HOW TO Treat Your Dog’s Joint Cartilage Erosion

golden retriever runningYou’ve noticed that your dog hasn’t been as active as normal lately; in fact, when she does get up, she seems to be in pain and is limping.

Could it be a strain? Or maybe she’s developing an illness? Your dog may be developing an inflammatory disease called erosive, immune-mediated polyarthritis. explains, “Idiopathic immune-mediated polyarthritis is caused by an abnormal immune system response. The joints of one, or typically, multiple joints are identified as abnormal and an inflammatory reaction occurs with increased numbers of white blood cells entering the joint space. The white blood cells, themselves, release various chemical mediators that create further swelling and inflammation. Joint pain and many times fever are noted due to the inflammatory response.”

There are two types of joint cartilage erosion that you dog can be affected by and different breeds are prone to each of them. adds, “The typical onset of immune-mediated erosive polyarthritis in dogs is from 8 months to 8 years of age. Young Greyhounds, between the ages of 3 to 30 months, are most susceptible to erosive polyarthritis of Greyhounds (EPG), a specific type of this disease. There is also idiopathic erosive polyarthritis (IEP), which can occur in any breed and is of unknown cause.”

What Causes Joint Cartilage Erosion in Dogs? explains, “The suspected causes for this form of joint cartilage erosion are T lymphocyte effector cells that carry out the attack response, and an abnormal antigenic response to the host antibody. That is, an immune response to a substance that stimulates production of antibodies, an antigen, which acts as a ‘trigger.’ In cases of IEP, the cause remains unknown.”

What are the Symptoms of Joint Cartilage Erosion?

According to, “Symptoms for dogs are often cyclic, coming and going at random intervals.”

Here are some of the symptoms to look for from and

  • Lameness
  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Stiffness in walk
  • Reluctance to walk or stand
  • Shifting or multiple leg lameness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Cracking sounds from the joints
  • Joint swelling and pain in one or more joints
  • Joint instability, subluxation (partial dislocation of the joint), andluxation (complete dislocation of the joint)

How is Joint Cartilage Erosion Diagnosed? states, “You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking note of signs of pain, decreased range of motion, and any lameness.”

Here are a few of the steps that your vet will take to diagnose joint cartilage erosion according to

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Arthrocentesis
  • X-rays of the affected joints
  • Chest and abdominal x-rays
  • Immune profile
  • Infectious disease titers

“If indicated, an abdominal ultrasound, echocardiogram or blood culture might be required,” adds.

How is Joint Cartilage Erosion Treated?

“Prednisone is the most common and generally most effective drug used in the treatment of immune-mediated polyarthritis. When given at high dosages, it causes suppression of the immune response. Improvement of the clinical signs is usually seen quickly, within 48 hours. To induce remission, high doses are given at the start of therapy. If remission occurs, dosages are gradually decreased and eventually stopped, over four to nine months. If remission is difficult to achieve, a relapse has occurred, or there are unwanted side effects from the prednisone, additional immunosuppressive drugs are required,” explains.

For pet parentswho would prefertreating this disease without drugs, has these recommendations:

  • Physical therapy, including range-of-motion exercises, massage and swimming can help treat severe disease.
  • Bandages and/or splints may be placed around the joint to prevent further degradation of the cartilage, especially in dogs that are experiencing difficulty walking.
  • Weight loss also helps decrease pressure on the joints if the dog is overweight. also adds, “Surgery for this condition is generally not recommended. However, total hip replacements, and femoral head ostectomy (surgical removal of part of the thigh bone) may be considered. Arthrodesis of the carpus (wrist) is generally quite successful for treating joint pain and instability. Arthrodesis of the shoulder, elbow, stifle (knee), or hock (ankle), meanwhile, is not as reliable at yielding positive results.”

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Developing Joint Cartilage Erosion?

It’s generally recommended that if your dog is prone to joint issues you should provide her with a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement such as i Love Dogs Glucosamine and Chondroitin with Reishi and Green Tea.

Supplementing your dog with glucosamine and chondroitin can help replace lost glucosamine and restore the proper glucosamine balance. Glucosamine provides the raw materials needed to strengthen cartilage, while also inhibiting enzymes that break down cartilage.

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

PHOTO: paeppi

Kara Ogushi

Contributing writer Kara Ogushi is a pet mom to two dogs and five rabbits. When she isn't writing travel tips for pooches, she's exploring new ways to share and create media.

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