Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.  

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Provet is conducting a Survey on Spondylosis, so if you have seen a clinical case please spend a few minutes completing our Survey. Thank YOU. SPONDYLOSIS SURVEY

Spondylosis deformans (also called ankylosing spondylitis, or diskospondylosis*)  is a generalised disease of ageing secondary to the degeneration of intervertebral disks which lie between the vertebrae in the spine. 

*NB The terms spondylitis or diskospondylitis should not be used to describe this specific condition as it is not an inflammatory disease  Inflammatory causes of disk disease do also occur in humans as well as  dogs and cats. See diskospondylitis

The precise cause of spondylosis is not understood, but it is a non-inflammatory disease ,  the spinal changes that occur in spondylosis are a response to instability in the intervertebral disk spaces of the spinal column.

Mapping of the canine genome is well under way and if there is a gene that is responsible for the occurrence of spondylosis it may be identifiable, however the condition it is unlikely to be a simple inherited problem.

Too much vitamin A intake has been implicated in some cases of spondylosis in cats (this is usually due to feeding a lot of fresh liver) - and Provet is conducting an investigating into the possibility of such a relationship in dogs.

Breed Occurrence
Spondylosis occurs at all ages but increases in incidence in older animals. Although many reports suggest that spondylosis occurs more frequently in some breeds such Boxers and large breeds of dog, this has recently been disputed, and in fact it is now thought that "all dogs and cats , regardless of breed or sex, will develop a degree of spondylosis if they live long enough".

Spondylosis is often present in animals without causing any clinical signs. If an animal shows signs they are due to pressure of the new bone on spinal nerves, or on the spinal cord itself.

Complications of the disease can occur if spinal nerve compression leads  impaired neurological function.

On XRays of the back spondylosis  is characterised by the formation of new bone (osteophytes or spurs) around the affected disk, and occasionally complete bridges can form causing stability across the disk space.


Bone (S) bridging the spine of an old dog with spondylosis

Treatment is given to alleviate symptoms when they do occur eg for pain relief. There is no generally accepted satisfactory surgical treatment. If the new bone is removed it simply reforms.

The prognosis is guarded because the disease cannot be totally treated.

Long term problems
Total ankylosis of the spinal column can result in the worst affected cases. This can lead to an abnormal gait and difficulty negotiating stairs, jumping and other activities in which movement of the spine is important.


Updated September 2014