Spondylosis is a disease of the spine that occurs when bony spur or osteophytes form on the outer edge of the spinal bones. Many dogs are asymptomatic but if the degeneration touches the nerves in that spinal region, then the dog may experience varying ranges of pain.
But pain is not the only reason to be concerned about Spondylosis: the condition can affect the mobility of the dog especially when the bony spurs connect the vertebrae of the spinal column. So, let’s examine the causes, symptoms, and prognosis of this disease in depth.
What is Spondylosis?
Spondylosis, also known as Spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative disease that causes degenerative disks to form bone spurs between the vertebrae of the spine. This inhibits the flexibility and range of motion for the dog, and it can also be extremely painful.
Some people like to think of Spondylosis as ‘arthritis of the spine.’ However, unlike arthritis, Spondylosis does not feature inflammation: just the abnormal bone growth in the spine.
It is more common in older dogs around or after ten years of age. At this age, the bones and joints of the dog have endured repeated stress which may cause them to degenerate and become unstable.
Once this degeneration and instability occur, the dog’s body may create the bony spurs as a way of regaining some of the stability in those areas.
The problem is that these bones are abnormally formed and not part of the usual anatomy of the spinal column. For instance, some of these bones may attach or insert themselves into the bones of the neck region, and this causes neck pain.
Larger breeds of dogs are said to be more predisposed to developing Spondylosis and experts note that Boxers are particularly susceptible as compared to other dog breeds. Nevertheless, any dog breed can develop Spondylosis.
Causes of Spondylosis in Dogs
1. Old Age
As previously mentioned, Spondylosis is an age-related disease. Like all bones, the spine degenerates as the dog ages because of the natural wear and stress from a lifetime of motion.
The body tries to compensate for this damage to the spine by forming those bony spurs.
Older age is also associated with other spine diseases for instance intervertebral disc disease and other spinal disorders: all of which may cause a greater risk of Spondylosis.
Some believe that any dog that lives long enough will develop Spondylosis because the deterioration of the bones of the spinal column is inevitable by old age. Whatever the case, it is important to ensure that your dog ages well by providing sufficient nutrition and regular, healthy exercising.
A traumatic injury to the spinal column or the joints may be another cause of Spondylosis in dogs.
The injury damages the spine and, again, the body may form the bony spurs as a way to compensate for the damage.
Some researchers mention that the genetic make-up of a dog may make him or her more prone to Spondylosis.
In this case, they say that some breeds are more likely to be carrying the genetic marker for Spondylosis. Some of these breeds are German Shepherds and Boxers, or breeds with a long back such as Dachshunds.
4. Body Weight and Canine Obesity
The body weight of a dog may influence the emergence and progression of most degenerative joint diseases including Spondylosis. This is simply because a bigger body will have more pressure being applied to the affected area, which worsens it.
Hence, weight management is often mentioned as a prevention or pain management measure for these diseases.
Signs and Symptoms of Spondylosis
- An uncomfortable gait or walk
- Reduced range of motion
- Persistent back pain
- Neck pain
- Dog dogs not want back or spinal column to be touched
- Dog's limbs become numb or weak
- Lack of coordination when moving
Is My Dog's Spondylosis Painful?
Yes, Spondylosis is painful. This pain comes about for different reasons. It may be that the bony spurs touch the nerves of the spinal region, the natural wear and tear of the bones are itself painful, or the bony spurs actually cause extra wear and tear when they touch the vertebrae and/or the bones of the neck.
Therefore, pain management is an important factor in getting your dog through Spondylosis.
Treating Canine Spondylosis
Treatment will depend on how severe Spondylosis is in your dog.
The severity of Spondylosis is determined by a vet using several diagnostic approaches. The vet may conduct a physical examination by touching the area of the spine where the bony spurs typically develop and also testing the range of motion of the dog.
Also, the vet can conduct x-rays of the dog’s chest and abdomen region. In many cases, Spondylosis has been diagnosed accidentally as vets conduct x-rays for other health issues.
Lastly, vets may rule our other conditions by using an MRI. CT scan, and a myelogram.
At the end of this process, you and your vet should be in a better position to come up with an ideal treatment plan for your dog’s Spondylosis.
Generally, most of the cases are asymptomatic and for these dogs, no medication is necessary.
In dogs that have minor symptoms, pain meds are usually recommended by the vet while for severe symptoms, pain meds, as well as surgery, may be considered.
1. Exercise and Physical Therapy
Generally, light walking or swimming may be a non-obtrusive exercising regimen but it’s still wise to get a nod from your vet – to avoid exercising that causes further strain on the spinal column.
Exercising also helps in weight management, and as we know now, excessive weight is a burden on a dog dealing with Spondylosis.
Spondylosis surgery typically involves the removal of bony spurs that are infringing on the nervous system of the dog by damaging the tissues and nerves.
3. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a natural pain reliever with a lot of benefits to a dog with Spondylosis.
For instance, massage helps to improve joint flexibility, reduce stiffness, regain strength to the spinal column and can help to improve the posture and gait of the dog.
In short, it is a legitimate pain management option that you may consider in order to relieve your dog of some of the stress even as you calm and relax him or her. An overall good time!
This is an alternative treatment option that works in some cases and some vets may recommend acupuncture for pain relief.
Important: Regular follow-up visits will ensure that the vet keeps an eye on the treatment plan’s effectiveness. The goal will usually be to remove the symptoms entirely or to prevent them from getting worse.
What is the Prognosis? – How Long Do Dogs Live?
For those that do show symptoms, a good treatment plan may help to provide a good quality of life even with Spondylosis. Granted, the dog may experience some challenges in movement because of the reduced range of motion that Spondylosis causes.
Your vet may probably provide a more informed prognosis of your dog based on his or her condition’s progression.
Spondylosis is a detrimental disease to the dog’s mobility because it reduces the range of motion, causes stiffness, a wobbly gait, and pain. Because of the limitations in mobility, Spondylosis tends to adversely affect the quality of life for the affected dogs.
Meanwhile, has no known cure. Treatment options focus on managing the symptoms and preventing pain as best as possible.
Nonetheless, the dog can live a good life if the treatment options are monitored well enough to ensure their effectiveness in stopping some of the more severe symptoms or preventing the worsening of the symptoms.
If there’s any silver lining to this nasty disease, it is that the treatment plan may be something that brings you and your furry companion closer together and one that makes you cherish your pooch even more. For instance, massage therapy can be one activity that both provides comfort to your dog and helps you to connect with your dog in a difficult time.