Arthritis and Joint Pain Diagnosis
Orthopedic diseases in dogs can be developmental, hereditary, traumatic, or degenerative. Because of the
active nature of dogs, injuries happen frequently. One of the most common of these is an anterior cruciate
ligament injury, a condition which often requires surgery. Bone fractures are a frequent occurrence in outdoor
dogs due to trauma. Degenerative joint disease is common in older dogs and is one of the most likely reasons
for prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Hereditary orthopedic diseases are mainly found in purebred dogs. Hip dysplasia is a common problem that primarily affects larger breeds. Hip dysplasia is a defect in the shape of the hip joint which can, depending on the degree of hip luxation, be quite painful to the dog as it ages. Over time it often causes arthritis in the hips. Dysplasia can also occur in the elbow joint. Luxating patellas can be a problem for smaller breeds. It can cause lameness and pain in the hind legs.
Developmental orthopedic diseases include panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Panosteitis occurs in large and giant breed dogs usually between the age of five and fourteen months and manifests as fever, pain, and shifting leg lameness. Hypertrophic osteodystrophy is also seen in young large and giant breed dogs and is characterized by pain, lameness, fever, and swelling of the long bone metaphysis.
Arthritis is a long-term auto-immune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints. Pain and stiffness often worsen following rest. Most commonly the legs and hips are involved, with the same joints typically involved on both sides of the body. The disease may also affect other parts of the body. This may result in a low red blood cell count, inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. Fever and low energy may also be present. Often, symptoms come on gradually over weeks to months. As the pathology progresses the inflammatory activity leads to tendon tethering and erosion and destruction of the joint surface, which impairs range of movement and leads to deformity.
While the cause of arthritis is not clear, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves the body's immune system attacking the joints. This results in inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule. It also affects the underlying bone and cartilage. The diagnosis is made mostly on the basis of an animal's signs and symptoms. X-rays and laboratory testing may support a diagnosis or exclude other diseases with similar symptoms. Other diseases that may present similarly include systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriatic arthritis, and fibromyalgia among others.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis typically manifests with signs of inflammation, with the affected joints being swollen, warm, painful
and stiff, particularly early in the morning on waking or following prolonged inactivity. Increased stiffness
early in the morning is often a prominent feature of the disease and typically lasts for more than an hour.
Gentle movements may relieve symptoms in early stages of the disease. The goals of treatment are to reduce pain,
decrease inflammation, and improve an animal's overall functioning.
The goals of treatment are to reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and improve a person's overall functioning. This may be helped by balancing rest and exercise, the use of splints and braces, or the use of assistive devices. Pain medications, steroids, and NSAIDs are frequently used to help with symptoms.
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