IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) - Dachshunds (along with several other breeds) are the product of a gene mutation called chondrodysplasia (dwarfism). This same gene that causes our beloved breed to be so adorably short also causes the discs in their back to lose moisture and harden at an earlier age than other breeds. This means the discs can no longer cushion the vertebrae along the spine and will calcify at a much earlier age, causing problems usually between the ages of 3-7 years. When this happens the disc is compressed and will herniate, and many times, rupture putting pressure on the spine. This can cause the dog great pain and paralysis. Discs in both the neck and back can have problems. For dachshunds this is double trouble as their spines are extra long causing even higher chance of injury. Many times, medical treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs (ex: prednisone) and pain medication along with 8 weeks of strict crate rest can be given and the pain disappears and they will begin to use their legs again. Often surgery, followed by physical therapy, is the only recourse. Surgery is expensive, most times from $3,000-$5,000. Because of this we highly recommend PET INSURANCE for dachshunds. It will cover many, many other injuries and diseases as well and greatly help with the cost of spinal surgery should it become necessary. It is important to have insurance BEFORE a problem occurs as many companies will exclude any pre-existing conditions.
For more information on IVDD, please visit our IVDD Resources Page.
To help prevent IVDD it is very important to keep your Dachshund's weight down, don't allow them to jump up and down, and prevent them from using stairs or jumping off of things like furniture. You can also give them vitamin supplements for Bone & Joint to help keep the cartilage and disc material pliable. Most dogs are older when they are given these but for Dachshunds it can be a good idea to give them much earlier. Be sure to check with your vet before giving any supplements to your pet.
Seizures - Dachshunds seem to be one of the breeds genetically pre disposed to seizures, usually the dapple patterned dachshunds. They can be scary to witness but if you just hold the dog and pet it gently the seizure will soon pass and the dog is no worse for it and quickly recovers to its happy, playful self. It is important to keep a log of your dog's seizures to be able to report the frequency and severity to your vet. Many times seizures are due to liver problems, or on rare occasions, brain tumors. However dachshunds seem to have seizures for no particular reason. These are called idiopathic and are usually successfully treated with Phenobarbital, a fairly inexpensive drug from any human drugstore with a vet's prescription. If your dachshund has a seizure it is important to take it to the vet as soon as possible. Typically they will do a test called a Bile Acid test which is a simple test but will require the dog be left for the day. This will test the liver for shunts. They will also do general blood work to help rule out diseases such as Cushing's or Addison's. If all that is fine, it is probably idiopathic, meaning nothing particular causing it; Just a misfire in the brain chemistry. Dogs can live perfectly happy, healthy, active lives on Phenobarbital and only require an annual blood test and Phenobarbital level test to make sure their liver is healthy. A great supportive liver supplement recommended for dogs on Phenobarbital is Milk Thistle. It has been found to counteract the effects on the liver of the Phenobarbital. It is found online or at vitamin shops and is inexpensive. Generally it is given twice a day and comes in capsules that can be opened and sprinkled on their food. Again, check with your vet before giving any supplements. Someimes seizures might require the addition of Potassium Bromide to control them. This is a compounded drug but not terribly uncommon.
A seizure usually has a "pre-ictal" period which may consist of clingy behavior, smacking gums, whining, "crab walking" or muscle spasms. The seizure itself may last 5 or 6 minutes before it is actually over. The dog may whine, drool, have extreme muscle stiffness, shakes, head bobbing or release its potty. It may have some or all of these. In some cases the seizures can cluster (stop and start again very close together over a short period of time). Afterward there may be a "post-ictal" phase where the dog is confused, stumbles or may not be able to see. This may not occur at all or it may last for an hour. Keep the dog close or crate it for its safety. Once they come out of it they will usually be happy and their old selves, with no apparent memory of what happened. If a dog begins seizing and does not stop it may require IV drugs and should be taken immediately to the vet or animal ER. Simple seizures usually cause no harm to the dog but a prolonged seizure or cluster of seizures could affect the brain and would need to be stopped as soon as possible. Seizures can be scary but usually can be well managed under the care of a vet and with medication. It is easy for dogs to gain weight on Phenobarbital because it makes them feel hungry and thirsty a lot. Be sure to carefully monitor your dachshund's food intake and do not allow it to "graze" feed. It can easily gain weight which is not good for its back. No additional food is actually needed, despite what your dachshund may try to trick you into!
Allergies - Dachshunds can be prone to allergies. Food allergies, pollen allergies, allergic reactions to vaccinations. Sometimes a simple over the counter medication such as Benadryl can help with the first two (ask your vet first!). Food allergies might require an adjustment of diet. Frequently it is chicken and grains they are allergic to so buying a grain free, single protein food (non chicken) can solve it. If your dog has any strange symptoms after a vaccination be sure to call your vet immediately. Sometimes they might develop a rash or lose their fur at the injection site. Other times they may develop swelling around the area. One of the most common vaccination reactions dachshunds have is to the Lepto vaccine. Talk to your vet about your dog's real need for this vaccine. Sometimes it is mixed in the Distemper/Parvo shot, but there is one that does not contain it.
Cushing's Disease - Cushing's is usually caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland. It causes the over production of corticosteroids in the body. Initial symptoms usually include increased eating, drinking and urination as well as hair loss (evenly distributed across the body) and a pendulous abdomen. Further symptoms are thinning of the skin, skin infections, diabetes, weakening of the heart and muscles. Diagnosis is done with several blood tests usually requiring a day long stay at the vet. Once it is diagnosed there are further tests to determine where the tumor is. Adrenal gland tumors are usually removed by a specalist. Pituitary gland tumors are not usually removed and are instead treated medically. In those cases it is not curable but instead the symptoms are treated as a means of providing a quality of life for as many years as possible. Depending on their age and overall health, dogs can live many, many happy years under treatment. While Cushing's is more frequent in the dachshund breed over all and something to be aware of, it is not as common to the breed as other issues such as IVDD, etc.
Diabeties - Pretty much everyone knows what diabetes is. It is the same for dogs as it is for people. Luckily it is relatively easily controlled in dogs because they will eat whenever you give them food. With a regular diet laid out by your vet it is possible they may need no medication. Frequently however they will require injections. This is easy to learn to do and your vet will teach you. Diabetes does require blood tests and monitoring by your vet, especially at the beginning as a routine is worked out. Dogs can live long, happy lives with diabetes as long as you work to control it for them. Just as with people there are symptoms that may occur such as blindness. However dogs in general adapt to the loss of sight really well so even if this does happen, you would be surprised how fast they adapt. Just keep all your furniture in the same place!