The things I have written here is partly based on the references found on our web-site, partly from my own experience as a a vet and a breeder.
To the cause - as I wrote in my article, it is hereditary , that has been proven by Marianne Langeland, and suggested in the other papers done in Germany and Switzerland). This means that if your dog developes spondylosis - it has hereditary predisposition. (A dog may develop calcification to heal a fracture or some other injury - but that is NOT spondylosis - and would usually only develop at the injured site)Spondylosis is even VERY hereditary! (More than Hip dysplasia in boxers in the studies I have seen) This is bad in one way - obviously - but also good news! Good news becasue it means that it is quite easy to get a good result after a few years of selecting against it!
Since it is a polygenic trait, selecting against it would require that whole litters be x-rayed, to see the status of the litter as a whole, and that the brood bitch and stud dog be evaluated for what they have produced - meaning as many offspring as possible have to be x-rayed, both show quality, pet and whites, since they are all the sire/dams offspring.
Then comes the more difficult part - to choose those who have produced the best, and the ones that should have more offspring than others, to better the situation.
Here in Norway, we are very lucky to have the wotks of Marianne Langeland, becuse they provided us with a status of the breed at that time. For about 10 years many boxers has had their backs x-rayed at the same time as the hips, and this provides us with a status fpr each year, and we can wacht to see if the trend changes.
Selecting the best breeding animals is at first finding those who are themselves better than or at the mean of the breed. After a few litters are born and x-rayed, the offspring are evaluated, and you can see if the group of offspring after this one sire or dam are better or worse than the breed - average.
To evaluate this more precisely - you have to choose an age to x-ray the dogs, since spondylosis gets worse as the animal gets older.
In our breeding program we have decided to x-ray the dogs at the age of 12-18 months (hip x-rays are done at 12 months or older in this country) because this is the age where you find about 50 % free from spondylosis, and 50 % have started to develop spondylosis in this country.
To choose the right breeding stock is not easy!
In most other contries, you don't know how much spondylosis you have in the breed, because no studies has been done. They do have studies done in Switzerland and Germany - but that is some years ago now, and the situation may have changed. And you can imagine how hard it is to choose the best breeding stock when you don't know the prevalence of the problem! You cannot say that all breeding stock has to be fre from spondylosis - there might not be any! You have to consider other hereditary traits as well, so that you don't substitue one problem with another!
So - as a little addendum - what to do to treat spondylosis when it occurs?
First of all - if the dog develops spondylosis - it is not your fault, you haven't been feeding it womething you shouldn't, excersised it in a wrong way or given it too much or too little of anything! There is only one thing that can speed up the development - and that is obesity! So if you have a dog with spondylosis - don't let it get fat! - So food and supplements should be the same as for any other dog.
Excersise - the recommendation is to give your dog a regular excersice schedule - let the playtime and walks be about the same every day - don't go for extra long walks on you r day off! In my personal experience, the dogs tolerated off - lead running and playing much better than running at a trot beside you while you run or ride a bike.
What to do when the conditon gets painful? Start with limiting the exercise for some time, painkillers that I have tried in my practice with good results are Rimadyl and Romefen. Some dogs have benefited from Cartrophen-injections (which are given once a week for four weeks, and can be repeated up to 4 times a year). As the pain wears off - STEADILY increase the excersise until you are back to normal!
The pain - killers could have other names in different countries.
Reprinted, with permission, from BML Post written by Cecilie StrÝmstad, Boxhaven Boxers, January 15, 1999
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