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Spondylosis in Dogs

spondylosis deformans in dogs

We hate to see our dog getting older but if we are lucky enough to have our dogs in their senior years, there are certain conditions that can present themselves. One such condition is spondylosis deformans. While this is not a typical condition for younger dogs, it is important to know the signs and symptoms so your dog, at any age, can live a more comfortable life. Here is more on what it is, what causes it, diagnosis, home treatment, and more about spondylosis deformans in dogs.

What is Spondylosis Deformans?

According to PetCare RX:

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

These bone spurs can include just one along the spine or in many cases – will cause multiple ones. As stated by VCA Hospitals:

The most common places that spondylosis deformans lesions develop are along the thoracic vertebrae (chest), especially at the junction between the rib cage and the abdomen, in the lumbar spine (lower back) and in the lumbosacral spine (around the hips and back legs). In some cases the bony spurs may become large enough that they appear to form a complete bridge between adjacent vertebral bones.

There are certain areas that lesions appear. These include around the hips and back legs (lumbosacral spine), the lower back (called the lumbar spine), and the chest area, known as the thoracic vertebrae. These can sometimes be quite large and may seem to create a bridge between the vertebral bones adjacent.

This weakens the joints and can cause the range of motion to be limited. The one plus in this is that these bone spurs will only grow to the point of being necessary to reinforce the joint that has the disease.

Some researchers believe that this will present itself in most dogs by the age of 10 years old. Others believe that if a dog lives to a certain age that all dogs will eventually get this condition. It may be interesting to know that this is a condition that affects human beings as well.

What Causes It?

While this is related to the age of the dog, it can also happen to any breed. There are not certain breeds that are more predisposed but there are some that have a genetic predisposition. Meanwhile, there are a few things that may accelerate this condition. These include the following:

  • A major trauma or injury
  • Repetitive stress
  • Repetitive bone wear
  • Genetic predisposition

There are a few other things that may lead to this condition that include a lack of exercise, stress, and poor nutrition. In fact, sometimes a trauma or injury is the sole cause of this in younger dogs. As mentioned, it is mainly older dogs who experience spondylosis deformans but some that are younger may get it after an accident.

What Are the Symptoms?

In some dogs, there are no major symptoms that are seen. Instead, some dogs may live their lives with unnoticeable symptoms and they only manifest themselves when the condition worsens. For those that do present symptoms of spondylosis deformans, here are some of the things to look for:

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

How Is It Diagnosed?

X-rays of the spine (radiographs) can help diagnose spondylosis. In some cases, multiple ones are needed. There are a couple of other things that may help like a myelogram. This is a procedure the vet uses to inject dye into the spinal fluid. Once this is done, the vet can use another radiograph or perform an MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging.

Visits to the veterinarian and testing can be costly. That is why it is a good idea to have a backup plan with pet insurance. This means less out of your pocket all at once and the peace of mind that you can get your dog tested without going broke in the process.

What is the Treatment for Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs?

There is no cure for spondylosis deformans in dogs but there are treatment methods that can help. These different treatment methods for this condition depend on how long the condition has been going on, the individual dog, and if there are any clinical signs.

For dogs that are not in any outward pain, treatment is not necessary. For dogs that are exhibiting pain from this condition, there are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can help with the pain. Other treatment includes the exercise, weight loss, and even physical therapy.

In extreme cases, surgery may be required. This is typically when the bone spurs are either causing extreme pain, tissue damage, or causing nerve damage.

Many dogs live out happy and healthy lives, even with this condition. In fact as mentioned, sometimes it is not even detectable since the dog is not having any painful symptoms. These dogs may experienced more limited range of motion or flexibility but speaking to a vet is your best bet in finding out exactly what needs to be done – if anything.

With regular vet visits, you can stay on top of anything that needs to be addressed with your dog.


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