Merck Manual

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Septic Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

By

Joseph Harari

, MS, DVM, DACVS, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, Spokane, WA

Medically Reviewed Nov 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Clinical signs of septic arthritis include lameness, swelling, pain of affected joint(s), and systemic signs of fever, malaise, anorexia, and stiffness. Radiography may reveal joint effusion in early cases and degenerative joint disease in chronic conditions. Arthrocentesis reveals increased levels of WBCs, especially neutrophils. The synovial fluid may be grossly purulent. Bacterial culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing may confirm the diagnosis. Serologic testing is used for nonbacterial agents. Treatment is with appropriate IV and oral antibiotics, joint lavage, and surgical debridement in severe cases.

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