritis.
To prevent tick-borne illness, use medications or collars designed to protect against ticks and check your dog daily for ticks. Review what to do if you find a tick on your dog before you remove it. Finally, never give your own arthritis medications to your dog; you might make him extremely ill.

Tags: amcny, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, arthritis, cat, dog, joints, pets, shar pei,

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