Autoimmune Arthritis Conditions
Certainly most of us know friends or relatives with rheumatoid arthritis. This painful condition can affect dogs as well. As with the other autoimmune disorders, the body incorrectly reacts against its own normal tissues. In this case, the joints are the target — both the joint fluid and the joint cartilage.
Dogs with rheumatoid arthritis show a shifting leg lameness, which means they may be lame on one leg one day and a different leg two days later. They may also have very swollen, tender joints. Because the cartilage is being targeted by the immune system, it will erode, leading to joint deformities and bones that pop out of joint. An offshoot of rheumatoid arthritis is plasmacytic-lymphocytic only involving the stifle (knee) joint. Both conditions are treated with steroids and immunosuppressive drugs along with pain medications as needed.
Newer treatments for these autoimmune conditions are always being researched. Depositions of gold salts and new anti-inflammatory drugs look hopeful, as do nontraditional treatments such as acupuncture. Ask your veterinarian about physical therapy techniques to help keep your dog mobile as well.
Idiopathic polyarthritis is another autoimmune problem that affects joints in dogs. This disease syndrome tends to strike certain breeds. German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, retrievers, spaniels, and pointers are among the larger breeds it is found in. Even toy breeds may show this problem however, especially toy poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and Chihuahuas. Dogs with this disorder have joint problems along with cyclic fevers, lethargy, and loss of appetite. They may be stiff and lame. Steroids are the first line of treatment for idiopathic polyarthritis.