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Spondylosis in Dogs: A Guide to This Spinal Condition

An In-Depth Look at Spondylosis

By Gina Carey. January 24, 2014 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Black Dog Laying On His Bed

As your dog ages, they will become susceptible to more health conditions than when they were young vibrant pups. Spondylosis is a spinal condition mostly seen in senior dogs and if not treated properly can cause your dog great discomfort.

Spondylosis in dogs, also called spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative condition that usually occurs most along the spine in older dogs. There, degenerative disks cause bone spurs to develop. These bone spurs can form bridges from one vertebrae to the next, limiting flexibility and range of motion.

Most cases of spondylosis require minor pain relief, and dogs can live out healthy, comfortable lives with this condition. Read on to find out more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of spondylosis in dogs.

What Causes Spondylosis In Dogs

Any breed of dog can develop spondylosis, and most dogs often develop it during old age. Canines over the age of 10 are at a greater risk for this condition, and some vets believe that all older dogs develop it in some capacity if they live long enough. While there is still some debate about the exact causes of spondylosis, the main reasons bone spur growth begins on the spine are believed to be:

  • Repetitive bone wear and stress
  • Major injury
  • Genetic predisposition

Poor nutrition, stress, and lack of exercise are also considered causes of some cases of spondylosis.

Spondylosis Symptoms in Dogs

Depending on the severity of this condition, symptoms of spondylosis may not manifest, and it can go unnoticed for the duration of a dog’s life. In other cases, bone spurs can grow too close to a nerve, causing pain or damage. Typical symptoms of spondylosis include:

  • Stiffness
  • Limping
  • Restricted movement and rotation
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Back pain
  • Growths that you can feel along the spine

Treating Spondylosis in Dogs

To diagnosis spondylosis, your veterinarian may perform a physical, and will likely take X-rays of your dog’s chest and abdomen. Other tests to diagnose spondylosis and rule out other conditions may include an MRI, a myelogram, or a CT scan.

There is no cure or process to reverse spondylosis. Once your vet has concluded your dog has bone spurs, a treatment plan based on your dog’s condition will be recommended.

In less severe cases of spondylosis, no treatment will be needed. Doctors can prescribe drugs to help manage any pain or discomfort, and most pets can go on living a relatively normal life. For more severe cases of spondylosis in which the bone spurs are causing tissue or nerve damage or severe pain, surgery to remove them is an option.

Dogs diagnosed with spondylosis should have regular checkups. To maintain optimal health, vets may recommend physical therapy, weight loss, and exercise fitting for your dog’s body type and age. If your dog is overweight, the extra pounds may exacerbate this condition. Swimming is sometimes recommended as a safe, low-impact exercise for dogs with spondylosis that also helps strengthen muscles along the back.

More on Joint Health

Food to Help Your Senior Dog Lose Weight
Joint Health Products for Pets With Arthritis
4 Reasons Your Dog May Need Glucosamine and Chondroitin

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Spondylosis at a glance

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  • 1Spondylosis is a condition in which bones spurs grow along the spine, forming bridges between vertebrae.
  • 2It is thought to be caused by repetitive stress, harmful injury, and genetic predisposition.
  • 3Symptoms of spondylosis include restricted movement, stiffness, limping, back pain, and sensitivity to touch.
  • 4Most dogs can live relatively normal lives with spondylosis, but in severe cases, surgery may be recommended.