What are Spondylosis Deformans?
Although there is still debate as to whether this disease causes vertebral pain in dogs if you are concerned your pet may be affected by this disease, contact your veterinarian to discuss symptoms and concerns. As there are a range of spinal conditions that can deteriorate quickly causing permanent damage, prompt diagnosis and treatment is vital.
Spondylosis deformans is a non-infectious condition of the spine that is commonly found during spinal investigations of older animals presented for other conditions. In many cases this condition causes no symptoms, however very rarely, spinal hyperesthesia may be seen. Although the pathology is not always clear it is often considered a degenerative disease.
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Symptoms of Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs
Dogs affected by this condition often show no clinical signs, however in some cases due to the extension of the bony prominences that compress nerves, pain and limb dysfunction may be seen.
Due to the advanced age of onset, there is debate as to whether reduced hind-limb movement that some dogs present with is caused by the spondylosis deformans or is coincidental due to the presenting patients being geriatric. In rare cases of this disease pets may suffer from spinal hyperesthesia.
- Vocalization of pain
- Change in flexibility
Causes of Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs
Although this condition can affect younger dogs it is most commonly seen in geriatric dogs, with up to 70% of dogs over 9 years old thought to be affected. There appears to be no sex bias as both males and females are affected, however Boxers are thought to be more commonly affected than other breeds.
This condition is caused by the formation of bony projections along the vertebrae of the spine, although the cause is often not identified. Damage to the intervertebral discs, particularly the annulus fibrosis, caused by chronic mild vertebral instability may be suspected. These bony projections can vary in size from a few millimeters between the disc and vertebra to large, bony bridges. Although these typically do not affect the spinal cord, in some cases, the bone extends and nerve impingement may occur, causing pain and limb dysfunction.
Diagnosis of Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs
Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet, making sure to pay careful attention to gait and the spine. As there is no treatment for this disorder, a diagnosis will allow your veterinarian to rule out other conditions that may require treatment including:
- Spinal disorders such as fracture or disc disease
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Neoplasia of the central nervous system
- Bacterial or fungal intervertebral disc infection
In order to provide a differential diagnosis your veterinarian will perform radiographs of your dog’s thoracic and lumbar spine; these images will show spondylotic spurs along the ventral aspect of the vertebrae. These radiographs may also show other conditions that may be contributing to any symptoms your pet may be experiencing.
Your veterinarian may also use myelography or computed tomography to visualize the spinal cord and determine if a bony spur may be causing a nerve compression and causing pain or neurological reactions.
Treatment of Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs
There are limited treatment options for this condition, however, if nerve impingement is found during diagnostic testing surgical removal may be necessary. Hemilaminectomy may be used to remove a part of the vertebra and/or foraminotomy may be performed to increase the foramen of the spinal canal, decompressing the nerve.
Recovery of Spondylosis Deformans in Dogs
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder, although your dog should be able to maintain good life quality with this condition. If needed, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relief for your pet. If long-term use is indicated for analgesic management regular blood tests may be needed to monitor renal and hepatic tolerance to the medication.
If your pet required surgical treatment to decompress the nerve, careful monitoring during recovery is needed. Your pet should be provided with a warm, quiet space to recover and offered highly palatable food. Discuss the care plan with your veterinarian.
As this condition often affects aged dogs who may be suffering from other degenerative disorders that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis, supportive measures may be put in place to support your pet. These include:
- A diet that provides an optimal balance of essential fatty acids which have been proven to reduce inflammation and reduce the need for pain relief in pets
- Soft bedding and safe, quiet place for your pet during inactivity
- Complimentary therapies such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physiotherapy and whirlpool baths which increase circulation
- Gentle exercise
Ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight, extra weight can cause excessive stress on the body, increasing pain. If your pet is overweight discuss a nutrition plan with your veterinarian.