What Are the Treatments for Spondylosis in Dogs?

X-rays show the growth of bony spurs caused by spondylosis.
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Spondylosis, or Spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative condition that occurs due to progressive disc degeneration. Bone spurs, or osteophytes, form on the edges of spinal bones, typically in the bones of the chest and lower back, in response to spinal disc degeneration. While these spurs help to re-establish stability in the spine, they can restrict spinal movement or place pressure on nerve roots. Most dogs are symptom-free with spondylosis unless these restrictive events occur. In these cases, many treatment options are available.

Medication Management of Spondylosis

Pain often accompanies spondylosis and treatment includes non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. These help reduce inflammation and pain. Corticosteroids are another option to help reduce inflammation and swelling. If bone infections form due to the spurs, long-term antibiotics treat the infection. Glucosamine and MSM supplements are often recommended as well.

Therapy Treatments

Various therapy options help to keep your dog mobile and reduce pain. Massage, acupuncture and laser therapy are some of the available options. Laser therapy utilizes a focused red and infrared light to target inflamed tissue in the affected areas. Hydrotherapy utilizes the swimming pool to provide exercise without the stress on the spine. The warmth of the water increases blood supply to damaged and inflamed tissue of the spine and reduces stiffness.

Dietary and Household Considerations

Obesity is a contributing factor to disc degeneration and spondylosis. In many cases, your veterinarian will place your dog on a low-calorie weight loss diet to maintain a healthy body weight. Because movement may be reduced or altered, household changes help improve mobility. Ramps, carpeting for additional traction and padded dog mats are some options.

Surgical Intervention and Experimental Options

In cases where spinal nerve compression causes neurological symptoms or paralysis, surgical intervention is often necessary when medical treatment is unsuccessful. Specialized veterinary surgeons remove protruding disc material as well as spinal bone and bone spurs. Another experimental treatment option involves the administration of rubeola virus immunomodulator injections. RVI currently treats myofascial inflammation in horses, however, veterinarian Don Polley shows evidence of successful treatment of spondylosis in dogs.