Posted by: christopher


There are a variety of spinal problems common in dogs that may be misdiagnosed as dog arthritis. Making the right call on diagnosis is important to ensure proper treatment.

If you’ve noticed that your dog seems a little stiff when getting up after a nap, or just isn’t getting around as well as he once did, it’s understandable that dog arthritis may be your first thought.

The truth however, is that what your dog may really have is a spinal problem. Many spinal conditions common to dogs will cause symptoms similar to arthritis. Getting the diagnosis right is important, because dog arthritis treatment can be very different to that for spinal problems.

Many of the areas of the back that are prone to arthritis are also prone to spinal problems. Some of these problems include

  • Lumbrosacral disease, an instability or disk problem in the lower spine which puts pressure on the nerves and spinal cord;
  • Spondylosis, a degenerative condition of (mostly) older dogs. It can be more a symptom of other problems than a disease in itself.
  • Intevertebral disc degeneration that causes the discs in the spine to deteriorate and rupture, and
  • Wobbler’s syndrome, a misalignment of vertebrae in the neck that will compress the spinal cord, causing dogs to have an unstable gait.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) involves changes in the cartilage at the ends of the vertebra.

Dogs suffering from these spinal conditions will show a lot of the same symptoms as dogs suffering from arthritis. They’ll move a lot slower, may be lame or hobble, or have difficulty getting up. Some will lose their appetite, become short-tempered and may be prone to having frequent accidents.

Making The Right Call

To determine if your dog is suffering from dog arthritis or a spinal disorder, your veterinarian will  do several lengthy neurological examinations. One quick test that you can do that will point to whether your dog has arthritis or another problem is called ‘proprioception’.

In proprioception, you’ll hold your dog under his hind legs so that you’re supporting most of his weight. You’ll then place his foot on the floor in a way that places his weight on the top of his foot instead of the pad. This is called ‘knuckling’. If your dog holds that position for a few seconds without complaint, then his condition isn’t likely to be arthritis, but rather a more serious spinal problem as he is not feeling his foot properly.

Spinal problems can cut short your pet’s life and greatly diminish his quality of life.

If your dog has a spinal problem rather than arthritis, early diagnosis can make a profound difference, so seek professional advice should warning signs appear.

There’s much professional discussion about how to properly treat spinal problems, but multi-modal treatments including steroids to reduce inflammation; muscle relaxants and painkillers have also been found to be effective.

With a proper diagnosis, your vet can prescribe the best treatment for your dog’s condition, whether it’s dog arthritis or a spinal problem.

Watch the video on: Dog Arthritis or Spinal Trouble

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