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CRP in diagnosis of joint disease in dogs

Last changed: 24 January 2017

In a dog with joint pain, it is important to determine whether it has suppurative joint disease, characterized by exudation of neutrophils in the synovial fluid, or not, as this affects choice of diagnostic tests and treatments.

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether measurement of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) concentration could be used to discriminate between dogs with suppurative arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA). Furthermore, the concentrations of serum and synovial fluid interleukin (IL) 6 concentrations were measured in dogs with joint disease and in healthy dogs, and were correlated to serum CRP concentrations.


Dogs with joint pain were enrolled prospectively and were classified to have suppurative arthritis or OA based on synovial fluid analysis and radiographic/arthroscopic findings. Healthy Beagles were enrolled as a comparative group. CRP and IL-6 concentrations were measured with canine-specific immunoassays. The performance of CRP concentration in discriminating between dogs with suppurative arthritis and OA was evaluated using a previously established clinical decision limit for CRP (20 mg/l), and by receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve and logistic regression analysis. Comparisons of CRP and IL-6 concentrations between groups were performed using t-tests, and correlations by Spearman rank correlation coefficients.


Samples were obtained from 31 dogs with suppurative arthritis, 34 dogs with OA, and 17 healthy dogs. Sixty-two out of 65 dogs with joint disease were correctly classified using the clinical decision limit for CRP. Evaluation of ROC curve and regression analysis indicated that serum CRP concentrations could discriminate between suppurative arthritis and OA. Dogs with suppurative arthritis had higher serum CRP and serum and synovial fluid IL-6 concentrations compared to dogs with OA (p < 0.001). Dogs with OA had higher synovial fluid IL-6 concentrations (p < 0.001), but not higher serum CRP (p = 0.29) or serum IL-6 (p = 0.07) concentrations, compared to healthy dogs. There was a positive correlation between synovial fluid IL-6 and serum CRP concentrations (rs = 0.733, p < 0.001), and between serum IL-6 and serum CRP concentrations (rs = 0.729, p < 0.001).


CRP concentration was found to discriminate well between dogs with suppurative arthritis and OA.

Link to the publication


Anna Hillström, Jonas Bylin, Ragnvi Hagman, Karin Björhall, Harold Tvedten, Kristian Königsson, Tove Fall, and Mads Kjelgaard-Hansen. Measurement of serum C-reactive protein concentration for discriminating between suppurative arthritis and osteoarthritis in dogs. BMC Vet Res. 2016; 12: 240. doi: 10.1186/s12917-016-0868-4


Anna Hillström
Clinical Veterinarian at the University Animal Hospital; Clinical Chemistry laboratory                                                        

Telephone: 018-671312