Spondylosis in dogsIn canine spondylosis, adhesions form on the vertebrae of the spine. It can lead to pain. Even paralysis can occur.
With spondylosis in dogs is usually meant the dog disease spondylosis deformans. In this case a bony bridging of several vertebral bodies of the spine occurs. For the dog, this adhesion can bring pain and cause the dog to limp or lame. In advanced spondylosis, paralysis and incontinence can be the result in rare cases. Spondylosis deformans is to be distinguished from spondylarthrosis and discospondylitis, which are also sometimes called spondylosis.
The spinal column of the dog
The spine of a dog consists of the vertebral bodies, which have various bony processes. The discs sit as a soft buffer between the vertebrae and prevent the bones from rubbing against each other when the dog moves. So the spine remains flexible. Allows movements in different directions.
Inside the spine runs – protected by bones, muscles and skins – the spinal cord. Between the vertebrae run nerves from the spinal cord, which allow the brain to control, for example, organs or muscles.
In a healthy dog, the vertebral bodies move well in relation to each other, allowing the entire spine to bend up and down and to rotate. If a dog suffers from spondylosis deformans, this mobility is limited.
How spondylosis deformans develops?
The causes for the development of bony bridges in the spine of the dog is still unclear today. Discussed are chronic strains of the spine or tiny fractures of the vertebral bodies. The result is protrusions that form on two vertebrae and slowly grow towards each other.
Pain occurs in the affected dog when the not yet connected processes rub against each other during movement. Affected dogs are reluctant to move, may limp and have pain in the area of the spondylosis.
Advanced spondylosis usually without symptoms
When the processes are finally fused together, the pain stops, but the spine loses mobility in this area. Apart from this, completely ossified spondyloses in dogs are usually asymptomatic.
In rare cases, the ossification can pinch the nerves coming out of the spinal cord Pinching nerves. This can lead to incontinence, paralysis, lameness and severe pain. In such a case, surgical therapy by a specialized neurologist for dogs is necessary.
Spondylarthrosis as a result of spondylosis
A consequence of the immobility of completely ossified spondylosis in dogs is an arthrosis of the so-called facet joints, also called spondylarthrosis. As mentioned above, there is a risk of confusion between spondylosis deformans and spondyloarthroses.
The facet joints are small joints between the vertebrae and normally ensure that the vertebral bodies can move without mutual friction. If the vertebral bodies are immobile to each other due to spondylosis deformans, the facet joints of the dog degenerate. As a result, osteoarthritis develops, which often remains without symptoms, but can also cause pain.
Discospondylitis in dogs
Both spondylosis deformans and spondyloarthritis are unrelated to discospondylitis in dogs. This is a rare, chronic inflammation of the intervertebral discs, triggered by bacteria, fungi or foreign bodies, which is accompanied by fever.
How to diagnose spondylosis deformans?
Means of choice to diagnose spondylosis deformans in dogs are an extensive Clinical examination and X-rays of the spine. On these, the bony bridges are usually clearly visible and it can be seen whether ossification is complete or ongoing.
Because of its distinct appearance, spondylosis deformans is easily distinguished from disc spondylitis or cauda equina syndrome (a contusion of the most posterior segment of the spinal cord).
Although dogs of any age and breed can be affected by spondylosis, there is an accumulation of severe cases in large dogs and especially in boxers.
Is there a therapy against spondylosis?
Progression of spondylosis deformans in dogs cannot be interrupted. Therapy is only necessary if the dog has pain that develops before ossification is complete.
A veterinary surgeon can temporarily Painkillers prescribe. Which medication is appropriate depends on the severity of the pain. The symptoms of spondylarthrosis can also be relieved with painkillers.
Caution: Many painkillers for humans, such as ibuprofen, are toxic to dogs, so only special painkillers for dogs may be given in the dosage prescribed by the veterinarian.
Surgery is possible if nerves are pinched
A special situation are the mentioned entrapments of nerves by the bony bridges. Here a diagnosis by CT or MRI is needed. This allows fine structures, such as nerves, to be assessed.
A specialized canine neurologist can then surgically remove the ossifications, if necessary, so they no longer pinch the nerves. This operation involves the usual anesthesia risk, which depends on the age and health condition of the dog. The ossifications usually do not occur again.
Exercises and heat against tension
Physiotherapy or guided movements can help to loosen the dog's tense muscles and thus alleviate tension pain.
Also useful to prevent tension are warming dog coats or blankets in cold weather and rain. Especially short-haired dogs benefit from this.
Uniform movements, such as walks in a straight line or swimming, if the dog likes it, are useful to strengthen the muscles. The intensity should be adapted to the performance of the dog, so as not to overstrain the dog.
Special feeding protects cartilage
Special dog food with cartilage-preserving substances or food additives, such as green-lipped muscle extract, are useful in protecting the healthy cartilage surfaces. However, spondylosis deformans cannot be stopped by diet, nor can it be prevented in this way.
Treatment with natural medicine and gold implants
Treating a dog's spondylosis homeopathically is not recommended, as there is no proven effect. The same applies to Schussler salts. If you still want to use homeopathy or other naturopathic methods, be sure to consult your veterinarian beforehand.
We urgently advise against gold implantation, which is still often carried out. The effect of gold implants is not proven. Complications are frequent.
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Spondylosis in dogs – life expectancy
Since most cases of spondylosis deformans in dogs are asymptomatic and even the severe cases of spondylosis are treatable, there is no impairment of life expectancy. Even euthanizing a dog is rarely necessary because of spondylosis deformans.