Dog Spondylosis Deformans Disease

Published: 29th August 2009
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Spondylosis deformans (sometimes called Bone Spurs) is a condition in which bridges are formed along the ventral (bottom) parts of the vertebrae of dogs. Human, domestic cat, bull and even whales have been diagnosed with this condition. The term "spondylitis" literally means "an inflammation of the spine", especially the bone, and spondylosis is sometimes used as a synonym as well as for describing types of ankylosis. Spondylosis sometimes called Bone Spurs can form around interverterbral discs as a dog gets older. In rare occasions these bone spurs can grow (osteophytes) that press into the spinal canal causing symptoms similar to a ruptured disc. Spondylosis deformas, can restrict the movement of the spinal column causing pain and stiffness. Spondylosis is more common in larger dogs and older dogs.

Symptoms of Spondylosis may include back pain, back stiffness and the dog may whine or cry when touched in the back area. Bone spurs can develop on any bone and without signs or symptoms and may go undetected for years. Many affected dogs live satisfactory lives, though somewhat limited in flexibility and range of motion. Fortunately, by the time spondylosis deformans becomes noticeable in clinical signs, the dog may be considered "retired" from his duties of running around, jumping, and doing the other things expected of a youngster. In some individuals, it will get worse suddenly rather than continue in a gradual worsening. Possibly, trauma may bring fracture of the bridge created in the development of spondylosis, which crack may spread to the arch and body, thus pinching the cord. Some bone spurs form in places where they rub against other bones or push against nerves, causing swelling, pain, tearing and loss of motion in your joints. Common places for bone spurs include the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, and feet.

The genetic transmission of the tendency to develop this disease is obvious to anyone who has watched it appear in offspring of certain dogs, generation after generation. But exactly how (the etiology) is not as sure. Perhaps there is an inherited weakness in how a dog's vertebrae respond to or withstand repeated microtraumas; perhaps in some lines, the blood vessels that serve the outer layers of the disks regress and disappear faster than the normal or expected three or four years. It seems to be a fairly natural consequence of aging, as 75% of dogs in some breeds are affected to some degree by 9 years, and half by 6 years. On the other hand, some work has indicated that spondylosis deformans is more a disease of middle age.

Most of these dogs never show any clinical signs that can be attributed to the spondylosis, even though their spines look really awful on X-rays. So when a dog does come in with signs that appear to be neurologic and appear to be associated with the spinal cord region in which there is significant spondylosis, it isn't acceptable to just assume that the signs are due to the spondylosis and treat with anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids. It is necessary to try to figure out if there is a disc herniation, lumbo-sacral instability or degenerative myelopathy. If any of these conditions is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is superior to any other diagnostic test for ruling out disc herniation and lumbosacral instability.

Treatment of Spondylosis may include a treatment with analgesics (pain killers). If this does not work then surgery may be needed to remove the osteophytes to stop the pressure on the spinal cord. Physical therapy, acupuncture, stretching, deep tissue massage and weight loss programs attempting to reduce the stress on the joints involved can also help the dog in some cases.

Hannah Serrano is a passionate writer of, an informative website about dog crates and pet strollers for pets and animals.

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