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Why Do Dogs Get Bone Spurs?

Why Do Dogs Get Bone Spurs? If you are wondering why dogs get bone spurs, most likely you recently saw the vet and the vet noticed the presence of a bone spur on an x-ray. While you cannot detect the presence of a bone spur until you get x-rays done, most likely your dog may have been showing signs of pain, and perhaps even lameness if the joint of a leg is affected. Bone spurs are not that uncommon; they show up in humans too and also in other animals.

Bone spurs in dogs

Bone spurs in dogs are often noticed on x-rays.

What are They?

Medically known as "osteophytes," bone spurs are simply bony projections that are commonly found along joints. These overgrowths of bone are present in areas of inflammation. It's the actual inflammation that stimulates the cells, responsible for forming bone, to deposit bone in the inflamed area. Because bone spurs aren't cushioned by cartilage, they may rub against nearby bones, tissues or nerves, possibly causing pain. However, not always a dog with bone spurs is in pain; indeed, it's not unusual for a vet to discover them when getting x-rays for another problem.

A Matter of Aging

In many cases, bone spurs are seen in older dogs as a result of aging. As dogs age, the wear and tear over the years causes inflammation which can lead to damage to the joints and spine. When the dog's joints develop arthritis, their surface area gets damaged. Bony protrusions form and interfere with the dog's mobility and sometimes cause pain. It's important to recognize that bone spurs don't cause arthritis but their presence is a symptom of it as they form secondarily to the degeneration associated with arthritis. Bone spurs can be found on the dog's leg joints, including feet and also on the spine.

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When bone spurs form on the spine, they may be a sign of a condition known as spondylosis deformans. In this condition, the vertebral bones in the dog's spine develop bone spurs along the edges as a result of chronic instability. More commonly, the vertebrae by the dog's chest and lower back are affected. According to VCA Animal Hospital, this chronic condition is associated with aging and is often seen in dogs over the age of 10 who already have some level of degenerative disease of the intervertebral discs.

Dog bone spurs

Bone spurs are sometimes found in athletic dogs.

Effect of Injuries

As seen, bone spurs tend to form on sites of inflammation in elderly dogs, but they also tend to form in areas of previous injuries. They are not uncommon in athletic dogs who have a history of suffering from repetitive or long standing injuries. For instance, after a dog tears his anterior cruciate ligament, a bony protrusion may form in the knee joint, secondary to the instability.

Nature's Way of Repairing

Sure, bone spurs in dogs form with aging and when there's an instability in a joint, but why do they form in the first place? According to board-certified veterinary surgeon R.D. Montgomery, it's likely a matter of the body trying to repair itself. He explains that it's been speculated that when a joint results unstable, the body tries to fix it by increasing the size of the joint in hopes of increasing stability. Bone spurs start to form as early as 3 days after the instability of a joint occurs and can be seen on x-rays within 28 days. While it may be a way for the body to try to strengthen weakened areas, bone spurs often end up having a negative effect on the body, hindering movement and sometimes causing pain.

A Chronic Ordeal

Bone spurs unfortunately do not repair themselves. Dogs with bone spurs are often prescribed pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Nutraceutical supplements such as Cosequin, Dasuquin and GlycoFlex are often recommended by vets. Adequan injections and therapeutic options such as physical therapy and acupuncture may be viable options. Surgery may be performed to remove the spurs, but they unfortunately tend to re-occur, explains veterinarian Dr. Drew.  If you suspect your dog has a bone spur or some joint problem, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Did you know? When a bony protrusion forms on a bone it's called an osteophyte, but when mineralization forms on a tendon or ligament it's known as an enthesiophyte.

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