Essential Guide to Dachshund Back Problems
The health of any dog breed is undoubtedly the most critical aspect to consider when thinking about getting a pooch. Unfortunately, it is often the most overlooked one.
Whether you are a Dachshund fan, a proud Sausage Dog owner, or a soon-to-be mom or dad to one of these adorable furballs, you should know what this breed’s Achilles’ heels are.
Back problems are by bar far the most common issues affecting the Dachshund. The severity of these conditions varies but can quite commonly lead to complete paralysis if left untreated.
Although Dachshunds are naturally predisposed to certain conditions, this doesn’t mean that you, as an owner, can’t do anything to prevent them. You can help your Weiner dog live its best life by learning about its health issues and treating them.
Before we dive into the prevention and treatment of spinal conditions in Wiener Dogs, let’s take a look at the history of this breed as it will help us understand their proneness to back issues better.
Why Do Dachshunds Have Back Problems?
People have, for centuries, mixed different dog breeds in an effort to create pooches that would serve specific purposes. You can see a list of mixed Dachshund breeds at the end of this article.
Careful gene selection has undoubtedly yielded impressive results, giving us an astonishing variety of sizes, shapes, coat shades, and tempers. Unfortunately, the customization of the dogs’ gene pool has inevitably made every breed susceptible to particular health problems.
The Dachshund is no exception to this rule. Doxies were first bred in the 16th Germany as a single-purpose breed, trained to hunt down badgers and other burrow-dwelling vermins.
With an acute sense of smell, unparalleled boldness, and insatiable curiosity, Dachshunds were the perfect search-and-destroy hunting companions. The courage to face vermins as large as badgers and the inquisitiveness to enter any hole in the ground without fear was just a part of what made them successful hunters.
What played a decisive role in their rise to the throne as one of the most efficient hunters was their body shape.
From the muzzle to tail, the Dachshund looks as if stretched out of proportion: long noses, elongated backs, and accompanying thin tails were carefully designed to allow the breed to navigate through narrow tunnels in the ground.
Seeking perfection came with a hefty price and, although they are no longer used solely to flush out pests, to this day, they remain susceptible to back problems.
Dachshund Spine Issues
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The dog’s spine is made up of bones called vertebrae that are divided into several distinct regions:
- Seven vertebrae in the neck (cervical region)
- 13 vertebrae in the chest (thoracic region)
- Seven vertebrae in the lower back (lumbar region)
- Three vertebrae fused in the hip region
The number of tail bones varies from one breed to another, and these bones are not at risk of joint conditions because the spinal column ends in the hip region.
The mid-back region of the spine is the most likely to be affected by back problems in Doxies.
Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dachshunds
In one way or another, back problems in the Dachshund amount to the same, malicious condition called intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) or slipped disc. This is a condition that, if untreated, may have severe consequences to the health and the overall wellbeing of the dog.
Apart from the spine bones, called intervertebrae, the main role in the development of this disease is played by gelatine-like discs located between them.
On the outside, intervertebral discs are made of a thick layer of fibrous covering, while the inner part consists of a gelatinous substance. The discs have a triple role: they allow the movement of the vertebral column, hold the spine bones together, and they absorb shocks to protect the spine.
When their elasticity is lost, the spinal cord is more exposed to compression and damage.
IVDD occurs when one or more intervertebral discs in your pooch’s spine become more rigid through the process of calcification. The damaged discs slip inward and press on the spinal cord, causing damage to the nerve.
There are two types of IVDD that, although developed differently, can have equally severe consequences.
Type I IVDD is more prevalent in chondrodystrophic breeds—dogs that have a genetic predisposition to short stature, such as the Dachshund. Pooches that belong to one of these breeds—like the Dachshund—have a gene mutation that makes their legs disproportionately short compared to their body.
Chondrodystrophic breeds may develop type I IVDD at a young age—from birth to one year of age. In young dogs, premature calcification of the inner layer of intervertebral discs may lead to the hardening of all discs along the vertebral column.
Less flexibility means that any movement—sometimes stepping the wrong way is enough—can cause a disc to rupture and the inner contents to exert pressure on the spinal cord. It usually affects young dogs, aged two years and above, and has a sudden onset.
Type II IVDD
Type II is described as disc calcification over longer periods, which means that it is usually found in older dogs. It affects larger breeds more frequently but is regularly found in the Dachshund, too.
Dachshund Slipped Disc Symptoms and Diagnosis
The earliest clinical sign is pain. You’ll know your furry friend is hurting when they yelp, either unprovoked or when handled, or is reluctant to jump or climb stairs. Other symptoms of pain include arching of the back and reluctance to lower their head when eating.
As the condition progresses, doggies start having trouble coordinating their movement. Swaying, stumbling, or wobbliness are the most common symptoms that your dog is losing coordination.
Without proper treatment, the Doxie may become paralyzed, meaning they can lose control of their hind or even all four limbs, depending on the position of the affected disc.
● Reluctance to jump or climb
● Reluctance to lower head when eating
● Back arching
● Anxious behavior
● Hunched back
|● Weakness in hind legs
● Placing paws upside down
● Inability to move hind or all four legs
Looking out for symptoms is crucial for the early detection of a slipped disc. If you notice that your doggy is showing any of the symptoms, you should make a vet appointment immediately.
The vet will perform a complete neurologic exam of the pooch to determine the exact location of the affected disc.
X-ray examination will show any abnormality in the spine. Given that radiographs cannot detect any changes in soft tissues, further analysis may be needed.
Your beloved dog may need a special procedure called a myelogram. During this procedure, the vet injects a special dye into the area around the spinal cord so that it appears on X-ray. It is painful, though, and the little fella must be put under anesthesia.
Sometimes MRI and CT scans are also performed to locate where the nerves are compressed.
Dachshund Back Surgery
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Unfortunately, the disease causes severe symptoms, such as incontinence and hind-limb paralysis, and, in many cases, leads to surgery.
The symptoms are measured against the so-called IVDD scale that is used by vets to determine the treatment for your pooch.
The final decision regarding the therapy is in your hands, and it is sometimes of crucial importance to make it in the shortest time possible.
On a positive note, herniated disc surgery success rate is high. One study has found that as many as 74.3% of dogs had their neurological grade improved 12 months after the procedure.
|Stumbling when walking|
|Inability to walk or stand without help|
|● No ability to deliberately move affected legs
● May include incontinence
|● Inability to feel a deep pain in toes on affected legs
● May include incontinence
Conservative Treatment for Dachshund with IVDD
In less severe cases, the vet may prescribe non-surgical treatment for your pooch.
The duration of conservative therapy depends on the position on the IVDD scale.
If your precious pup is lucky and doesn’t require surgical intervention, the vet will prescribe a rehabilitation plan in combination with steroid or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as pain killers.
Another part of the non-invasive treatment is the so-called crate rest, which implies imposing periods of strict rest on your pooch by confining them to a crate.
If done correctly and in carefully designed stages, drugs and physiotherapy will help your dog recover either fully or to a certain extent.
Keeping Your Dachshund’s Back Straight
Taking care of your dog means avoiding certain activities and introducing devices that will prevent or delay the development of back issues.
If you are a first-time owner or you’ve previously had larger breeds, you might need to make certain adjustments in your dog’s routine to help them lead a safer and healthier life.
Activities You Should Avoid
- Jumping. Sudden, forceful movements such as jumping can lead to injury and, because Weenies have sensitive back, reaching for a bed, sofa, or car seat can be risky
- Climbing up or down the stairs. Average stairs are not suited for a dog of Dachshund’s size, and frequent climbing up and down may exert unnecessary pressure on your dog’s back
- Tug-of-war. Refrain from playing this mentally and physically challenging game with your pooch. Chances are your Doxie would love it, but bear in mind that this game activates the dog’s weakest spots: the neck and mid-back region
- Fast running. You should never encourage your pooch to run at full speed; even the slightest uncontrolled movement could turn a carefree walk in the park into a nightmare
Home Remedies for Dachshund Back Problems
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In case you already have a Dachshund and are aware they are one of the best dog breeds to adopt, chances are you use tools that make day-to-day activities for your short-legged friend easier.
Even if you’re not aware of it, these two devices are a blessing for Doxies:
- Ramp. House is where your furball spends most of the time. That is why you should make sure you turn your home into a haven for the pooch, not a series of obstacles. A dog ramp does precisely that. Getting in and out of bed will never be the same for your pup
- Crate. When you’re out, your beloved Sausage Dog stays inside. Cuteness aside, they are single-minded little creatures. You never know when or why they will feel an urge for mischief and potential injury. Dog crates are effective in keeping your pet pal safe when you’re not around. Make the crate cozy—you don’t want your puppy to feel as if in prison
Outdoor Remedies for Dachshund Spine Problems
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Spending time outside implies moving around and can be gruesome for Doxies who are experiencing back pains. What you can do is introduce these handy items that will keep your puppy’s back straight and safe from injury.
- Harness collar. After you’ve fixed your home to suit the dog’s needs, it’s time to provide your Weenie with comfortable gear for outdoor activities. It’s no coincidence that small dogs are usually wearing a harness collar—it supports their delicate backs from any undesirable movement
- Car safety seat. Dachshunds love adventures, and it would be a shame not to take them on a trip from time to time. Installing a doggy car safety seat will let you do just that without having to worry about what the little rascal is up to in the back
Prevention of Herniated Disc in the Dachshund
There is another thing that will not only make back troubles an even bigger problem but will also degrade their overall well-being—obesity.
Less active dogs are prone to gaining weight, so exercise should not be eliminated even the Doxie is showing signs of being overweight or obese. A responsible pet owner should look for workouts the doggy can do. It may seem like an impossible task but is necessary if you want to improve your pet’s health.
Limiting your dog’s activities because of the risks they pose also means that you will have to pay extra attention to the food you serve to your Weenie.
Don’t think that they won’t have munchies that often just because they have troublesome backs! Dachshunds’ stomachs work just fine, and they will try to persuade you to give them more food than they can handle.
Resist their adorable, almond-shaped eyes and reduce their treats to a minimum. Keep in mind the quality, too—these worst dog treat brands amount to junk food.
Check out These Cute Breeds Mixed with the Dachshund
There is a common belief that mixed breed dogs are less prone to diseases of their parents. Although there is no research behind this claim to support it, these adorable Dachshund mixes are worth a try if you still haven’t adopted a Doxie and are maybe reconsidering the decision to get one.
- Stigen, Øyvind, and Øyvor Kolbjørnsen. “Calcification of Intervertebral Discs in the Dachshund: a Radiographic and Histopathologic Study of 20 Dogs.” Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, vol. 49, no. 1, 2007, doi:10.1186/1751-0147-49-39.
- Ferrand, François-Xavier, et al. “Thoracolumbar Partial Lateral Corpectomy for the Treatment of Chronic Intervertebral Disc Disease in 107 Dogs.” Irish Veterinary Journal, vol. 68, no. 1, 2015, doi:10.1186/s13620-015-0056-z.