Laurie's Blogs.


Mar 2023


Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt, CAFCI, CCRT





Another recent discussion had me wondering about whether Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy occurred in dogs.  So, I dove into the topic and here’s what I found!  Enjoy the learning!


Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that is commonly found in humans, but it can also affect animals. CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) or causalgia, is a chronic pain condition that typically affects one limb, causing pain, swelling, and a variety of other symptoms. In this blog, we will explore the occurrence of CRPS in animals, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.


Causes of CRPS in Animals


CRPS in animals is believed to be caused by nerve damage or dysfunction, leading to a heightened response to pain signals. This may occur due to trauma, such as a fracture, sprain, or other injury, or it may be the result of an underlying neurological disorder. Additionally, some animals may be more predisposed to developing CRPS, such as those with a history of chronic pain or those with a genetic predisposition.


Symptoms of CRPS in Animals


The symptoms of CRPS in animals can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but they typically include:


Pain and discomfort in the affected limb

Swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area

Stiffness and decreased mobility

Hair loss and changes in skin texture

Behavioral changes, such as aggression, anxiety, or depression


Diagnosis of CRPS in Animals


Diagnosing CRPS in animals can be challenging, as there is no definitive test for the condition. Veterinarians typically rely on a combination of clinical signs and diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or nerve conduction studies, to rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis of CRPS.


Treatment of CRPS in Animals


The treatment of CRPS in animals depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. Pain management is a crucial component of treatment, and various medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and gabapentinoids, may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation.


Physical therapy and rehabilitation are also essential for managing CRPS in animals. Exercise and massage can help to improve blood flow and reduce stiffness in affected limbs. Additionally, alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, may also be used to manage pain and improve mobility.


In some cases, surgery may be required to treat the underlying cause of CRPS in animals, such as repairing a fracture or removing a tumor.





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Allen, M. J. (2014). Complex regional pain syndrome in animals. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 44(5), 951-962.

McMullan, W. C., & Dyson, D. H. (2011). Equine complex regional pain syndrome. Equine Veterinary Education, 23(3), 145-153.

De Lahunta, A., & Glass, E. N. (2009). Veterinary neuroanatomy and clinical neurology. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Schwartzman RJ. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy in animals and man. Semin Neurol. 1997;17(3):205-214. doi:10.1055/s-2008-1040887

Haussler KK, et al. Complex regional pain syndrome in dogs and cats: A review. J Vet Intern Med. 2017;31(2):343-352. doi:10.1111/jvim.14655

Janczyk P, et al. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome in cats: six cases and a review of the literature. J Feline Med Surg. 2007;9(1):23-33. doi:10.1016/j.jfms.2006.06.001

Walmsley GG, et al. Complex regional pain syndrome in horses: current evidence-based therapies. Equine Vet Educ. 2012;