Arthritis is a condition involving inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis comes from the Greek work “arthro” meaning “joint” and “itis” meaning inflammation. There are many causes of arthritis in pets. In most cases with arthritis, it is a progressive degenerative disease that worsens with age.
What Causes Arthritis?
Arthritis has two classifications which are primary arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or secondary joint arthritis which is a result of joint instability. The most common type of secondary arthritis is osteoarthritis which is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Some common causes of secondary arthritis include obesity, hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament rupture, joint infection, often as the result of a bite (septic arthritis) or a traumatic injury such as a car accident. Infective or septic arthritis can be caused by an assortment of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Septic arthritis generally only affects a single joint and the condition results in swelling, fever, heat and pain in the joint. Side effects of septic arthritis may include inappetance and depression. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune mediated inflammatory condition. Cartilage and bone are worn within affected joints and the condition can progress to completed joint fixation (ankylosis). Rheumatoid arthritis can affect single or multiple joints (called polyarthritis). In certain dog breeds blood tests can be done to detect factors for Rheumatoid arthritis. Types of immune mediated arthritis can be non-erosive such as arthritis that is caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). SLE is frequently accompanied by other clinical signs in addition to the arthritis.
How Do We Treat Arthritis?
The treatment for arthritis depends on the cause of arthritis. Immune mediated and rheumatoid arthritis are normally treated with high doses of corticosteroids which often results in dramatic improvement. The control of these conditions involve the long-term use of corticosteroids and other drugs such as immunosuppressive or cytotoxic agents. Treatment of septic arthritis consists of determining the type of microorganism involved and its antibiotic sensitivity. Antibiotics are normally administered for a longer period of time with a pain relief medication to help with the pain and inflammation. Pain management medications such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are usually used for treatment of osteoarthritis. Some dogs are more sensitive to these medications which may cause potential side-effects such as decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. If using long term, it is recommended to have periodic blood testing to ensure continued safe usage to make sure your pet can safety metabolize and eliminate the medication. Using omega-3 fatty acids with glucosamine-chondroitin will also help the majority of patients dealing with osteoarthritis.
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