This is a common condition in older dogs and is an aging disease of the intervertebral discs. It is caused by the increase in bone spurs (osteophytes) forming on the spine which are attempting to restructure damaged discs and is most commonly found on T9-T10, L2-L4 and on an x-ray can show up as bridge formations on the underside of the vertebrae. If spondylosis continues to spread to other vertebrae there may be several bridges seen welded together causing the vertebrae to become less flexible.
As the Sharpey Fibres within the annulus (the outer layer of the vertebral disc) break down this results in the inner layer protruding through which then presses on the ligaments within the spinal column and bony spurs. It causes motor and sensory pain and from encircled tissue pressure exerted on the nerve. This can cause muscle weakness, loss of balance and gait irregularities.
It is often thought of as an inflammatory disease (spondylitis).
Symptoms of the disease include:
• Reduced flexibility
• Visible lumps on the spine
• Curved appearance of the spine
• Intolerance to be handled
• Crying or yelping especially when twisting
• Reluctance to sit
• Reduced awareness of hind legs
• Inability to jump or use stairs
• Lack of proprioception in the pelvic limb
Massage will help reduce stiffness especially from referred pain often found running caudally down the pelvic limb caused by nerve irritation. It will help with flexibility and mobility by massaging the surrounding tissues that are exerting pressure on the nerve and provide comfort and relief. Care should be taken in the areas of bone spurs (osteophytes).