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Bursitis Infections In Dogs

Bursitis is a type of infection that can affect the joints of both people and dogs, and anyone who has ever suffered from bursitis will be all too aware that it can be extremely painful as well as severely hampering the normal range of movement of the affected joint.

Bursitis occurs when the bursae-tiny fluid-filled sacs around the joints-become infected, which can occur for a variety of reasons including repetitive movement of a given joint in the same direction every time, injuries to the joint, autoimmune disorders, and various other things.

Whilst the symptoms of bursitis can be very acute and will often give the dog owner great cause for concern, the condition can usually be treated by your vet effectively and without the need for surgery or an inpatient stay. However, left unchecked, the condition will have a significant impact on your dog’s health and quality of life.

In this article, we will look at bursitis in dogs in more detail, including how dogs may develop the condition, what the symptoms are, and what sort of dogs are most at risk of a bursitis infection. Read on to learn more.

What causes bursitis in dogs?

There are a range of different methods by which a dog can develop bursitis, and you may never know for sure the exact cause. The joints in the legs are almost invariably those that are affected, and if a dog has received an injury or trauma to a limb or has jumped and landed in such a way that the limb was jarred, the risk factors increase.

Even old injuries to the bones and joints that have fully healed may pose a higher risk of bursitis later in life, although this is generally only the case if the damage did not fully heal.

There is a connection between certain chronic autoimmune disorders and bursitis development too, because dogs with a compromised immune system are less able to fight off minor infections. When an infection enters the dog’s body and becomes present in the bloodstream, this infection can reach the bursae and so, develop to cause bursitis.


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What sort of dogs are most at risk of bursitis?

Any breed or type of dog at any age can potentially develop bursitis, but certain breeds and types of dogs are more at risk than others, which is largely due to lifestyle factors rather than a breed-specific or hereditary propensity to the condition.

Because bursitis can be caused by repetitive joint movements and strains, dogs that are used for canine sport of working roles such as herding (like the border collie) are particularly at risk of the condition. The same is true for people, and bursitis is sometimes referred to colloquially as “tennis elbow,” due to the number of tennis players who develop a bursal infection at some point!

Additionally, dogs that are very overweight or obese tend to have elevated risk factors for bursitis, because of the additional stress and pressure placed on the joints when the dog moves and jumps.

Bursitis tends to crop up in obese dogs most frequently shortly after they have been placed on a special diet and exercise regime and are encouraged to be more active, although as ever, this is not always the case.

What are the symptoms of bursitis in dogs?

If your dog has developed bursitis, you will probably be very aware that something is wrong with your dog as the condition is inflammatory and painful, and will affect your dog’s movement as well as making them generally unhappy.

However, the symptoms of bursitis can vary depending on the area and joint affected, and additionally, the symptoms are also common to various other conditions.

Some of the main indications of potential bursitis to look out for include:

  • Inflammation and heat in the affected joint.
  • Limping or refusing to place weight on the affected joint, and reluctance to exercise.
  • An extreme reaction on the part of the dog if you attempt to touch or manipulate the affected joint.
  • Swelling of the affected joint.
  • Licking or gazing at the affected joint, which can help to narrow down the problem area.
  • A slightly higher than normal temperature may be present in some cases.
  • If the pain is very bad, it is apt to make your dog grumpy and generally unhappy, which may in turn put them off their food and make them more irritable than normal.
  • In most cases, a bursitis will develop fairly quickly, going from apparently fine to symptomatic within a few days; however, in some presentations of the condition, a bursitis may be slow to develop or not become apparent unless or until the joint is placed under pressure.

How is bursitis treated?

Your vet may be able to diagnose bursitis based on a physical examination and discussion with the owner alone, however, if there is any doubt about the condition, they may need to take a small sample of the bursal fluid around the affected joint to test for infection.

Bursitis can usually be treated quickly and effectively with a course of antibiotics, which may be accompanied by painkillers of anti-inflammatories in severe cases. However, in very advanced or severe cases of bursitis, or if the condition does not respond to antibiotics or begins to infect the surrounding bones and joints, surgery may be required-however, this is very unusual.


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