Rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is categorized as an autoimmune disease - which means that the immune system is not functioning correctly. If you find that your dog is suffering from a great deal of joint pain, he or she may have rheumatoid arthritis.
This inflammatory disease results in the deterioration of joints and bones. Many dog owners don't initially realize that this type of arthritis differs from osteoarthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage.
To understand this further...
When a normal dog’s body encounters what it believes is an unwanted foreign substance, there is an immune response referred to as an antigen. His body then produces antibodies, which bind to this antigen.
However, when a
dog has rheumatoid arthritis, his or her body believes that the foreign
protein is part of its own body.
As a result, the body attacks its own joint tissues and the immune system creates antibodies that fight its own body. These immune complexes are deposited in the joints and painful inflammation results leading to deterioration of cartilage and bone.
On a day-to-day basis, dogs will experience stiffness, and swollen, painful joints. Dog owners may also find that their dog’s joints palpitate and are warm to the touch.
Other signs of the disease to watch for include:
Rheumatoid Arthritis that progresses to a more severe level may result in:
If you take your dog to the veterinarian, the disease can be diagnosed with x-rays, which will reveal a loss of bone. Bones almost look as though holes have been punched in them. There is also a blood test that can tell if the dog has the “rheumatoid factor".
The impact of rheumatoid arthritis in dogs can be quite heartbreaking, as the mobility of the animal can be severely limited.
While some dogs with this disease are still able to walk, others will completely lose their ability to do so. Most dogs with rheumatoid arthritis will have trouble rising or walking up stairs. Many will, understandably, be less interested in playing or running.
Unfortunately, the exact causes of this disease are still unknown. Some
speculate that the canine distemper virus results in rheumatoid
arthritis. Others believe that rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is just the
result of genetics or inherent immune system problems.
There is a connection, however, with the size and shape of the dog:
To prevent rheumatoid arthritis in dogs:
If you are concerned that your dog might be predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to consider adding daily supplements to his or her food.
Steroids and NSAIDS (or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis in dogs. For example, aspirin is a NSAID that is often administered.
Medication can help
subside the pain that your dog is experiencing. However, while these
treatments might be helpful in the short run, stomach ulcers and liver
and kidney problems can result after time from persistent use of pain
There are also drugs, like azathioprine and cyclophosphamide, which counteract the dog’s immune reactions. However, when dogs are on immunosuppressive drugs, a variety of side effects can occur.
For instance, they can develop infections and have problems with their bone marrow.
While these drugs can help control the body’s immune
reactions, they can be too harmful to dogs in the long-run. These
medicines can also cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, some
experts believe that immunosuppressive drugs are not a good idea for
dogs with this condition.
Taking your dog to a holistic veterinarian who can provide information about both mainstream and alternative treatments can be very helpful in choosing the best options for your pet.
There are a variety of natural measures that owners can take to relieve the symptoms and assist with this disease.
Acupuncture has also been shown to be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis in dogs. This technique has been practiced for thousands of years and is renowned for its abilities to heal the body and manage pain.
This treatment is also believed to allow the dog’s body to create natural painkillers. You may find that this treatment improves your dog’s mobility and his or her quality of life.
Also on a day-to-day basis, canine rheumatoid arthritis can be helped by various changes that you can make to keep your dog’s life more pleasant.