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Canine Spondylosis – Symptoms and Therapy

Spondylosis is mostly discovered by chance – in the early stages it hardly causes any severe symptoms. But once it is discovered, action must be taken. While spondylosis can be symptom-free, they can also cause your dog a lot of pain. Here you can find out what spondylosis are, how they can be noticed and treated in your four-legged friend.

What are spondylosis in dogs?

Spondylosis is easy to spot on x-rays: it is an increase in bone on the spine. A distinction is made between a first, second or third degree spur – that depends on the size of the formation. When two vertebrae grow together through this bone spur, it is a so-called bone bridge, which increasingly stiffens the spine.

This spur formation often progresses. In severe cases it can happen that an entire section of the spine is provided with these spondylotic bridges.

Causes of Spondylosis in Dogs

Spondylosis is primarily due to age. Experts even suspect that every dog ​​will develop spondylosis if it only gets old enough. But young dogs can also be affected: some breeds, such as the boxer, are particularly endangered.

It is believed that the bony spurs are a reaction of the dog’s body to the increasing instability or stress on the spine. In addition to wear and tear, reasons for an unstable spine can also be disc problems, injuries, congenital deformities or weak back muscles.

Symptoms of spondylosis in the dog

The stiffening caused by the spondylosis can lead to problems, but it doesn’t have to. As a rule, spondylosis is symptom-free. However, there are also advanced cases: there are severe restrictions on movement when turning, jumping or climbing stairs.

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Spondylosis becomes particularly painful when the bone growths break or splinter – they are very thin, which is why they can easily break. Often it is enough that the dog lands hard or is pushed roughly. Additional painful injuries to the soft tissue or bleeding are then not uncommon.

In the case of acute fractures or splinters, severe back pain occurs: the dog tenses up and no longer wants to be touched. Now the veterinarian has to be visited immediately or the veterinary emergency service has to be alerted! Make sure you protect yourself: Even the friendliest dog can now become aggressive and snap because of the acute pain. It is best to muzzle the patient.

With spondylosis, stairs become a challenge. © stock.adobe.com/anya_titanya

Nerve entrapment as a result

It is just as painful for the dog when nerves are pinched as the spondylosis grows. The symptoms are usually inconspicuous at first – this is why a dog owner has to look carefully to recognize the signals as early as possible.

1. Changes in mobility

Pay attention to how your dog moves: If he seems stiff or clumsy and avoids certain movements, it may be due to a nerve trapped by the spondylosis. If the dog doesn’t like jumping into the car as much as it used to, this is an alarm signal. In the same way, some affected dogs have problems with defecation: the bending of the back causes them difficulties. If the dog is paralyzed and walking is clammy, you have to get to the bottom of the pain.

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2. Painful and painless phases

The impairment of mobility does not always have to be the same for your dog: there are good and not so good days. So look carefully and don’t think that once the pain seems to subside a bit, everything is fine.

3. Bouts of pain cause changes in personality

If there is an episode of pain, the nature of your dog can change. Even the friendliest dog will get grumpy, irritable, and maybe even aggressive when it is in severe pain.

4. Disorders of the sensitivity of the body

Advanced cases have another symptom: there is impaired sensitivity. They make themselves noticeable in that the dog no longer corrects a misalignment of its paws immediately, but only with a delay.

How to treat spondylosis

Only if the dog is in pain due to the spondylosis does it need treatment. Painkillers are available from the vet – it also makes sense to take physical therapy measures for the dog. This includes

  • Massages
  • Heating or cooling applications
  • Stimulation current or laser treatments

Operations are only necessary if the dog does not feel better despite medication and additional measures such as physiotherapy and appropriate training.

Important: Do not allow your dog to become overweight with spondylosis. This puts additional strain on the spine. If your dog is already overweight, it is best to consult your veterinarian for the best possible diet.

Movement can help spondylosis patients. © stock.adobe.com/Ines Meier

Exercise is important in spondylosis

Resting cannot cure your dog’s back pain. The spine must be stabilized and supported in spondylosis in order to avoid further bone formation. Targeted training that is tailored to your dog is important.

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A lot can be done for your dog’s spine in everyday life: Let him try out different gaits while walking – this will stimulate the various muscle groups in the dog’s back. Climbing stairs slowly can help as long as the dog is not in pain. Slow slalom running makes the back more flexible. Balancing can also train the small back muscles.

Important: Always pay attention to the state of health and performance of your dog during training! He must never be overwhelmed or even be in pain. If the dog enjoys training, it is not only good for the back, but also for the relationship between man and dog.