Rheumatoid Arthritis in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

small dog walking through the grass near a beach

Dogs are prone to many of the same health conditions as their human companions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Canine rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, and it can be very painful for dogs. If your furry friend has been diagnosed with RA, there are a few things you should know about how to treat it.

Rheumatoid arthritis in dogs

This article will outline some of the best ways to manage your dog's RA and help them live a happy and pain-free life. Thanks for reading!

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune mediated disease and a chronic inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the joints.

It typically results in warm, swollen, and painful joints.

Morning stiffness is often reported in dogs with rheumatoid arthritis. The disease usually affects the supporting joints in your dog's legs.

It can also affect the neck, jaw, shoulders, and hips.

Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to deformities of the affected joints over time. It can also cause fatigue, fevers, anemia, and weight loss. Human rheumatoid arthritis can even cause depression. So let's get your furry friend some help!

10 Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Dogs

  1. Joint pain and stiffness: This is usually worse in the morning, or after a period of inactivity. Senior dogs are more also more prone to arthritis and joint pain.
  2. Fatigue: RA can cause fatigue and make it difficult to get through the day.
  3. Fever: A low-grade fever may be one of the first signs of RA.
  4. Weight loss: RA can lead to weight loss due to a loss of appetite or difficulty eating.
  5. Joint swelling: Swelling of the joints is a common symptom of RA.
  6. Joint deformity: Over time, RA can cause the joints to become deformed.
  7. Eye problems: RA can cause inflammation of the eyes, which can lead to redness, pain, and vision problems.
  8. Skin problems: RA can cause rashes and other skin problems.
  9. Lung problems: In some cases, RA can lead to inflammation of the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath and coughing.
  10. Blood vessel damage: RA can cause damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to stroke or heart attack

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints. It can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling.

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Old dog staring into the camera

One theory is that rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune reaction. This occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues.

Another theory is that infections or other environmental factors trigger the body to mount an immune response. This leads to inflammation and damage to the joints.

It is also thought that genes play a role in causing rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that certain genes are more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is not clear how these genes contribute to the development of the disease.

Despite these theories, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown.

Inflammation

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the joints. Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body to heal from injury or infection. However, in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation occurs when there is no injury or infection present. This chronic inflammation can lead to joint damage and pain

Autoimmune Disease

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation.

Genetics

Rheumatoid arthritis is believed to have a genetic component. This means that certain genes may make a person more likely to develop the condition. However, it is important to note that not everyone with these genes will develop rheumatoid arthritis

Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed by a blood test that measures the level of rheumatoid factor. This test is usually combined with a physical examination and imaging tests of the joints.

In addition to the blood tests that detect the presence of rheumatoid factor or anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies, X-rays may also be used to check for bone or joint damage.

Treatment

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis typically involves a combination of anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and pain, improve joint function, and prevent further damage to the joints.

most dogs can remain active with canine rheumatoid arthritis

In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to correct joint damage.

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or minimize joint damage and improve quality of life.

Recovery

The road to recovery is often long and difficult. The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis, which can be tricky since RA often mimics other forms of arthritis.

Once RA has been confirmed, the next challenge is finding the right combination of medications to control the disease.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best.

In addition to medication, physical therapy is often recommended as a way to help preserve muscle function and prevent muscle atrophy.

Dog on a leash walking next to woman

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my dog has rheumatoid arthritis?

Your dog will have Joint pain and stiffness, especially in the morning. RA can also cause fatigue and is an indicator. Lastly, joint swelling is a sign of RA. Be on the lookout for swollen joints in your dog.

How is rheumatoid arthritis treated in dogs?

Anti inflammatory medicine and physical therapy can help provide your dog relief.

How long do dogs with arthritis live?

With proper treatment, dogs with arthritis can enjoy many more years of belly rubs and walks in the park. So if you're wondering how long dogs with arthritis live, the answer is: it depends. But with a little love and care, you can help your furry friend enjoy a high quality of life for years to come.

Can dogs suffer with rheumatoid arthritis?

Yes, our furry friends can suffer from RA. It can cause joint pain and swelling. Your dog may not want to go on walks or take part in physical activity.

Back to blog

By Tory Johnson

Tory Johnson is a veteran dog trainer, dog behaviorist, and canine nutritionist with 10+ years experience.

Tory has helped countless families have beautiful relationships with their canine companions.

  • Potassium for Dogs

    Potassium for Dogs: 6 Food Sources, Functions, ...

    Tory Johnson

    Potassium, an essential mineral, plays an important role ensuring your dog is operating at their best. From aiding muscle function to balancing fluids, the importance of potassium in your pup's...

    Potassium for Dogs: 6 Food Sources, Functions, ...

    Tory Johnson

    Potassium, an essential mineral, plays an important role ensuring your dog is operating at their best. From aiding muscle function to balancing fluids, the importance of potassium in your pup's...

  • Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?

    Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?

    Tory Johnson

    Certainly! Dogs can indeed enjoy plain cranberries in moderation, but it's crucial to feed them correctly. However, dog owners should be mindful of the quantity since too many cranberries can...

    Can Dogs Eat Cranberries?

    Tory Johnson

    Certainly! Dogs can indeed enjoy plain cranberries in moderation, but it's crucial to feed them correctly. However, dog owners should be mindful of the quantity since too many cranberries can...

  • Signs of Seasonal Allergies  in Dogs

    Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

    Tory Johnson

    It's not just us humans that grab a box of tissues when pollen season hits - our dogs can suffer just as much during allergy season. When the air is...

    Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

    Tory Johnson

    It's not just us humans that grab a box of tissues when pollen season hits - our dogs can suffer just as much during allergy season. When the air is...

1 of 3