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"Understanding Canine Spondylosis: How to Help Your Dog Find Relief"

Updated: Feb 29



What is canine spondylosis?


Canine spondylosis is a chronic disease that affects the development of the spine. It causes a deformation of the bone and leads to spurs along the sides of the vertebrae. Each one of these spurs is known as osteophytes and can develop with age or after a certain injury has taken place. They can spread from bone to bone and if not cared for in time, they can weld the two bones together in positions that don’t allow free movement. When they fuse together this is known as ankylosis. The probability of ankylosis increases when there is more damage that has been done to the bone. The most common region for this disorder to appear is in the thoracolumbar and lumbosacral regions.


Prevention of Canine Spondylosis.


Spondylosis happens when the spine suffers too many injuries and begins scarring abnormally. Avoiding certain activities is a great idea when trying to avoid spondylosis. Have your dog avoid high-impact exercise if they are at risk, maintain daily exercises that will strengthen the back and neck muscles. Obesity is also a condition that can predispose your dog to develop spondylosis. Try visiting a Veterinarian nutrition so that you follow a strict diet plan and avoid canine obesity throughout its lifetime. This will keep not only spondylosis but hundreds of diseases away.


"The bone spurs of spondylosis deformans develop to re-establish the stability of the weakened joint or joints."


Signs and Symptoms Canine Spondylosis


There are no apparent symptoms when there is a lower grade of ankylosis. As a dog grows older and develops more osteophytes that weld together, stiffness can be observed due to less movement. Muscle weakness, decreased ability to balance and gait appear's when the spurs grow in direction of nerves and begin to compress them. Pain or crying out when moving in a certain way is also a sign of spondylosis and this can happen because the spurs begin to fracture and cause acute inflammation.

However, depending on the location of the bone spurs, the following symptoms may appear:


  • Pain, especially if the bone spurs fracture or put pressure on nerves

  • Stiffness

  • Lameness or limping

  • Motion restriction or inflexibility

  • Signs of discomfort when being touched along the spine




How is Canine Spondylosis diagnosed?


Spondylosis is diagnosed with the use of radiography. The veterinarian clinician will put your dog on a bed where they will align the dog’s spine to take an x-ray. Multiple x-rays might need to be taken as this is a bone growth and might not appear clearly in only one x-ray. Different views are needed to understand the extent of the growth. Depending on how calm your dog is and easy to hold, they might decide it is best to use or not use anesthetics or something to lower your dog’s anxiety. MRIs or CT scans are also other methods that can be used, depending on the equipment available in the clinic.


Are there any breeds at risk?


Dog breeds have certain predispositions to diseases due to breeding and lowering the genetic variability. Boxers and large breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. However, some scientists believe that every dog will develop this at some point because it is a degenerative condition that is most likely to appear at an old age.


What is my dog’s prognosis?


If this is not discovered early, it can go on for years until it begins to cause symptoms eventually. If treated early, many forms of physiotherapy can be applied to help broaden the range of movement and avoid welding between the bones where osteophytes are formed.

What treatment options are there for spondylosis?

Physiotherapy, Hydrotherapy, and Laser therapy can be used to treat this condition and helps improve the range of movement and flexibility by stimulating circulation and lowering muscle tension. Surgery is the last option and is only used when spur growth begins to come into contact with nerves and causes compression. This can cause severe pain or back-arching, decreased movement, or sudden pain.


Physiotherapy for dogs with Canine Spondylosis: Just like humans who hurt their back, physical therapy for dogs with spine problems can be a huge benefit. It can increase mobility, improve strength and maintain overall health. Canine rehab can be done in our clinic and there are dog physical therapy exercises you can do at home. Both can be a big advantage to your dog’s well-being.


Laser therapy for dogs with Canine Spondylosis: Cold therapy laser is a new treatment modality to help combat the destructive inflammation of arthritis. Cold therapy laser uses infrared laser beams to stimulate what’s termed as Photobiomodulation, or light-initiated changes in the way that cells react. By applying high-power infrared light to the cells in a joint, they are stimulated to actually heal themselves.

High power laser therapy reduces inflammation, decreases pain drastically, increases blood flow to the affected tissues, and actually helps to heal damaged cells. It is not painful for the pet when applied, and results are usually instantaneous and dramatic.




Medications for Pain Management and Supplements. A visit to the veterinarian will most likely help your pup by getting them anti-inflammatory medications and glucosamine and MSM supplements. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is used to help the body with pain and inflammation when there are problems with joints. MSM is also used for reducing joint pain, inflammation and help recovery. Steroid injections are also used to treat spondylosis.


How Hydrotherapy Can help your Dog with Spondylosis.


Together with NSAIDS and glucosamine, your veterinarian can recommend hydrotherapy. Your dog will be supported in our Dog pool or Canine Underwater Treadmill the warm water helps stimulate circulation and muscle function. Muscle stiffness is a very common symptom of canine spondylosis and happens due to the local inflammation. Hydrotherapy will help increase the range of movement that has been reduced due to the formation of osteophytes and improve muscle tone and help repair muscle. Thanks to non-weight conditions in water, muscles, and bones have more liberty in movement and can sustain less weight underwater. Underwater exercise also helps muscle tone, cardio, and muscle coordination. It is important to begin hydrotherapy after receiving diagnosis. Cold water must not be used because it can cause vasoconstriction and blood will not travel to the same areas in the desired amounts. Hydrotherapy also reduces muscle spasms and helps dogs release endorphins, therefore lowering their stress and helping them feel better and more calm which will boost improvement.




If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read Hydrotherapy and How Pulse Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) can Help your Dog












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