Spine Degeneration in Cats

Spondylosis Deformans in Cats

Characterized by the production of bone spurs along the bottom, sides, and upper aspects of the vertebrae of the spine, spondylosis deformans is a degenerative, noninflammatory condition of the spinal column. The bone spurs are simply projected growths of bone, usually grown in response to aging, or injury. In cats, spondylosis deformans tends to occur more often in the vertebrae of the chest.

Symptoms and Types

  • Patients are typically asymptomatic; bone growth can usually be felt by touch before you will notice any behavioral changes in your cat as a result of the growth
  • Pain may follow fracture of bony spurs or bridges
  • Stiffness
  • Restricted motion
  • Pain



  • Repeated microtrauma – repetitive pressure on the same joints, or bones, as through certain exercises or other activities
  • Major trauma – the body responds by attempting to grow new bone
  • Inherited predisposition to spurs


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your cat, including a biochemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel, in order to rule out or confirm other diseases, like cancer. You will need to give a thorough history of your cat's health, including a background health history, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.

X-ray images of the chest and abdomen (side view) are essential for diagnosing spondylosis deformans.  X-rays will reveal osteophytes (small, bony growths) on the vertebrae, or in more advanced cases an osteophyte may be found as a bridge in the space between the vertebrae.

Your doctor may choose from several other types of tests in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion. A myelography, which uses injection of a radiopaque substance for internal imaging; computed tomography (CT); or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They can assist your veterinarian in finding where a bony spur might be pressing on your cat's spinal cord or nerves (causing neurological reactions).


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