Dog Training

Spondylosis in dogs (What you can do about it)

What kind of disease is spondylosis, what are the signs and what you can do about it, you can learn here. In addition, for this article we have obtained advice from the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic.

Boxer spondylosis
Table of contents

Spondylosis in dogs is a disease of the spine. 

This brings significant restrictions in movement and severe pain. So that your veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis and contain the consequences of the condition, early treatment is crucial.

What is spondylosis?

Medicine describes spondylosis as a pathological change in the spine that occurs due to severe wear and tear. The consequences are restrictions in movement, irritation of the nerves, severe pain and stiffness. 

The signs of wear and tear that occur are possible throughout the spine. Nevertheless, they occur preferentially in the area of the lumbar vertebrae. 

The disease usually progresses in episodes and becomes evident when the dog moves abnormally and finds it difficult or impossible to perform certain activities.

Structure of the spine


To understand the course of a pathological process in the skeleton, I would like to briefly describe the structure of the spine.

The spine is there to provide good mobility and ensure the stability of the body. It consists of several individual vertebrae. The section between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae is composed of 27 independent vertebral segments. 

In addition, there are three contiguous vertebrae in the sacrum and up to 20 caudal vertebrae depending on the breed of dog. Each individual vertebra consists of a vertebral body, a vertebral arch, a spinous process, two transverse processes and four articular processes. 

The composition of the different sections of the spine is adapted to their function. To keep it stable, there are ligaments and muscles at the spinous and transverse processes. The vertebrae from the neck down must be less mobile but able to withstand more stress and are therefore significantly larger than the others.

Intervertebral discs & vertebral bodies

The intervertebral discs sit between the individual vertebrae. These connect them to each other, serve as shock absorbers and ensure supple and painless mobility. The top two cervical vertebrae and the fused vertebra of the sacrum and coccyx do not have an intervertebral disc. 

An important part of a vortex are the  Vertebral body. Together with the intervertebral discs between them, they bear a large part of the weight. The surrounding muscles have a supporting and stabilizing effect. The vertebral arches are located on the vertebral bodies. 

Within an arch and the back of the vertebral body lies the vertebral hole. The vertebral holes of the individual vertebrae form the spinal canal, in which the spinal cord is located.

If the spine is exposed to unusual loads, its parts wear out. In the process, it changes shape and restricts its function. The body tries to counteract the deficiency by developing bony structures on the vertebrae to provide support.

This increases the size of the actual bone structure, and variously strong and pointed bone formations develop at the edge of the vertebral bodies. These prongs bear the designation Spondylophytes and affect the function of the vertebra. Thus, they affect the normal function of the muscles. 


The causes for the development of spondylosis are manifold. Possible is a congenital weakness of the supporting tissue. As a result, the loads on the skeleton are poorly cushioned and the bones take damage over time.

In addition to the genetic cause, however, there are also avoidable mistakes when keeping a dog. 

To name a few: Overweight, poor posture and wear and tear of the musculoskeletal system, especially intervertebral discs and vertebrae.

Overloading of the skeleton already occurs through excessive play and to high sporting demands on the dog. Strong oscillating movements such as with Agility exercises or high ball throw and catch damage the spine in the long run. 

From a development of spondylosis are predominantly large and heavy quadrupeds affected. The reason for this is the physical stress on the bones. Among them, for example, boxer, Labrador and St. Bernard. 

Damage to the spine also occurs in dogs with long backs such as Dachshunds. The back is too long in proportion to the skeleton, resulting in overloading of the spine.



At the beginning of the condition, it is often the small signs that indicate it:

  • Difficult to get up after lying down 
  • Sitting for longer periods is difficult 
  • Pain in different areas 
  • Uneven walking movements 
  • Restriction during jumps and other fast movements 
If the disease worsens, the pain also worsens and the freedom of movement becomes increasingly restricted. As a result, serious sequelae may occur:

  • Paralysis of the head and limbs
  • Problems lifting the leg in males 
  • Hanging tail 
  • Stiffening in the musculoskeletal system 
  • Grinding gait 
  • Problem moving the head or neck 
  • Getting up from the lying position only with help
  • Difficult to climb stairs
  • Wear of ligaments and intervertebral discs 
  • Herniated disc 
  • Increasing stabbing pain 
  • Twitching and beeping when touching the back 
  • Curving of the back when touched 
  • Gentle posture 
  • Frequent standing or lying down during long periods of exercise or walking

As a rule, spondylosis occurs in episodes. In the resting phases, your furry nose seems healthy and the pain is kept within limits. This behavior makes it difficult to recognize the disease in time, especially at the beginning of the disease.

As the disease progresses, not only do the symptoms intensify, but there is often a Osteoarthritis of the bones to it, so that the pain is aggravated.

The dog feels predominantly stabbing and pulling pain in the musculoskeletal system at Area of the cervical or lumbar spine and neck. 

The pain often radiates to the back and limbs

The diseased areas cause a tingling and numb sensation. 

The symptoms change depending on the weather conditions. While they become weaker in dry warm weather, they intensify significantly in wet and cold weather.

The visit to the vet brings information

During the examination of the dog by a good veterinarian, the general condition and the symptoms of the disease are in the foreground. The doctor will ask you about the posture of your favorite, about his movements and the recognizable limitations. 

A thorough palpation gives first information about the changes of the bones, the joints and the muscles. To obtain a real certainty about the clinical picture, your veterinarian will X-rays make

Various treatments possible

From a medical point of view, spondylosis is not curable. 

Your protégé keeps the ossifications on the vertebrae throughout his life and has to cope with them. The right treatment will help him to do so.

The purpose is to contain the symptoms and progression of spondylosis, as well as to prevent inflammation and disc herniation from occurring.

The most important thing is to maintain the quality of life of your protégé:

  • For severe pain that occurs, the veterinarian prescribes medication 
  • Regular pain and physiotherapies as well as magnetic field therapies can noticeably reduce the complaints 
  • Special movement exercises can train the pelvic and thigh muscles of the dog and prevent atrophy 
  • Massages loosen the tense muscles 
  • An acupuncture can relieve the pain 

What does naturopathy say?

Naturopathy advises for spondylosis and Osteoarthritis also to the Physiotherapy and Massage to facilitate the skeleton and muscles. Especially Underwater massages are relieving for the body. The Acupuncture from traditional Chinese medicine is said to relieve pain. It is also said to reduce irritation of the nerves and provide improved mobility.

Furthermore help natural Means against pain and inflammations. Application find for example Devil's claw, fish or vegetable oils, green-lipped mussel extract and frankincense extract. 

You should keep in mind that even natural remedies must be administered in a controlled manner by a doctor or a professional healer. It is important that the treatment is carried out by a professional and is precisely tailored to the ailment of your darling.

How to help your dog

give paw

By keeping your furbearer appropriately, you can help him feel comfortable despite spondylosis:

  • Uniform and controlled movements are important 
  • Daily activities are adapted to the disease 
  • Abrupt braking, jerky movement, heavy landing on hard floors, high jumps and climbing stairs are to be avoided 
  • Body weight should have an ideal measure. Every gram that is too much stresses the damaged bones and muscles of your pet
  • A sensible diet positively affects the negative course of the disease and the wear of the bones 
  • Swimming, steady running, and walks on natural surfaces keep muscles supple and strong 
  • Daily small gymnastics exercises help build muscles, relieve pain and restrictions on movement 
  • In order to protect the cervical spine, you can make it easier for your dog to bend over by raising the water and food bowls. 
  • In mild cases, irradiation with red light can help
  • Use a chest harness as a leash. This way you avoid extra pressure on the neck and neck area.

Recommendation from the vet

By not overtaxing your pet physically and by recognizing unusual movements or pain behavior in time, you can prevent spondylosis or its progression. In this way, your faithful companion retains his quality of life.

A visit to the doctor is indispensable to identify the stage of the disease and take the right measures.

Even though spondylosis is not completely curable: Your veterinarian will be able to help with a proper diagnosis and specially tailored treatment. This will ensure a full and long life, in which you and your darling will still have a lot of fun.

At first, the change might irritate your pet a bit, but he will get used to it and quickly notice that he is better off this way. Here are da patience and calmness required, which will also prove themselves in a short time.

Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion and it is my personal concern to create medically accurate articles and videos to inform pet owners as much as possible.

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