Spondylosis deformans is a condition of the spine that frequently affects cats. It is a disease associated with old age, involving the degeneration of the disks between the vertebrae. Spondylosis deformans is also known as ankylosing spondylitis and as diskospondylosis.
The exact cause of feline spondylosis deformans remains unknown, but science does know that the instability of the disks of the spine lead to the spinal changes and bony spinal spurs which characterise the condition. In cats, the most commonly affected vertebrae are the thoracic vertebrae. It is believed that feline spondylosis deformans is sometimes linked to an over-intake of vitamin A, such as in cats eating a diet high in fresh liver. Studies do not indicate the likelihood of an inherited disorder.
Spondylosis deformans occurs more often in female cats than in males. A cat of any age can suffer from feline spondylosis deformans, but it is more common in middle-aged and older cats. There is no breed of cat that shows a higher risk of developing the condition.
Most cats suffering from feline spondylosis deformans are asymptomatic. In fact, 68 per cent of cats showing no symptoms had the condition to some extent. However, if the bone spurs put additional pressure on the spine, then the affected cat will show clinical signs of the condition. Signs include back pain, lameness and the atrophy of muscle.
If the animal shows clinical signs of feline spondylosis deformans, a veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, including an orthopaedic examination. X-rays of the spine reveal the formation of the bony spurs along the spine that characterise spondylosis. A joint fluid analysis test can tell the veterinarian whether she is dealing with feline spondylosis deformans or a different inflammatory disease.
Feline spondylosis deformans has no cure, and treatment options are limited. For many cats, no treatment is given at all because the condition will not cause serious spinal compression in most cases. If the veterinarian and owner do decide to administer treatment, this is in the form of anti-inflammatory drugs for the relief of pain. The veterinarian may perform surgery to relieve spinal cord compression if compression is present, but surgery is not usually done because any spinal bone spurs removed will grow back.
The condition is degenerative, and in severe cases can eventually result in severely impaired movement.