Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Many Faces Of Arthritis: Viva Has Spondylosis

Spondylosis is a type of osteoarthritis that affects the spine. It is common in older dogs, although dogs with early stages of the disease will often show no symptoms. It is characteristic by abnormal bony growths, or osteophytes, around the  joints between vertebrae.

Osteophytes/bone spurs

Osteophytes are bony growths that form in response to damage to a  joint. They typically seen in advanced osteoarthritis and form as the joint unsuccessfully attempts to repair itself.

Osteophytes themselves are not painful but can lead to pain, stiffness, lameness, restricted mobility and muscle weakness when they are traumatized or interfere with a joint’s movement. As the disease progresses they can even fuse together, which further restricts spinal movement but may actually lead to a lessening of pain. If osteophytes press on nerves exiting the spinal canal in the lower back, hind end weakness, muscle wasting, incontinence and an inability to sense where and how the feet are placed can develop.

Spondylosis is typically treated with drugs to control pain and inflammation. Depending on the case, surgical treatment to remove the spurs and relieve pressure on nerves is available.

Often dogs can find relief with alternative treatments such as acupuncture and physical therapy.

Viva's Story

Viva is a five and a half years old Hovawart who has had her share of bad luck in life. Abandoned by her first family, she ended up in a local shelter. It didn't take long before she got adopted, only to get dumped in the shelter once again. She was overweight and generally in poor condition.

Fortunately she did find dedicated parents after all!

Among other issues, her new parents noticed her decreased mobility and other signs that Viva was in pain. If that was the case, it could also account for her reactive behavior.

After examining Viva, her vet found some evidence of back problems but didn't seem overly concerned with her gait, although she would move stiffly and drag her feet when walking. X-rays were taken and Viva was diagnosed with spondylosis affecting three joints in her lower back. To slow down the degeneration Viva was put on glucosamine and omega 3/6 supplement and the vet suggested treatment with pain medications and steroids. Her parents didn't like the sound of the potential side-effects of such treatment and decided to research alternative options.

Realizing that there indeed are a number of alternative treatments available, they booked a consultation with a holistic veterinarian who studied Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) in China and specializes in joint diseases.

Impressed by the thoroughness of the initial exam, they began seeing new hope for Viva. The exam started by taking Viva for a walk to observe her gait. During the walk her new vet noticed all the issues Viva's parents were seeing. After they returned to the exam room, the vet completed the physical examination. She also found that Viva's muscles were weak and not supporting her back properly.

The suggested acupuncture treatment and physical therapy sounded better than drugs and that's what Viva's parents decided to do.

Viva got her first acupuncture treatment that day and started an exercise program involving swimming, underwater treadmill and uphill walking.


Viva started to improve with just one acupuncture treatment! In a short time her mobility and agility increased, she is more playful now, and less reactive. If she continues to get better at this rate, her buddy Kenzo will soon have a hard time keeping up with her!

When Viva visited her regular vet this week, the vet's jaw dropped all the way to the floor. The difference in Viva since her last visit was remarkable!

Drugs are often not the only answer!


To read the whole Viva's story visit Kenzo the Hovawart blog.

Spondylosis in dogs
What are Osteophytes?

Related articles:
Talk To Me About Arthritis
Acupuncture Is Not Voodoo
When Modern Medicine Doesn't Have The Answer
Four Paws, Five Directions: The Theory Behind The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine
What To Expect During A Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Exam 
Healing You Dog With Food: More To Food Than Nutritional Value?  
Don't Forget The Physical Therapy
Underwater Treadmill


  1. I like how the regular vet never expected that kind of improvement. Yay for Viva and for finding alternative means of treatment. That's what you call a dedicated parent. =] Miss Viva is a very lucky puppy indeed.
    And as much as I feel that she is very lucky to have found her family, I feel that her family is also very lucky to have found her. She seems like such a wonderful young lady.

  2. Flexicose for dogs is probably one of the safest liquid glucosamine treatments for our pets arthritis symptoms. Our pets can suffer from arthritis just like we do.

  3. Not familiar with this one, but we are using a liquid form also.