Spondylosis in dogs

Spondylosis (Spondylosis deformans) is a disease of the spine, which is especially common in older dogs. It occurs mostly insidiously and is noticed only in the advanced stage.

Origin of the disease

Spondylosis is caused by degenerative changes (not inflammation) in the spine. It is a pathological change (calcification) in the spine, usually caused by wear and tear. Bony growths form in the form of beak formation, spur formation, marginal bulge formation and bone braces. In most cases, the deformities occur on the ventral (=abdominal) side of the vertebral body. The ossifications can occur in principle everywhere at the spinal column. However, the lumbar spine is most frequently affected.

Perhaps you are now wondering how these spine deformities develop?

The spine of the dog is very mobile in the neck and lumbar region. In comparison, the thoracic and sacral vertebrae tend to be stiff. Exactly these places, i.e. the transition from the cervical spine to the thoracic spine, from the thoracic spine to the lumbar spine and from the lumbar spine to the sacral spine, are the "weak points" of the dog's spine. This is where the pathological "remodeling processes" occur most frequently. The body makes sure that the "weak points" are stabilized and that the acting forces are damped by the bony growths.

Spondylosis is divided into four degrees. Grade 1 to grade 3 is painless and usually goes unnoticed. Only in grade 4, when the ends of the individual bony formations touch each other, acute, usually high-grade pain occurs. If the bone formations of the individual adjacent vertebrae connect with each other, the spinal column stiffens.

Symptoms of spondylosis

Many dogs live unnoticed with spondylosis for many years. Only in the advanced course most dogs show the following symptoms:




  • Reluctance to move, stiff gait
  • Stair climbing is refused
  • Reluctance to jump into the car
  • Sensitive to touch in the lumbar region, sometimes with aggressive defensive reactions
  • Pain
  • Pain when stretching the hind limbs
  • The tail hangs limply
  • Gnawing of the skin in the affected areas
  • Lameness of the hind limbs (unilateral or bilateral)
  • Urinary or fecal disorders



Spondylosis cannot be cured. However, the course can be slowed down or the emergence can be counteracted preventively. In an acute phase with severe pain, the vet can help classically with a painkiller.

Also turn to a physiotherapy for dogs. This way you can support your dog in the best possible way. Treatments such as massage, heat therapy, manual therapy, underwater treadmill, acupuncture, passive and active exercise and laser therapy will relieve your dog's pain and strengthen his muscles. Some therapists also lend Tens or laser devices for a fee.

What you can do for your dog?

Line slippery floors with rugs, don't let your dog jump in the car or on the sofa, avoid games and sports with abrupt turns and stops, and make sure your dog doesn't pull on the leash.

Exercises to do at home that you can also use preventively.

You probably own a hot water bottle or a red light lamp. You can use these super to relax the muscles. Massage your dog. Almost all dogs love a gentle, relaxing massage. You can massage your dog with your hands or with a soft brush. If necessary, ask your animal physiotherapist to show you how to massage your dog.

With isometric exercises you can train your dog's muscles without moving them. By applying gentle pressure you can achieve this easily and effectively.

Active movement exercises not only have a good therapeutic effect. They are also incredibly fun for both dog and human. You do not need professional equipment for this. Simply use your household objects, such as brooms, mattresses and so on. or branches and what else the forest has to offer you. Have your dog run over the poles or stand with his forelimbs or all four limbs on a mattress or balance board.

Perform simple exercises that relax your dog's spine. Exercises in which your dog has to follow your hand with a treat are excellent for this purpose. This way you can set the pace and ensure that the movements are not carried out in a hectic manner. For example, a simple and popular exercise is the sit-to-stand exercise.
Make sure there is no slippery surface for the active movement exercises. Practice in small sessions and don't overload your dog.

Take advantage of the summer and go swimming with your dog. This builds up the muscles optimally and is strengthened. The stronger the musculature of your dog is, the better the spine is relieved.




Make sure that your dog is not overweight. Every gram too much puts additional strain on the musculoskeletal system. If necessary, get advice on how to reduce the weight of your dog. A tip from me: Look closely at the composition of your dog treats. Not infrequently sugar is hidden here, which easily leads to overweight.


You now know how insidiously spondylosis can develop. Therefore, pay close attention to the gait of your dog. The sooner you support your dog with simple measures, the longer he will be free of pain and can lead a happy dog life. Be patient, only by sticking to it for a long time you can achieve good success. Do not overload your dog. Small exercise sessions are the most effective. You will notice how much fun your dog has when he is allowed to work with you.

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