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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Immune-Mediated Arthritis




Condition Overview

This is an unusual group of diseases in which antibodies are directed against the dog's own connective tissue, resulting in either an erosive or non-erosive arthritis. In erosive arthritis, cartilage and joint surfaces are destroyed.


Rheumatoid arthritis is an erosive arthritis that occurs primarily in toy and other small breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs, at approximately 4 years of age. It is characterized by morning stiffness, shifting lameness, and swelling of the smaller joints, particularly the wrists and hocks. Fever, loss of appetite, and lymphadenopathy (disease of the lymph nodes) are accompanying features.

Non-erosive arthritis tends to occur in midsize and large-breed dogs at about 5 to 6 years of age. The cause is unknown. Signs are intermittent fever, loss of appetite, joint swelling, and a lameness that often shifts from limb to limb. a form of non-erosive arthritis occurs with systemic lupus erythematosus.


In this condition, a dog's antibodies are directed against the dog's own connective tissue.


The diagnosis of immune-mediated arthritis is made by joint X-rays and specific laboratory tests. Synovial fluid analysis helps distinguish immune-mediated arthritis from infectious arthritis and osteoarthritis.


Immune-mediated arthritis responds to anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, including corticosteroids and chemotherapy agents. Treatment must be continued for 8 weeks or longer. Your veterinarian may use several drugs or drug combinations before determining which protocol works best for your dog. Rheumatoid arthritis is less responsive than non-erosive arthritis to drug therapy.

Light to moderate activity is beneficial, but vigorous exercise, which is most likely during periods of remission, can injure the joints and should be restricted. Overweight dogs should be placed on calorie restricted diets.


It may be adventageous for the affected dog to remain somewhat lean, to reduce the pressures on joints.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

1 Comment For "Immune-Mediated Arthritis"



Great blog. Thanks for sharing.

April 22, 2013 at 12:19PM  Sign In or Join to Comment