Canine Spondylosis: The Many Faces Of Arthritis—Viva’s Story

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 of 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. These are 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.

Canine Spondylosis: The Many Faces Of Arthritis—Viva's Story

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!

The Many Faces Of Arthritis: Viva Has Spondylosis

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.

Related articles:
Talk to Me about Arthritis
When Modern Medicine Doesn’t Have the Answer

Categories: AcupunctureAlternative treatmentsArthritisConditionsReal-life StoriesTraditionad Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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