What is Spondylosis in dogs?

Spondylosis is a term used for arthritis affecting the vertebral column. It relates to degenerative changes and narrowing of the intervertebral discs leading to the formation of bone spurs at the joint margins and arthritic changes of the tiny stabilising joints located between adjacent vertebrae, known as facet joints. In dogs this most commonly happens along the thoracic vertebrae (chest region), especially at the connection between the rib cage and the abdomen, in the lumbar spine (lower back) and in the lumbosacral spine (around the hips and back legs).

What causes Spondylosis?

  • Spondylosis is often caused through repetitive pressure on the same joints or bones as through certain exercise or other activities.
  • Major trauma where the body responds by attempting to grow new bone i.e. bone spurs develop to re-establish the stability of the weakened joint or joints.
  • Inherited predisposition to spurs
  • Often develops as a secondary problem related to degenerative disease of the intervertebral discs

What are the symptoms of canine Spondylosis?

Often there are no symptoms as it depends on where the bony spurs grow. If they press on nerve roots they cause shooting pain, tingling, pins and needles, numbness and muscle weakness in the muscles supplied by the affected nerve and can show as lameness in dogs. In some cases the bony spurs can press on the spinal cord itself causing bilateral symptoms and loss of bladder or bowel control.

If the spurs grow in places that impede movement the main symptom is slow, painless but irreversible stiffening of the spine, restricted movement and rotation and sensitivity to touch. You may also be able to feel growths along the spine.

How can Clinical canine massage help Spondylosis?

I always apply caution when dealing with this condition, especially if signs of nerve impingement are present. I would always seek consent and clear direction from your vet before carrying out any massage treatment. Often this condition has no symptoms or no pain just stiffness and this is where massage can be extremely helpful by easing the muscles of the back and hind legs helping mobility and flexibility and soothing the dog.