Arthritis in dogs is a condition that produces inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues, accompanied by swelling which aggravates the inflammation. Causative factors can include wear and breakdown of cartilage, which is most likely the result of poor lubrication and wearing of the joints. Bursitis is simply inflammation of a bursa – the fluid-filled sac which provides the gliding surface to allow proper joint operation.
Whether your pet’s mobility problem or discomfort is truly about arthritis or another joint related condition is worth determining. Often pets are diagnosed with arthritis when they have difficulty moving, climbling stairs or jumping-up to furniture or into the car. However, the true condition may just be a breakdown of the body’s natural synovial fluid which surrounds the joint and helps protect and lubricates the joints.
The skeletal system of a Dog is a unique structure of bones, cartilage, and ligaments that provide the body with a framework to erect on four strong legs, protect internal organs, and provide a full range of motion. The muscles furnish the power to propel the dog into action, but without healthy bones, joints, and connective tissue, the muscles cannot do their job.
Joints are the the skeletal hinges of the body. They give the skeleton flexibility for walking, trotting, running, jumping, climbing, and moving the head and neck to increase the field of vision. The dog’s body has three types of joints: ball and socket such as the hip and shoulder joints; hinged joints such as the knees and elbows; and gliding or plane joints such as the wrists and ankles. The joints are lubricated for smooth action by synovial fluid and are stabilized by tendons and ligaments. When the joints are damaged by injury or disease, arthritis, joint pain and joint inflammation occurs.
Many pet owners experience the the inpact of arthritis on their dogs. It is a very common reaction when the pet owner sees their dog is stiff-legged after exercise, has trouble getting up in the morning, or is reluctant to go up or down stairs. But since such stiffness or lameness can have several causes and since arthritis itself comes in different forms.
Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) results from destruction of the cartilage that protects the bones that make up the joint. Cartilage destruction can be the result of normal stress on abnormal joints or abnormal stress on normal joints. Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip sockets, is one example of normal stress on abnormal joints. Constant jumping over obstacles, stretching or tearing ligaments during strenuous exercise, or injuries in a fall or accident are examples of abnormal stress on normal joints.
Degenerative joint disease can be further subdivided into primary disease for which no known cause is evident and secondary disease for which a cause can be pinpointed. Among the causes of secondary degenerative joint disease are hip dysplasia, patella luxation (loose kneecaps), osteochondritis dissecans (OCD, the development of cartilage “flaps” in the joints when bone development is disturbed), trauma, and ruptured cruciate (knee) ligaments. Secondary degenerative joint disease can sometimes be prevented or halted by surgical repair of the joint before arthritis progresses.
Degenerative arthritis may not manifest until the dog has had years of abnormal stress. Since cartilage has no nerves, the damage can progress with no outward signs until the joint is severely compromised and the lubricating fluid has thinned and lost its ability to protect the bone surfaces.
Inflammatory joint disease can be caused by infection or by underlying immune-mediated diseases. Inflammatory arthritis usually affects multiple joints and is accompanied by signs of systemic illness including fever, anorexia, an all-over stiffness.
This type of arthritis can be subdivided into infectious and immune-mediated categories. Infectious joint disease can be caused by bacteria, by tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and by fungal infection.
Immune-mediated arthritis is caused by underlying weakness in the immune system and can be hereditary. Rheumatoid arthritis, a deforming type of immune-mediated arthritis, is rare in dogs. Systemic lupus and an idiopathic (unidentified) immune-related arthritis both can cause nondestructive joint infections.