Your dachshund has a long, burdensome load to carry on those short little legs. The overall shape of a dachshund places this breed at a high risk for back injuries and degenerative conditions in the vertebral column. Some back problems can result in paralysis. Recognizing the signs of a back problem will enable you to promptly pursue the treatment that can make a significant difference in your dog’s future quality of life.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
Intervertebral disc disease is the most common affliction in dachshunds. Intervertebral disc disease is a painful condition that can have debilitating consequences. It affects the spinal discs that are found in between the vertebrae along the back and neck. These discs act as shock absorbers that allow the dog’s back to move and flex without the vertebrae making direct contact on the spinal cord. A degenerating disc has a high risk for herniation, which is also called a slipped or ruptured disc. Once this occurs, pressure and injury can occur on the spinal cord, leading to pain, reduced mobility, weakness and paralysis. Intervertebral disc disease affects many breeds, often developing as a dog’s vertebral column sustains the wear and tear of aging. In chondrodystrophoid breeds, meaning dwarfed breeds that include dachshunds, intervertebral disc disease can set in as early as one to two years of age.
The long, low-slung nature of a dachshund’s back predisposes the breed to back injuries, including soft tissue damage, pulled muscles, fractured vertebrae and dislocations. Physical activities that other breeds engage in every day without consequence can be hazardous for a dachshund. These injuries can result from jumping, running too fast in pursuit of a squirrel, rough play with other dogs or with human family members and from quick and sudden movements that twist or turn the vertebral column.
Symptoms of Back Problems in Dachshunds
Some dogs that sustain a herniated disc can go from walking to being paralyzed in a matter of a few hours. Some owners have been known to return home after a day of work to find their dachshund unable to walk. There are less dramatic early symptoms that can present with back problems in dachshunds, such as yelping out in pain when lifted or when shifting positions. Other signs to be aware of include changes in posture, such as an arched back, an extended neck or a head that is carried low. Weakness in the rear legs, trembling, diminished balance or coordination and a sharp decrease in activity may also be evident.
Dachshund Back Problems Diagnosis and Treatment
The key to increasing your dachshund’s chance for recovery lies with seeking immediate veterinary attention as soon as the symptoms of a back problem are observed. The faster the dog’s condition is evaluated and treated, the greater its chances will be for resuming a normal life. Diagnosing a dachshund’s back problem can range from manual manipulations as the veterinarian conducts a physical examination to assess an injury to myelogram imaging tests to diagnose intervertebral disc disease. Treatment will be dependent on the severity of the problem. Minor injuries may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, pain control medications and a course of strict cage rest. More serious conditions can require surgery. Some cases result in the need for a wheelchair-like cart to enable basic mobility for the remainder of the dog’s life.
Prevention of Back Problems in Dachshunds
You can take steps to reduce your dachshund’s risk for developing back problems. Be mindful of your dachshund’s weight, and make every effort to maintain a fit and trim physique. Being overweight means a heavier burden for your dachshund’s spine to support. Consider placing steps or a ramp for your dachshund to access a favorite elevated napping spot, such as your bed or the sofa, to eliminate the need to jump up and down. Prevent your dachshund from climbing up and down flights of stairs. To a dachshund, climbing those steps is similar to you climbing steps that are equal to your own height. Consider confining your dachshund to a crate or a room without high furniture or stairs when it is left home alone. Do not encourage jumping, running at high speeds, rough housing or tug of war games. Attach the leash to a harness instead of the dog’s collar when taking walks. Finally, no matter how cute the pose looks in picture books, do not teach your dachshund to sit up, stand up or walk on its hind legs.
Taking these precautions and knowing when your dachshund needs so see the veterinarian will enable your furry friend to enjoy a happy life.
Featured dog breed image: Cookie the Dachshund.