What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease)?
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in a dog can vary greatly. Sometimes lameness is the only clinical symptom. The lameness can shift from leg to leg or disappear completely. Some dogs will walk with a limp while some are unable to walk at all.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. Like other types of arthritis, there is lameness, but rheumatoid arthritis specifically degrades the cartilage. The body mistakes its own proteins for foreign protein and tries to eradicate them. Rheumatoid arthritis is relatively uncommon in dogs. It tends to affect small and toy breeds such as the Miniature Poodle, Shetland Sheepdog and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, but it can also affect Greyhounds.
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Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
- Inability to walk
- Lack of appetite
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Limb atrophy
- Multiple joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Kidney disease
- Recurrent UTIs
- Muscle wasting
Idiopathic immune-mediated disease can occur in all dogs but most commonly affects small breed dogs. Onset is typically between two to four years of age. Neither sex is more frequently affected than the other.
Erosive immune-mediated disease affects Greyhounds. Onset is usually between three to thirty months of age. Neither sex is affected more than the other. Clinical symptoms are similar to that of Idiopathic immune-mediated disease but appear to be slower to progress and overall less destructive.
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
The causes of rheumatoid arthritis in dogs, as well as humans is relatively unknown. There are genetic markers that make it more likely that rheumatoid arthritis will develop. In dogs, rheumatoid arthritis sometimes appears as a complication of another affliction such as canine distemper.
- Genetic predisposition
- Digestive disease
Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
Because rheumatoid arthritis is a relatively rare occurrence in dogs it can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can vary greatly. Sometimes the only present symptom is lameness which can be easily attributed to other afflictions. Symptoms often come and go, making an accurate health history difficult. Radiology is used to effectively diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis. Radiology will help to reveal swelling and trouble in the joints. At times, your veterinarian may choose to do a biopsy of tissue to test for inflammation. X-rays will show a lack of bone mass. Blood tests can be done to show the rheumatoid factor but these are inconclusive. Some dogs that do not have rheumatoid arthritis have the rheumatoid factor present in their blood while some dogs that do have rheumatoid arthritis do not show the rheumatoid factor in a blood test. The synovial fluid can be analyzed with arthrocentesis.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis often includes anti-inflammatory medications. It can also include immunosuppressive medications or steroids. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and provide comfort for the dog. Medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in humans, such as methotrexate, are used in dogs as well.
Recovery of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) in Dogs
Prognosis is guarded. Depending on the severity of the condition and when the diagnosis was made, it is possible for a dog with rheumatoid arthritis to live a happy healthy life. As with any arthritis, keeping pressure off the joints is helpful. Keeping meal portions down and participating in daily walks will aid in keeping the dog mobile. Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise, just be careful that the dog is not launching himself repeatedly off a shore or dock after a stick or ball. Hydrotherapy pools for dogs are another option for providing non-weight bearing exercise. Fish oil and other supplements high in omegas will help the joints. An orthopedic dog bed can help keep your dog comfy. Cold weather may be harder on your dog. Providing a nice warm place to lay will provide comfort.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (Immune-mediated Disease) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Daisy was prescribed metacam, as well as an antibiotic 2 weeks ago. Suffering from lameness (hind legs) and fever. Speculated arthritis. X-rays done. Results within 24 hours, was walking with some stiffness but independently within 24-48 hours. She had developed inflamed lymph nodes in the pat 2-4 days in her neck region (and right cheek). Could this be due to rheumatoid arthritis? What would be treatment recommendation?
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Symptoms began in Dec 2017 at age 3 1/2. Symptoms last 1-2 days then disappear. Seems to reoccur every 4-6 weeks. WBC elevated. The lameness is in front legs but there is no limping or signs of painful walking. Does the radiology need to take place while symptoms are present or can RA be seen in radiology in between episodes?
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I have a 7 y/o Chihuahua mix weighing 11.5 pounds who was sick with a rash and fever in Feb that my previous Vet prescribed Cephalexin for. She was showing signs of lameness at that time but the Vet dismissed it as manipulative behavior. (Really?) The longer my dog took the antibiotic, the worse she became. She wouldn't eat or drink and was unable to stand after resting, but her fever had left. I took her to another Vet for a second opinion. She had fever that day so he put her on prednisone (5mg BID x 2 wks). After a week, she started improving. After she was weaned off the steroid, she did well for about 3 weeks then started declining again so I started her on Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplements. After 2 1/2 weeks, she started acting like her ole' self again but then experienced a sudden allergic reaction. She broke out in hives and her ears got red and swollen. The fever was back. The Vet put her back on the prednisone and insists that she has R.A. and will have to take the Prednisone the rest of her life. I think the allergice reaction was to an insect bite. She's outside a lot. She bounced back within 24 hours this time but I continued the steroid for 2 weeks as prescribed before her re-check. He has allowed me to wean her down to (1) 5mg a day, but insists I continue it for 4 more weeks then we can try 1/2 pill each day, eventually going to every other day. I worry about the longterm side effects of prednisone and feel the Glucosamine is working. He states that if we take her off the prednisone again and she has another relapse then there could be irreparable damage to internal organs. Should I insist on Xrays, or is a low-dose prednisone not harmful?
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