What is Spondylosis in Dogs and How Is It Treated?


There are many conditions from which a dog can suffer, and it is important that a dog owner is armed with all the information they need regarding the condition with which their dog has been diagnosed. One condition from which a dog can suffer is spondylosis. Here is everything you need to know about spondylosis in dogs, including an overview of the condition, the symptoms, how it is diagnosed and the potential treatments.

What is Spondylosis in Dogs?

Dogtime describes spondylosis in dogs as a degenerative spinal condition. Also known as spondylosis deformans, this condition causes the growth of bone spurs along the vertebrae. This is sometimes a single bone spur, but multiple bone spurs are more common. I some cases, the bone spurs are so severe that they appear to form a bridge between two or more vertebrae. Although these usually occur on the upper vertebrae and behind the chest, they can also affect the lower back.

What Are the Causes of Spondylosis?

In most cases, this condition affects older dogs as it is linked to repetitive wear and tear. Larger dogs are also more prone to developing this condition and some breeds have a genetic predisposition. However, spondylosis in dogs sometimes occurs following trauma. There is also some evidence to suggest that spondylosis can occur as a secondary problem relating to a degenerative disease of the intervertebral discs, says VCA Hospitals.

What Are the Symptoms of Spondylosis?

The type and severity of the symptoms in your dog can depend on the size and location of the bone spurs. In some cases, a dog may not have any symptoms at all, so it is often many years before a dog is diagnosed with this condition. In other cases, the symptoms are extremely severe, especially if the bone spurs are growing close to a nerve. Pet Care RX says that the symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Limited movement and rotation
  • Pain in the back or hips
  • A sensitivity to and dislike of touch
  • Visible or palpable growths on the spine

How is Spondylosis Diagnosed?

You cannot diagnose spondylosis in dogs yourself, as the symptoms associated with this condition can have many other causes. The only person who can diagnose a dog with spondylosis is a qualified and experienced veterinarian. To make their diagnosis, they will begin by conducting a thorough examination of your dog. They will do this so that they can observe signs that your dog is in pain when touched in certain areas, and to check if there are visible or palpable lumps on the dog’s spine. They may also take blood samples. Although these will not diagnose spondylosis, they can indicate signs of inflammation and can also help to rule out any other underlying causes of your dog’s symptoms. The only way to make a firm diagnosis of spondylosis is for the vet to take x-rays. Not only will this confirm the diagnosis, but it will also show the vet where the bone spurs are located and their size. This will help them to determine the next steps with regard to a dog’s treatment.

What is the Treatment for Spondylosis in Dogs?

There are several factors that will determine the treatment given to a dog with spondylosis. This includes the size and location of the bone spurs, whether they are impacting on nerves or causing any other damage to the spine, the age of the dog, and any other medical conditions from which your dog suffers. In minor cases where the bone spurs are small and not impacting on the nerves, very little treatment is needed. If your dog is in pain, then your vet may prescribe painkillers to help you manage your dog’s pain. Another medication that a veterinarian may prescribe is anti-inflammatories.

If your dog is overweight, it can exacerbate the symptoms as obesity puts greater pressure on the spine and joints. Therefore, the veterinarian may put your dog on a special diet or give you an eating plan for them to follow to help them lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight for their size and breed. This can help to reduce some of the symptoms your dog experiences. Sometimes, alternative therapies are used to treat the symptoms of spondylosis. Examples of these include massage treatments, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture. Another form of treatment is physiotherapy.

Your dog will need regular follow-up appointments so that the veterinarian can monitor the condition. A veterinarian needs to check that the bone spurs are not growing or that more bone spurs are not developing. They also need to monitor the level of damage that the bone spurs are causing. If the condition progresses, then the veterinarian may need to take further action. In severe cases, dogs may need surgery to treat spondylosis. This is usually the last resort and is only done if the bone spurs are causing nerve or tissue damage. A veterinarian may also decide that surgery is the best option if the pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications are not effective in reducing your dog’s pain to a manageable level or if your dog is struggling with its mobility. The surgery involves removing the bone spurs, and it can significantly improve your dog’s standard of life.

Spondylosis in Dogs – The Final Verdict

Spondylosis in dogs is a degenerative spinal condition where bone spurs grow on the vertebrae. Although it can affect any dog, it is most common in older dogs and larger breeds. There are several causes, and the symptoms can vary in severity depending on the size and location of the bone spurs. Only a vet can make a diagnosis, and they will need to take x-rays to confirm spondylosis. Treatments can vary from painkilling medication to surgery, depending on the severity of the bone spurs and the impact they are having o your dog’s life. Your vet will monitor the dog to decide on the best treatment.

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