Dachshund IVDD (intervertebral disk disease) is a cause of concern given the physical features of these dogs. In a 2015 survey conducted by the Dachshund Breed Council, it was found that 17% of 4,000 registered Dachshunds in the United Kingdom suffered from spine or back problems at one point in their lives.
What is Dachshund IVDD?
Dachshunds suffer from IVDD when their spines degenerate, particularly in the cervical (neck) or thoracolumbar (back) areas. The condition results in the degeneration of intervertebral discs that cushion bony segments of the spinal column. The disc may also protrude into the spinal column.
The intervertebral disc is found between two vertebrae. It is made of cartilage – a soft, thick tissue – and provides flexibility to the spine. This disc consists of the following parts.
- Annulus fibrosus – This is the outer part of the intervertebral disk. This circular part of the intervertebral disc is composed of a ring of ligament fibers that surround the nucleus pulposus.
- Nucleus pulposus – This is the soft inner part of the intervertebral disc. It is composed of a gel-like material and a loose network of collagen fibers. This part is the shock absorber and it allows the spine to endure torsion and compression.
There are two types of Dachshund IVDD. The Hansen Type I refers to the acute herniation of an intervertebral disc while the Hansen Type II occurs due to the gradual protrusion of the disc material.
Type I IVDD is the one commonly found in Dachshunds. It is a progressive intervertebral issue that involves the calcification of the nucleus pulposus and the degeneration of the annulus fibrosus. When this happens, the outer part of the disc ruptures acutely and allows the calcified nucleus pulposus to put pressure on the spinal cord.
Obesity, jumping, and climbing up the stairs can increase your dog’s risk of developing this disease.
What are the signs of Dachshund IVDD?
The first signs of Dachshund IVDD usually appear between the ages 3 and 7.Watch out for the following signs of IVDD.
- Yelping due to pain (whether held or unprovoked)
- Reluctance to jump
- Refusal to climb the bed, sofa, or any leveled area
- Hunched back
- Reluctance to lower head when eating
- Difficulty looking upwards
- Incontinence (urinary and/or bowel)
- Weakness of the hind legs (or all four legs)
- Dragging one or more legs when walking
- Stiffness when walking
- Stomach pain
How is IVDD in Dachshunds diagnosed?
If you suspect that your Dachshund has IVDD, it is important to take him to the veterinarian immediately. The vet may ask a series of questions about your Dachshund’s medical history and recent activity.
Your Dachshund will also undergo physical examinations. If the vet finds or suspects a spine injury, he will have diagnostic procedures such as x-rays, myelogram, MRI, or CT scan performed to confirm the IVDD and rule out other diseases.
Your vet should assess your Doxie’s symptoms to determine the severity of the problem. The Dachshund IVDD can be graded from 1 (mildest) to 5 (worst).
- Grade 1 – Dogs under this Dachshund IVDD grade are able to walk normally but they show signs of pain. They may yelp when touched, held, or even without having any physical contact with others. These dogs are also reluctant to jump and move.
- Grade 2 – Doxies are able to walk. However, they are weak and their hind legs can be wobbly. They have an abnormal gait. Their hind legs may cross or look splayed out.
- Grade 3 – This Dachshund IVDD grade make dogs unable to stand or walk using their legs. However, they are still able to move and feel them.
- Grade 4 – Your Doxie can no longer stand, walk, and even control his hind legs.
- Grade 5 – Dogs can no longer move, stand, walk, control, and feel their hind legs.
How is Dachshund IVDD treated?
Dogs under grades 1 and 2 can be treated conservatively. However, surgery may be recommended if they do not show any improvement. On the other hand, surgical treatment works better for dogs with grades 3 to 5 Dachshund IVDD.
Conservative Treatment for Dachshund IVDD
The conservative treatment for IVDD involves cage rest, medications, and painkillers. Cage rest usually lasts for 6 to 8 weeks. By letting your Dachshund stay in the crate, you are preventing further disc extrusion – giving him time adequate time to heal.
Steroids or NSAIDs are also given to control the inflammation. In most cases, steroids have been found to provide better relief than NSAIDs. But if your Dachshund suffers from other conditions, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or other health issues that could worsen with the use of steroids, then NSAIDs is the better choice.
Painkillers, such as tramadol, gabapentin, and methocarbamol, may also be given to ease pain and inflammation.
Visit your vet for a follow-up check-up. If your Dachshund does not show any sign of improvement after 4 weeks, then surgical treatment must be considered.
Surgical Treatment for Dachshund IVDD
To surgically treat IVDD, a hemilaminectomy – the removal of the offending disc material – is performed. It is often done in conjunction with a procedure called fenestration.
Once your Dachshund stops having pain sensations in his toes, it is very important to have your pet undergo surgery within 24 hours. Most dogs having surgery within that time frame have more chances to make full and faster recovery than dogs, who undergo the surgery at a later time.
Do not forget to talk to your vet to discuss a good rehabilitation plan after Doxie’s treatment.
Complementary Treatments for IVDD
Complementary treatments that may help your Dachshund recover from IVDD include the following.
- Laser therapy
How to Prevent IVDD in Dachshunds?
It is believed that genetics play a role in the development of Dachshund IVDD. For this reason, dogs with IVDD are advised to be removed from breeding programs.
If you are not familiar with your dog’s ancestry, you can help prevent Dachshund IVDD by doing the following.
- Keep your Dachshund at a healthy weight.
- Exercise your Dachshund regularly to help strengthen his back muscles.
- Do not let your Dachshund jump from high places or use the stairs. Install ramps that he can use instead.
- When picking up your Dachshund, carry him horizontally – not vertically – to avoid stressing his back.
- Use a body harness when walking your Dachshund instead of attaching the least to the collar.
Have you ever had a Dachshund who suffered from IVDD? How was your experience?