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Arthritis in dogs – causes, symptoms and consequences

Arthritis in dogs is an inflammatory joint disease. It differs from osteoarthritis in that osteoarthritis is a wear and tear of the joint and therefore a “cold event.” Arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory process in the joint with various causes and is a “warm” event.

It shows the 5 typical signs of inflammation: swelling, heating, redness, pain, restriction of movement.

Arthritis can have two main triggers.

On the one hand, infectious arthritis is possible

In the process, pathogens enter the body. These can enter the body through a bite or injury, for example, and cause inflammation in the joint. However, the pathogens can also enter the body via various infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease caused by a tick bite or leishmaniasis, and cause joint inflammation.

Severe inflammation develops in the joint. It swells strongly and hurts massively. The purulent inflammation softens and damages the joint cartilage.

The second trigger is non-infectious arthritis

Non-infectious arthritis can result from blunt trauma. This can be a fall, getting caught or stepping incorrectly, causing a strain, sprain or bruise in the joint.

In this case, bacteria do not enter the joint. However, the joint is damaged because the ligaments are overstretched, and the joint capsule or cartilage are damaged. The body reacts to this with inflammation. A joint effusion develops.

But a reaction or malfunction of the immune system is also possible. This is called immune-related arthritis. A common example is rheumatoid arthritis. In most cases, several joints are affected and this is referred to as polyarthritis. The exact cause of immune-related arthritis is not fully understood. Certain messenger substances are produced by the immune system. These set off an inflammatory process in the joint.

However, osteoarthritis can also progress to noninfectious arthritis. This is then usually limited to one joint.

Symptoms of arthritis in dogs

The signs of arthritis vary somewhat depending on the trigger of the disease.

With infectious arthritis, dogs usually suffer from fever, are listless and apathetic. They show a high degree of lameness. The affected joint is heated, swollen and painful.

Traumatic arthritis also causes the joint to be swollen, heated and painful. The affected quadrupeds do not suffer from fever. However, the lameness usually occurs promptly after the trauma. For example, if the four-legged friend has injured himself while playing.

The signs of immune-related arthritis look a little different again. The dogs are very floppy, tired and feverish. Often also accompanied by loss of appetite. Getting up and moving around is difficult, gait is stiff-legged. The lameness may vary in severity and occur in different joints.


With any form of arthritis, very fast treatment is important. The faster treatment is given, the better the prognosis. However, the treatment is usually lengthy. In some cases, arthritis may flare up again and again.

Consequences of arthritis in the dog

The misuse and overloading of the other joints can lead to osteoarthritis there. At the same time, muscular tension develops. As a late consequence of arthritis, arthrosis usually develops in the joint and the joint is permanently damaged. In very severe forms, amputation is unavoidable. If left untreated, arthritis can lead to death.

In the next article you will learn everything about how to diagnose arthritis, what treatment options are available and how you can support your four-legged friend yourself.

Has your dog ever suffered from arthritis? How did it develop and could it be successfully treated?

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