Spondylosis mainly affects old dogs and can be very painful. Read what spondylosis actually is, how you can recognize it and how you can help your dog.
Spondylosis is usually discovered by accident – in the early stages it hardly causes any severe symptoms. But once discovered, action must be taken. While spondylosis can remain asymptomatic, it can also cause your dog severe pain. Here you can find out what spondylosis is, how you can notice it in your four-legged friend and have it treated.
What is canine spondylosis?
Spondylosis is easy to recognize on X-rays: it is a bone growth in the spine. A distinction is made between a spur of the first, second or third degree – this depends on the size of the growth. If 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 further and further. In severe cases, an entire section of the spine may be covered with these spondylotic bridges.
Causes of canine spondylosis
Spondylosis is mainly due to age. Experts even suspect that every dog will develop spondylosis if they only get old enough. But young dogs can also be affected: some breeds, such as the boxer, are considered to be particularly at risk.
Bony spurs are believed to be a reaction of the dog’s body to increasing instability or stress in the spine. In addition to wear and tear, reasons for an unstable spine can also be intervertebral disc problems, injuries, congenital deformities or weak back muscles.
Symptoms of spondylosis in dogs
The stiffening caused by spondylosis can cause problems, but it doesn’t have to. As a rule, spondylosis is even symptom-free. However, there are also advanced cases: severe movement restrictions occur when turning, jumping or climbing stairs.
Spondylosis is also particularly painful when the bone growths break or splinter – they are very thin, which is why fractures can easily occur. It is often enough for the dog to land hard or be slugged. Additional painful injuries to the soft tissue or bleeding are then not uncommon.
Acute fractures or splinters cause severe back pain: the dog cramps and no longer wants to be touched. Now the veterinarian must be visited immediately or the veterinary emergency service alerted! Be sure to protect yourself: Even the friendliest dog can now become aggressive and snap because of the acute pain. It is best to put a muzzle on the patient.
Nerve entrapment as a result
It is just as painful for the dog if nerves are also pinched as a result of the growth of the spondylosis. The symptoms are usually inconspicuous at first – that’s why a dog owner has to look closely 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, this may be due to a pinched nerve from spondylosis. If the dog doesn’t jump into the car as much as it used to, that’s a warning sign. Likewise, some affected dogs have problems with defecation: the curvature of the back causes them difficulties. If the dog is lame and shows a clammy gait, you need to get to the bottom of the pain.
2. Painful and painless phases
The impairment of mobility does not always have to be the same for your dog: there are good days and less good days. So take a close look and don’t think that everything is fine as soon as the pain seems to ease up a bit.
3. Bouts of pain cause personality changes
If the pain flares up, your dog’s character can change. Even the friendliest dog will become grumpy, irritable, and perhaps even aggressive when in severe pain.
4. Disorders of the sensitivity of the body
Advanced cases have another symptom: sensory disturbances occur. They become noticeable when 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 spondylosis does it need treatment. Painkillers are available from the vet – it also makes sense to take physiotherapeutic measures for the dog. This includes
- Heat or cold applications
- Electrical stimulation or laser treatments
Operations are only necessary if the dog does not feel better despite medication and additional measures such as physiotherapy and adapted 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 diet.
Movement is important in spondylosis
Your dog’s back pain cannot be cured by resting. In the case of spondylosis, the spine must be stabilized and supported in order to prevent further bone formation. Targeted training that is tailored to your dog is important.
A lot can be done for your dog’s spine in everyday life: Let him try out different gaits on a walk – this stimulates the different 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 your back more flexible. Balancing can also train the small back muscles.
Important: Always pay attention to the state of health and the performance of your dog during training! He must never be overwhelmed or even in pain. If the dog enjoys training, this is not only good for the back, but also for the relationship between human and dog.