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Dogs who suffer Spondylitis are often in great pain. Arthritic conditions, such as Spondylitis, rank high on the list of reasons why dog's visit their veterinarian.

DEFINITION
Spondylitis is defined as a degenerative condition in one or more joints of the spinal column. Repeated stress on joints in active dogs and hereditary factors are the two main causes of this disorder. Spondylitis can also be caused and advanced through high levels of stress, poor nutrition, environmental factors, immune system imbalances and lack of exercise.

SYMPTOMS
STIFFNESS in joints often presents itself in large breed dogs. Those have had a particularly hard time rising after resting or can no longer climb stairs or short inclines, often suffer stiffness in joint areas.

SWELLING in and around joints is a common symptom of Spondylitis. Any puffiness or redness around hip or spinal areas is cause for concern, and should be addressed immediately.

PAIN is the most common symptom with this disorder. Dogs who wince when rising, walking or playing are most likely suffering a fair amount of pain.

HELP YOUR DOG
Though Spondylitis is a degenerative disorder that commonly gets worse with age and time, there are many things you can do to help newly diagnosed dogs. Early treatment is key, and can actually lessen the amount of suffering your dog will endure in the future. With therapy and treatment, many dogs never progress past the early stages of Spondylitis.

SHED THE POUNDS
Dogs who are overweight are considerably more likely to suffer pain than trimmer animals. Added weight puts stress and pressure on already tender joints and the spinal column. Helping your dog shed a few pounds is one of the easiest ways to reverse symptoms of Spondylitis. You can aid your pet in shedding pounds by cutting back on treats and table scraps, and by feeding him a low-fat, high-fiber food.

TAKE HIM TO THE GYM
Regular exercise is vital to controlling the progression of Spondylitis. Vets recommend taking dogs on a 20-minutes walk several times a day. Never push your animal. If 20-minutes is too hard for your pet to handle, try shorter, slower walks to build up his strength. Never overdo it!

TRY WATER
Water therapy has been used to treat dogs with Spondylitis in recent years and offers up some promising results. Because swimming puts almost no stress on your animal's joints or spine, this form of exercise will allow him to build up muscle mass around the spine, which will, in time, ease his pain. Ponds and lakes with little or no waves are perfect for medium and large breed dogs. Smaller dogs can swim in a bathtub or sink.

WARM HIM UP
Often, a little moist heat, applied directly over the spine, can be a great comfort. Hot water bottles filled with warm water and warm, wet towels can successfully treat mild to moderate joint pain. Try moist heat twice a day for 15-minutes at a time.

TRY A MASSAGE
You can gently knead the sore areas on your dog's back with small, circular motions. After a few days, gradually extend the massage until you've gone beyond rubbing the painful joints. Not all dogs will take to a massage, but those that do, relax and enjoy the benefits almost immediately.

MOVE HIM INSIDE
If you have an outside dog suffering Spondylitis, consider moving him indoors at night. Cold, damp conditions cause your pet to suffer needlessly. If that's not possible, consider purchasing a heated dog bed. Most are sized to fit conveniently in doghouses and cages.

GIVE HIM A BED
Dogs that sleep on hard surfaces, usually suffer most. Consider making or purchasing a soft, warm bed for your pet. There are many specialized pet beds on the market geared toward dogs in pain.

MOVE HIS DINNER
If your pet has a stiff neck or spine, bending over to eat out of bowls on the ground can be painful. Try raising his food and water off the floor, so he doesn't have to move his head much at mealtimes. You can purchase pet-bowl stands in almost any pet store or make your own, by raising food on to blocks of wood or a cardboard box.

HELP HIM CLIMB
Dogs with advanced Spondylitis have difficulty climbing. That doesn't mean he wants to be left at home or outside, though. You can help your pet climb by slinging a towel beneath his belly and lifting him as he steps. Special ramps and dog stairs can be used to lift your pet into a vehicle or home, as well.

ASPIRIN
Giving your dog buffered aspirin can help ease pain tremendously. Experts recommend giving one-quarter of a 325-milligram tablet per 10 pounds of weight. To prevent stomach upset and irritation, always used buffered aspirin and administer only at mealtimes.

TRY A SWEATER
In chilly, winter months, dress your dog in a warm coat or sweater when venturing outdoors. This will help to keep his joints warm and prevent painful, stiff joints come morning.