Rheumatism in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis & therapy

Rheumatoid arthritis or rheumatism in dogs leads to painful joint infections. The symptoms initially appear in batches, but can become chronic. The cause of rheumatism is an autoimmune reaction in the body. The therapy aims to alleviate the symptoms. So far, rheumatism has not been curable. Rheumatism in the dog cannot be cured, but physiotherapy helps to relieve the symptoms - Shutterstock / msgrafixx

Unlike arthrosis, dog rheumatism is not triggered by gradual wear and tear of the joints. The cause of the painful illness is an autoimmune reaction: In this case, the dog's immune system is not only directed against pathogens, but also against healthy body cells of the articular cartilage. As a result, more and more articular cartilage is broken down and the joint is permanently destroyed.

But how can rheumatism be diagnosed and treated in dogs? You will find out below.

You can recognize rheumatism in dogs by these signs

Typical symptoms of rheumatism in dogs are painful, swollen joints. In the advanced stage, the joints can also show deformations. Over time, the affected dog also often suffers from muscle loss and corresponding physical weakness. Other possible signs of rheumatism in dogs are:

● lame
● stiffness
● Loss of appetite
● fever
● Swollen lymph nodes

In addition, there are additional organ diseases in the further course of the disease. One day, dogs with rheumatism also suffer from kidney failure, pneumonia, tonsillitis (tonsillitis) and urinary tract infections.

Rheumatism in dogs: symptoms occur in episodes

There are days when your rheumatic dog is comparatively well, then his condition suddenly worsens again. This is because rheumatism occurs in episodes. Multiple joints are often affected at the same time, but the symptoms of rheumatism can affect other joints from one episode to another. In between the relapses, the symptoms can subside and even disappear completely. But the symptom-free phases become shorter and shorter over time. In the final stage of the disease, your dog suffers from chronic, i.e. permanent, joint pain.

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This is how the veterinarian can determine rheumatism in the dog: diagnosis

Fortunately, rheumatism is relatively rare in dogs. The veterinarian will first clarify whether the symptoms are due to other joint diseases such as osteoarthritis. To do this, he carefully listens to your dog's medical history. This procedure is called anamnesis and gives the veterinarian first indications that indicate rheumatism instead of arthrosis. In arthrosis, the symptoms do not occur in episodes, but begin easily and become continuously worse as the joint wear increases.

An X-ray examination can further reinforce the initial suspicion. In rheumatism, the surface of the bone appears uneven, the bone appears perforated and the joints can be deformed. In the later course, the soft tissue becomes mineralized, i.e. solidified, which can also be seen on X-rays. In addition, the veterinarian takes joint fluid and analyzes it. Increased inflammation levels are another indication of rheumatism in dogs.

Treat rheumatism in dogs with medication

Rheumatism therapy is about relieving the symptoms and slowing the course of the disease. Unfortunately, the autoimmune disease cannot be cured. To improve your dog's quality of life, the veterinarian prescribes pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. The dose is individually tailored to your dog. In this way, the worst symptoms of rheumatism can be alleviated.

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Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy for dogs with rheumatism

In addition to treatment with medication, it is important to maintain the mobility of the joints in affected dogs as long as possible. If the medication stops the greatest pain and inflammation, your dog can and should continue to move. Light sports that are not too strenuous for the joints help. Leisurely walks are also advisable. In addition, physiotherapy for dogs with rheumatism is a real asset. Special massages and exercises ensure that the joints are less painful.

Hydrotherapy, i.e. exercises that are gentle on the joints in water, also helps to improve his condition. You can also go swimming regularly with your sick dog - the water carries its weight so that it can move and train the joints without additional stress.

Nutrition tips for dogs with rheumatism

If your dog suffers from rheumatism, it is advisable to pay attention to a healthy body weight. Avoid treats and stick to the type and amount of feed recommended by the veterinarian. Food supplements with green-lipped mussel extract may be good for the joints - please discuss this option with your veterinarian.