Symptoms of Spondylosis in Dogs

Spondylosis in dogs, also known as spondylosis deformans, causes degeneration of the discs in your dog's spine, and can cause bone spurs to grow on your dog's vertebrae. Spondylosis can be crippling, but in many dogs, its symptoms never become very severe. Read on to learn more about spondylosis in dogs.

How Spondylosis Can Inhibit Your Dog's Movement

Spondylosis deformans in dogs causes bone spurs to form on your dog's spinal vertebrae, in conjunction with the degeneration of intervertebral discs. These bone spurs can become large enough to form bridges of bone that connect your dog's vertebrae together. Vertebrae connected by bridges of bone can no longer move in the way that they should.

In most cases, spondylosis doesn't cause severe symptoms. The condition may not compress the spinal cord, but it can make it impossible for your dog to flex or bend the affected part of the spine. Totally immobility of the spine can occur when spondylosis is severe. If one of the bone spurs in your dog's back breaks, it could cause compression of nerves or damage the spinal cord itself, leading to complications such as paralysis or pain.

Dogs with spondylosis typically exhibit a decreased range of motion in the spine, especially as they get older.

Causes and Symptoms of Canine Spondylosis Deformans 

Vets don't completely understand what causes spondylosis in dogs, but they think the disease might be hereditary. Mild spondylosis often causes no symptoms. As dogs with spondylosis age, they might seem to lose flexibility in their spines, and might start to have trouble running, jumping and turning. These symptoms are often chalked up to old age, or arthritis.

In more severe cases, canine spondylosis can cause back pain, lameness and atrophy of the spinal muscles. If your dog's nerves or spinal cord have been affected, neurological symptoms, including paralysis, can occur.

Diagnosing and Treating Spondylosis in Dogs

Other conditions, such as osteoarthritis, osteochondrosis, or spondylitis, can cause symptoms similar to those of spondylosis. X-rays can help your vet identify abnormal bone growth in the spine. A joint fluid analysis can help your vet rule out infection as the cause of your dog's symptoms. A myelogram can help your vet determine if your dog is suffering from any spinal disc compression; a force plate analysis can help your vet evaluate the extent of your dog's muscle weakness.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help treat any inflammation or pain associated with your dog's condition, especially if he is suffering from a pinched nerve as the result of spondylosis. If your dog's case is particularly severe, surgery can help improve his condition and symptoms.

Spondylosis doesn't typically begin to inhibit a dog's movement until he reaches his middle-aged or geriatric years. Dogs with this condition shouldn't be asked to work, hunt, breed or compete in shows, as they may be too disabled to do these things safely. Your dog may no longer be able to tolerate excessive activity, so try to limit his exercise to the amount he truly needs for good health.