Only two articles could be traced in literature dealing with spondyloarthropathy in Ursidae (Rothschild et al., 1993; Rothschild, 1997). Spondyloarthropathy is a group of nonpurulent arthritides with pauci-articular peripheral and axial joint involvement. The bony outgrowths found on the vertebrae in cases of spondyloarthropathy are called syndesmophytes. These are slim, horizontally disposed bony outgrowths replacing the outer parts of the intervertebral disc and the shorter and longer perivertebral ligaments, thus leading to an intervertebral bridge by means of complex processes involving ossification. The form, symmetry and position of the syndesmophytes are characteristic for the different forms of spondyloarthropathy.
This contrasts with the vertical and chunky osteophytes seen in discarthrosis, which is the result of degeneration of the intervertebral disc with subsequent bone changes. Spondyloarthropathy and discarthrosis (also called osteoarthrosis) are well known in man and several other mammal species. Variants of spondyloarthropathy that are to be considered in the differential diagnosis in Ursidae are conditions similar to Reiter’s syndrome or reactive arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, as known in humans.
Osteoarthrosis, as a sign of degeneration, is a well-known condition in older mammals. In the present article some pathological changes in the skeletons of three species of Indomalayan bears are described that could be diagnosed as spondyloarthropathy and as discarthrosis/osteoarthrosis.