What are Arthritis of Multiple Joints?
Arthritis in multiple joints in dogs occurs when an inflammatory disease affects many joints at once, such as the shoulder, knee, and other moveable joints. It is referred to as immune-mediated polyarthritis. The cartilage of the joints becomes damaged and weakened due to an inflammatory immune complex; the joints are fighting against themselves in this situation. Those antibodies bind to antigens, and those complexes accumulate in the joint fluid; in turn, they set off a sequence of cellular and chemical reactions that result in an inflammatory response.
Immune-mediated polyarthritis may also be caused by the body attacking an infection within the joints. This is less common than the former but still can have an adverse effect on many dog breeds at any age.
Arthritis of multiple joints in dogs is characterized by painful joints as a result of an auto-immune disorder within the dog’s body or, more uncommonly, by an infection that has spread to multiple joints.
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Symptoms of Arthritis of Multiple Joints in Dogs
Arthritis in multiple joints in dogs has clear symptoms that are hard to ignore by the loving dog owner. Symptoms of this disorder include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty getting up
- Difficulty moving around
- Stiffened gait
- Lack of range of motion
- Swelling of multiple joints
Types of arthritis in multiple joints settle into two broad categories. Both of these types of arthritis are quite painful to the dog and need medical attention as soon as possible. Types of arthritis of multiple joints in dogs are:
- Auto-immune deficiency
- Infectious (bacterial) polyarthritis
Causes of Arthritis of Multiple Joints in Dogs
There are varying causes to this disorder, and due to the fact that arthritis in multiple joints in dogs is largely connected to an autoimmune disorder, some are more common than others. Causes include:
- Abnormal immune response to the dog’s system
- Drug reaction and hypersensitivity to various medications
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Urinary tract infection
- Bacterial endocarditis
Diagnosis of Arthritis of Multiple Joints in Dogs
Once you take the dog to the veterinarian, he will listen to you or take a look at his chart to review all of his history. The veterinarian will run several tests, such as urine and blood laboratory tests. Imaging may also be performed depending on specific symptoms in the joints and may also include a cardiac and abdominal ultrasound. Specific blood testing may also be performed to see if the joint pain is coming from a tick-borne illness.
The veterinarian will need to get fluid from the affected joints and will send the fluid off to a lab to be cultured. This will check for a bacterial infection and give overall information as to what is in the joint fluid. This will also determine the type of arthritis that is present; it will either be from an infection or it will be an autoimmune disorder.
Treatment of Arthritis of Multiple Joints in Dogs
The treatment will vary depending on the type of arthritis of multiple joints in dogs. Once the veterinarian gives the diagnosis, then treatment will be one or more of the following methods:
In cases of infections within multiple joints, an antibiotic will be prescribed by the veterinarian.
If the dog’s polyarthritis is from an autoimmune disorder, prednisone will be prescribed to suppress the attacks on the joints. There are side effects of this drug that include pacing, increased appetite and thirst, and urination. Anxiety is also a side effect, and all of these effects will subside over the course of the treatment.
Other Immunosuppressive Drugs
If prednisone alone does not adequately suppress the immune system, other immunosuppressive drugs can also be added to the treatment protocol. Physical examinations and blood work will be required on a periodic basis to monitor for any adverse side effects to these medications as well as response to therapy. These frequent rechecks are extremely important.
Recovery of Arthritis of Multiple Joints in Dogs
Frequent follow-up visits to your veterinarian will be necessary to monitor your dog’s recovery. It is important to watch your dog for signs of discomfort or abnormal behavior, and if these occur, you should contact him.
Remission can be achieved in as little as a few weeks or as long as four months, depending on your dog’s condition. You may want to consider physical therapy for your loved one to keep this arthritis from recurring over time.
Many dog owners that deal with this illness seek the advice and treatment during the management period of alternative healing, such as acupuncture or supplements. Talk to you veterinarian for more recovery and management options for your dog, and before you know it, he will be stabilized and his happy self again!
Arthritis of Multiple Joints Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
He can hardly raise up to stand. Groans when laying down or standing up. Stiff legs
Difficulty when standing or laying down may be due to a few different problems including spinal disorders, hip disorders, arthritis, ligament damage or abdominal pain to name a few. This is something which you would need to speak with your Veterinarian about as they would need to carry out an examination to determine the cause of the pain and treat accordingly. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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