Bacterial infections resulting from penetrating injuries or following surgical procedures may spread to the blood stream and cause a condition called sepsis which can lead to this type of arthritis. Rickettsia infections such as ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or the Lyme disease caused by spirochetes, may also lead to septic arthritis in dogs.
The usual symptoms of this disease are pain and inflammation of the joints accompanied by fever, weakness and lack of appetite. The joints develop stiffness and the dog may become lame.
In the initial stage of the disease, x-rays show fluid collection in the joints. Testing of the fluid derived from the joint by needle aspiration may lead to more definitive diagnosis. In advanced stages, the usual signs of joint degeneration may be apparent in the images.
Septic arthritis can be successfully treated with antibiotics in the early stages. They may be administered intravenously, and often the joint cavity is also flushed. If the infection is severe, the infected tissue may have to be surgically removed.
Immune mediated Arthritis
Auto immune diseases are a major cause of arthritis, often resulting in the inflammation of multiple joints. In these kinds of diseases, not only the cartilage, but also the bone under it may deteriorate. A typical example is the rheumatoid arthritis in dogs which is similar to the same disease in humans. Another example is the Greyhound polyarthritis. In both conditions, the cartilage as we as the bones get destroyed. Systemic lupus erythematosus, which is commonly referred to as lupus is a common kind of immune-related arthritis causing joint inflammation.
The typical symptoms of joint disorders occur here too, but it affects several joints at the same time. In addition to the usual pain and inflammation, general malaise, fever and lack of appetite are also seen. The symptoms appear intermittently, in tandem with the auto immune disease flare ups that occur from time to time.
The typical symptoms of immune related arthritis may help the veterinarian arrive at a diagnosis, but x-rays, joint fluid testing and tissue biopsy of the joint, may help confirm the condition.
Arthritis is generally managed by medication for pain and inflammation and occasional use of corticosteroids. Chemotherapy is also used to treat immune related arthritis, but recovery is not guaranteed. Relapses occur frequently for no apparent reason.
A cancerous tumor growth called synovial cell sarcoma that affects the joints is the cause of cancerous arthritis. The usual symptoms of joint disorders such as inflammation and lameness appear. Inflammation of the soft tissues around the affected area can be observed in the x-rays. Biopsy of the soft tissue may indicate malignancy.
Since the cancerous growth can lead to potentially fatal secondary cancer in the lungs in about one fourth of the cases, the veterinarian may suggest the surgical removal of the affected leg to limit the threat to the dog’s life.