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Spondylosis in Dogs: A Guide to This Spinal Condition

An In-Depth Look at Spondylosis

By January 24, 2014 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian


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.


Did you ever get the surgery for your collie? Curious, my moms sheltie was just diagnosed, he is also 11, and has no use of his back legs all of a sudden.


Very young to have this condition...........did he suffer trauma to his spine? Good luck


Lauren have you had Xrays done. I have a 13.5 yr old husky just diagnosed. Had xrays and one of the bone spurs is cracked so he is in severe pain. He gets metacam, gabapentin and codiene. Up till this point he was doing well.


Just yesterday I had my 13.5 yr old husky to the Emergency Vet and was diagnosed with spondylosis by xrays. He was in such pain. The day before I had taken him to the Chiropractor for the 4th treatment. He had been doing well. After the 4th adjustment which was in a different area he started to exhibit some panting and puffing but it was a hot day. The next day he was totally in pain and we headed to the Emergency Vet. The bridge that had formed (Bone Spurs) has been fractured and probably by the chiro adjustment. The Emerg Vet said that my dog should never have had Chiropractic Adjustments. He is now on 3 pain meds and was already on Glucosamine/Chondroitin. Before you have Chiropractic treatment make sure you have had X rays done and show them to the Chiroprator. Also I would recommend a Veteranarian Chiropractor and not a Chiro that treats both people and animals. THere is a difference


My sweet yellow lab is 9 years old and was diagnosed a week ago. She's on 2 pain meds along with glucosamine and fish oil. Our vet recommended chiropractic care. Has anyone else's vet recommended this?


I have a 11 year old collie with arthiritis in his spine, i am considering surgery as hes so full of life but after exertion his back legs tremble, a sign hes in pain.has anyone had this type of surgery on their dog and if so was it successful Elaine and Glen


Yes our poor dogs...can't tell us they are in pain...'my poor Lhasa apso Alfie just been diagnosed today....he's only 2 years and 3 months, it was a shock, started on tramadol, he's not overweight relatively healthy otherwise..
Will do and try everything I can to help him .


It took the entire initial batch of prescriptions before we noticed improvement. I also give him a daily dose of cosequin DS (glucosamine and chondroitan (SP?)), which seems to help a bit. He's a big boy, so he gets at least 3 tablets a day. We buy them in 120 cnt bottles on amazon. I also think that he has learned how to cope with it somewhat as well. He is slow to rise, but is generally happy and doesn't limp like he did before. Good luck Lauren. It sucks to see our buddies in pain.


We have a 12 year old lab who also has this and are taking all of the meds you mentioned. Ours is not getting any better and is in a lot of pain. I am just wondering if it took a lot of time for your dog to get to feeling better?


I have an 8 year old English Setter with Spondylitis. She was a very active hunting dog and I would like to hunt her again. I am considering surgery. If I do have the surgery done will the bone spurs come back and what is the average cost for this type of surgery?


We have an 11 year old lab who was diagnosed with this condition. At this age, pain management is really the only viable treatment as surgery presents bigger risks with anesthesia and recovery.

When it is especially painful, our vet prescribes 100 mg Carprofen twice a day for a couple of weeks. Maintenance pain meds are 100mg Tramadol 2-3 times a day for inflamation and 300mg of Gabapentin once or twice a day for neurogenic pain.


10 year old lab with X-rays depicting spondylitis. Help. What do I do?

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Spondylosis at a glance

  • 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.

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