If you have ever heard of Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD), you may be wondering how common this disease is in dachshunds and whether it is one that you need to be aware of as a dachshund owner. You probably already know that dachshunds are seriously at risk of back problems, and IVDD is an issue.
IVDD is actually thought to be the commonest (or at least a top contender) health problem for dachshunds. About a quarter of dachshunds will be affected by this condition, and as an owner, you need to be aware of the symptoms and what you can do to mitigate problems and keep your dog comfortable.
What Is IVDD?
IVDD is a spinal condition that many small dogs suffer from. It is inherited from parents and affects canines with long backs and short statures in particular. As dachshunds tick both of those boxes, they are certainly considered “at-risk” for this problem.
Essentially, the intervertebral disks in the spine begin to degenerate, and this will continue as the dog ages. The disks act as cushions for the vertebrae in the dog’s spine, so when these are no longer fully healthy and effective, your dog may start to suffer from pain.
The disks also lose their ability to absorb shocks, which means that the dog becomes much more at risk of spinal injuries as a result of jumping or falling. A sudden jolt or force could cause one of these disks to rupture, which will put pressure on the spinal cord, and can put your dog in a lot of pain, or leave it paralyzed.
This obviously can be coupled with major issues like loss of bladder control, inability to walk (or to walk reasonable distances), and a miserable dog that is constantly suffering.
This condition is associated with dogs as young as three years old, so it’s not something you just need to be aware of as your four-legged friend ages. As a dachshund owner, IVDD is something you should be looking out for almost as soon as your dog is fully grown.
What Do I Need To Do?
So, what should be done to mitigate the risks of this problem occurring with your pet? Well, it’s important to note that although IVDD is an inherited condition, you can do many things that will reduce your dachshund’s risk of it. However, in some circumstances, IVDD can occur even when you are careful.
It is still important to do everything you can to help your dachshund avoid this debilitating disease, however, so let’s look at prevention methods.
1. Reduce Jumping
Your dachshund might love hopping up onto the couch for a cuddle and then jumping back down again, but you should discourage them from doing this. While it may be fun for both parties, it puts unnecessary strain on the spine and could cause a rupture in a disk.
If your dog really wants to be on the couch with you, encourage it to wait for you to lift it up and down, or add some steps that your dog can use to move between the floor and the couch safely, without jumping.
Ideally, a dachshund should stay on the floor, as falling off the couch could also cause an injury. However, some dogs really love to be on the couch, so look into a ramp, steps, or a command to wait to be lifted.
2. Keep Your Dog Fit
As your goal is to reduce strain on the spine, one of the most obvious and important methods is to keep your dog fit and healthy. Do not overfeed your dachshund, or under-exercise it.
An obese Dachshund is at a far greater risk of IVDD because there is a greater strain on the spine at all times.
Talk to your vet or a pet nutritionist about your dachshund’s diet and how to keep it fit and in shape. A good exercise routine, with non-strenuous activities, is also an important aspect of keeping your dog in shape and is great for bonding too.
If you notice your dog gaining weight, talk to your vet and reduce its food or increase its exercise (or both) promptly to nip the problem in the bud.
3. Use A Harness
It may seem like you don’t need a harness for a little dog like a dachshund, but using one is a great way to reduce the risk of IVDD. Using a collar puts strain on one point of your dog’s neck, even if you make every effort not to pull, and this is increased if your dachshund likes to tug.
A harness, however, spreads this load out and reduces the pressure by redistributing it over a wider area. If your dachshund likes to tug, this makes it much safer and more comfortable for it to walk with you, so try to purchase a harness early on in life and make use of it.
You can walk your dachshund with a collar if you prefer, but be aware that this increases the risk of IVDD occurring.
4. Wait To Neuter
Unless you’re a breeder (and if you are, you shouldn’t breed dachshunds with IVDD), you probably want to get your dog neutered as early as you can to eliminate the risk of puppies. However, with dachshunds, it’s a good idea to wait a bit, as early neutering can increase your dog’s risk of IVDD.
Talk to your vet about the best age to neuter.
5. Handle With Care
Whenever you need to lift your dachshund, practice good technique. You should support both their front and back end, keeping their back straight to reduce spinal pressure. Don’t allow children to carry the dog around as they probably can’t support it properly.
Don’t play rough with your dog, either. While it may be fun, it could end in a serious injury!
Dachshunds, like many small dogs, are very prone to IVDD. You may not be able to prevent problems, but you can mitigate them by treating your little friend with care and educating yourself on the proper handling techniques to minimize risk.