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Discospondylitis in Dogs

discospondylitis in dogs


Discospondylitis is a bacterial or fungal infection that affects the intervertebral disc space. Infection usually originates from the vertebral endplates, which spreads to adjacent intervertebral discs. The condition is most common in young and middle-aged male dogs of large-breeds, which include Doberman Pinchers, British Bulldogs, Great Danes, and Boxers.

There are three types of infection: hematogenous (blood-borne), direct contamination, or via the migration of a foreign body (usually infected grass awn from garden lawns). Hematogenous cases are the most common, which occurs when the blood supply carries infectious agents from a wound to the intervertebral site where it is deposited.

The infection may be localized or occur simultaneously in multiple parts of the body. Risks of Discospondylitis may be higher in immunosuppressed or unneutered pets. Untreated cases may lead to weakened and brittle bones, making them susceptible to fracture.


Affected dogs may exhibit progressive symptoms over several weeks. However, in cases of vertebral fracture, dogs might face rapid deterioration of health through systemic ailments such as anorexia and lethargy.

Common symptoms include gait anomalies, back and neck pain, and reduced physical activity. Some dogs may bark or turn aggressive when pressure is placed on the affected parts of the body. Loss of appetite is common in sufferers.

Pain is directly associated with the area of infection. In serious cases, the infection might spread to the spinal cord, which could lead to paralysis.


Vets might provide an X-ray of the spine. However, X-rays have been proven ineffective during the early stages of the condition, where anomalies are harder to detect. As such, vets may recommend more detailed MRI and CT scans.

In some cases, vets might drive a needle through the disc space to aspirate and acquire a culture of the infectious agent. Blood and urine samples may also be collected to corroborate the type of infection.


The condition may be treated through antibiotics or antifungal medication, depending on the type of infection. Pain management is a major part of treatment, usually provided through analgesics such as fentanyl patches. Physical rehab via controlled therapy techniques is integral in helping dogs maintain a full range of motion.

Expected Costs

The condition typically requires a range of diagnostic tests, medication, and follow-up treatments (especially for fungal cases, where dogs require lifelong treatment), which total to about $8,000 – $15,000, or more in severe cases.

Home Care and Management for Dogs with Discospondylitis

Discospondylitis is best treated with close supervision by a vet. Owners should provide cage rest and limit physical activity for pets with serious conditions. The precautionary measures can prevent complications such as disc herniation.


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Other Spine Issues in Dogs

Here is a list of common disc diseases in dog that you should be aware of.

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