Canine Spondylosis: Origins, Outlook, and Therapeutic Approaches

Dogs’ spines can develop spondylosis, a degenerative condition. The lower and lateral portions of the vertebrae develop bone overgrowths, which is how it is identified. The bulk of the time, the issue is a degenerative ailment that develops over several years. Spondylosis thus typically manifests in older canines. Younger dogs may get the illness if their spines become unstable for a variety of reasons.

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We examine canine spondylosis at AnimalWised. More specifically, we examine its causes, signs, and treatments while also considering how long a dog with spondylosis might live.

What is canine spondylosis?

Dogs who have spondylosis suffer from a degenerative condition that takes time to manifest. This non-infectious illness is characterised by spinal column deterioration. Although it is frequently a side effect of the inflammatory condition spinal osteoarthritis, it is not an inflammatory process in and of itself. Numerous issues may result from it, such as the development of osteophytes, or bony growths. Dogs who develop osteophytes are said to have spondylosis deformans.

Dog spondylosis comes in a variety of forms depending on the part of the spine that is damaged. 

The most typical ones are:

Cervical spondylosis: 

Affects the spine’s neck region.

The central section of the spine is affected by thoracic spondylosis.

Lower lumbar portion of the spine is impacted by lumbar spondylosis.

When several sections of the spine are impacted, multilevel spondylosis can develop. Spondylosis in dogs, when severe, can damage the central nervous system and motor skills. It can also have neurological effects, however because of aging-related deterioration, this might also be a separate concurrent problem.

symptoms of canine spondylosis

Spondylosis deformans’s cause is unknown, but it appears to be connected to age and spinal instability. The soft tissues that support the spinal column deteriorate and lose their suppleness as we become older. The results result in spinal instability.

Similar spinal instability results from recurrent microtraumas, such as limping, persistent pressure on the vertebral joints, or pressure on the spine brought on by obesity. These elements may cause the spine to be overly tense, which may cause degeneration. 

Osteophytes are produced by the body in spondylosis deformans as a response to the spinal instability.

Spondylosis in dogs is influenced by factors such as age, activity, size, and neutering. Older dogs have more opportunities to cause spinal trauma, while younger dogs may experience it less frequently. Working or sporting breeds are more susceptible to spondylosis due to increased wear on the vertebral column. Large and heavy breeds are also more predisposed to injuries. The incidence of spondylosis in dogs is higher in elderly dogs, with some cases being diagnosed as incidental after radiography. Spondylosis is also known as rheumatoid spondylosis, ossificans, ankylosing spondylosis, degenerative hypertrophic arthritis, and lumbar degenerative disease. Symptoms of spondylosis in dogs are often asymptomatic, and diagnosis is often an incidental finding. Osteophytes, large bone formations, can compress nerve roots, causing clinical signs such as pain, rigidity, posterior third weakness, and lump. It is crucial to closely observe dogs for signs of pain to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.


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diagnosis of canine spondylosis

A straightforward radiographic diagnosis of canine spondylosis can be made. In order to identify any neurological impairment brought on by spondylosis, it is therefore crucial to incorporate a thorough neurological evaluation into the diagnostic approach.

Spondylosis is seen on radiographs as protrusions (osteophytes) that extend from the inferior border of the vertebrae toward the anterior and posterior ends of neighbouring vertebrae. As it advances, they take on a hooked appearance known as a “parrot’s beak.” In the most severe instances, a bridge connecting the vertebral bodies at the ventral level develops. Canine spondyloarthrosis is the term used when only a single osteophyte is seen in a vertebra.

While dealing with this kind of damage, it’s crucial to rule out other processes that also involve the growth of new bone while making a differential diagnosis. Vertebral tumours and spondylitis are examples of them. However, spondylosis can be distinguished from these other disorders with a straightforward radiographic evaluation.

Check out our post on elbow dysplasia in dogs to learn more about a different x-ray-detected canine ailment.

Treatment for canine spondylosis

There is no cure for spondylosis, which is a degenerative condition. Although the dog may frequently exhibit some signs of movement impairment, the modifications to the vertebrae typically don’t cause symptoms and don’t call for any special care.

It is crucial to start treating dogs with symptom management when they do exhibit spondylosis signs. This may involve using painkillers and managing neurological damage with other therapies. These individuals may receive the following treatment management:

Analgesia: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) like meloxicam or opioids like tramadol may be used, depending on the severity of the pain.

Surgical intervention: 

To decompress the nerve roots, surgery may occasionally be required.

Intervertebral joints are less likely to degenerate when nutrients are provided by chondroprotectors.

Acupuncture, laser therapy, and physiotherapy are all possible components of a rehabilitation program.

Dietary management: 

It’s crucial to control these animals’ food, particularly if they’re overweight or obese.

Our article on physical therapy for canine arthritis patients might help you learn more about potential symptom treatment strategies.

Canine Spondylosis Prevention

It’s challenging to stop canine spondylosis from developing. It is a degenerative condition that often develops with aging. There are various precautions that can be performed that could postpone its occurrence:


By maintaining a healthy weight throughout one’s life, one can prevent being overweight or obese and lessen the stress on their spine.


Steer clear of strenuous activities that could damage or injure your spine.


Maintaining a healthy warm-up and stretching regimen before and after physical exercise is vital for dogs engaging in canine sports or working dogs.

Regular examinations: 

to identify and address early any process that could lead to spinal stress or instability.


Image Credit:handicappedpets

the lifespan of canines with spondylosis

Spondylosis is a non-symptomatic process that typically occurs without symptoms. In advanced cases, nerve root compression can cause severe pain or neurological signs. Euthanasia may be a viable alternative for animal welfare. As a condition often occurs with advanced age, other age-related issues may affect the dog’s life expectancy. AnimalWised is not responsible for veterinary treatment or diagnosis, and it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for any conditions or pain in dogs.