Tag: scoliosis in animals

Do Animals Get Scoliosis?

At the UK Scoliosis Clinic we focus on the non-surgical treatment of Scoliosis … in humans! But one of the most common questions we hear (especially from some of our younger patients!) is “Do animals get scoliosis too?” The short answer is yes, they do – and while we’re not Veterinarians here, it is both useful and interesting to take a look at Scoliosis in animals and why it matters.


What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis, in case you’re not aware, is, a medical condition characterised by an abnormal curvature of the spine, everyone’s spine has a normal “backwards and forwards” curve which is important for absorbing shocks and carrying the weight of the body, however in Scoliosis the spine also curves “from side to side” which can lead to problems. Scoliosis is observed in and associated with humans – however, while our understanding of this condition in animals may not be as extensive as it is in humans, there is evidence to suggest that various species can indeed experience spinal conditions including Scoliosis.


Scoliosis in Humans vs. Animals

Human scoliosis is well-documented and (thanks to more prevalent screening) can now often be diagnosed early during adolescence. It can result from a variety of factors, including genetics, neuromuscular conditions, or congenital abnormalities. In animals, the situation is more complex due to the diversity of species and the limited research available. However, cases of scoliosis have been reported in both domestic and wild animals, suggesting that this condition is not exclusive to humans.


Evidence of Scoliosis in Animals

Veterinarians and researchers have observed instances of scoliosis in various animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and even fish. In fact, one species of fish, the Zebrafish, is one of the leading research species as we attempt to understand the genetic factors which lead to Scoliosis in the first place! In domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, scoliosis may be congenital or develop later in life due to factors like muscle imbalances or injuries.


Causes of Scoliosis in Animals

Understanding the causes of scoliosis in animals is challenging, as it can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Congenital scoliosis, present at birth, may result from genetic mutations or developmental issues during gestation. Acquired scoliosis, on the other hand, can develop later in an animal’s life due to injuries, muscle imbalances, or underlying health conditions.

Genetic factors play a crucial role in the development of scoliosis in some animal species. While it has not yet been fully proven, most Scoliosis specialists and researchers agree that Genetic factors are probably the main cause of Scoliosis in humans – at least in adolescents. In animals, the cause might be similar, but the underlying circumstances may be different – selective breeding in domesticated animals, particularly dogs and cats, may inadvertently contribute to a higher incidence of congenital spinal deformities. In wild animals, genetic predispositions to scoliosis are less understood, but researchers believe that natural selection may influence the prevalence of such conditions in certain populations.

Unfortunately, environmental factors, such as inadequate living conditions, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis in animals. For example, animals kept in cramped or restrictive environments may experience muscle imbalances or abnormal growth patterns, leading to spinal deformities. Injuries, whether from accidents or repetitive activities, can also play a role in the onset of scoliosis.

Of course, animals also age just like we do and it’s reasonable to speculate that with greater age may come a higher incidence of some kinds of Scoliosis in animals. We know that this is the case in Humans, where as many as one in three people over the age of 65 suffer from a condition known as “de-novo Scoliosis” – which is simply the result of ageing.


Implications for Animal Well-being

Scoliosis in animals can have significant implications for their overall health and well-being, just as it can for humans. There’s a significant lack of research here, although we can say that in domestic pets, the condition may cause discomfort, affect mobility, and impact their quality of life – of course, for many of our pets, there are services like massage and therapy which can help manage this just like in Humans!


Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing scoliosis in animals can be challenging, as they may not exhibit obvious symptoms until the condition is advanced. In fact, the same issue applies in humans – with Scoliosis being notoriously difficult to spot without specialised screening. Screening in Humans is easy since we have developed simple screening exercises which take less than 5 minutes to impairment – unfortunately, we don’t have the same options for animals at present, so veterinarians often rely on a combination of physical examinations, imaging studies such as X-rays, and, in some cases, genetic testing to determine the presence and severity of scoliosis.

Treatment options for scoliosis in animals vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In some cases, conservative management, including physical therapy and lifestyle modifications, may be sufficient to improve an animal’s comfort and mobility. For more severe cases or those with a congenital origin, surgical intervention could be considered to correct the spinal deformity.


So do animals get Scoliosis?

While the prevalence of scoliosis in animals may not be as well-documented as it is in humans, there is growing evidence to suggest that various species can experience spinal deformities such as Scoliosis. Genetic and environmental factors can play a role in the development of scoliosis in animals, and its implications for their well-being are significant, but like in humans, with research, we’re confident it can be managed.

As our understanding of scoliosis in animals continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly important for veterinarians, researchers, and pet owners alike to be aware of the condition and its potential impact on animal health. By recognising and addressing scoliosis in animals – just like in humans – we can work towards enhancing their quality of life and ensuring that they receive the care and attention they deserve.