Spondylosis in Senior Dogs

by Britt

As our dogs age and enter their golden years, there are many health-related conditions that they may experience.

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Most dog owners are familiar with the more common situations like loss of vision and hearing or the development of arthritis. But one risk that fewer dog owners have heard of is spondylosis. What is spondylosis in senior dogs, and can it be prevented? Let’s learn a little about this often-overlooked condition.

What is Spondylosis?

Spondylosis is a condition that occurs when the vertebral bones of a dog’s spine deteriorate naturally over time and bony spurs develop along the edges of the bones. These are the bones in your dog’s spinal column. Deterioration can be from normal wear and tear with age, or it may have started because of a previous spinal injury.

In some cases, the bone spurs grow large enough that they meet up with a second spur causing a condition known as “Bridging Spondylosis”.

While Spondylosis is most common in larger senior dogs, it can also be seen in middle-aged dogs or breeds of any size. Research shows that it is a common condition specifically in Boxers, indicating that there are some breeds that may have a genetic predisposition for developing Spondylosis.

Symptoms of Spondylosis

Recognizing and identifying Spondylosis is incredibly difficult because most dogs won’t display any symptoms. Instead, the condition is usually found “accidentally” while running x-rays and other testing for unrelated health conditions. For example, an x-ray may be taken to identify an intestinal blockage and reveal the bone spurs.

In some cases, the bone spurs will grow in a way that limits normal movement of a dog’s spine. This leads to a change in the way that a dog moves and walks. They become stiff and rigid in their movements rather than moving freely as they normally would. They may also have difficulty with movements like jumping, rolling over, or even getting up to their feet after they have been lying down.

Occasionally a bone spur will form near a nerve, putting pressure on it. When this happens, it causes significant pain resulting in whining, crying, pacing, tenderness, or avoidance to keep from being touched. 

If you notice any changes in your senior dog’s movement, contact your veterinarian, and explain your concerns. They will be able to run tests and work with you to find the cause.

How Long Do Dogs Live with Spondylosis?

Treatment will depend on the severity of your dog’s Spondylosis and is focused on addressing the symptoms rather than treating the condition itself.

Your veterinarian may not recommend any medicinal treatment if your dog is currently showing no signs of pain. For painful cases of Spondylosis, anti-inflammatory medications or pain medications may be prescribed. Surgery may be needed in the rare cases where the bone spurs are directly impacting the spinal cord.

In addition to medical treatment, there are steps that you can take to manage your dog’s condition. Weight management is important to minimize the pressure being put on the spine. This includes careful monitoring of your dog’s diet as well as regular physical exercise. Avoid high-impact exercise programs that could put unnecessary strain on your dog’s body.

Changes around the home may be necessary to keep your senior dog comfortable, especially if their mobility has changed. If your dog is struggling to navigate stairs, consider using a ramp. Ramps can also be used to make it easier for your dog to get up on the couch or the bed for cuddles. 


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

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