Description Dachshunds (along with several small breeds) are the product of a gene mutation called chondrodysplasia (dwarfism). This same gene that causes our beloved Doxies 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 and neuro deficites disappear 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 companies will exclude any pre-existing conditions. It is important to know where the ER and Surgical Specialists are in your town. Most will require full payment or half up front and the rest after treatment. CARE CREDIT is usually excepted at most places and you can apply for it to help cover the costs so you can pay over time. Another option in Texas is to use Texas A&M Vet Hospital. They have specalists there and you can take your dog in day or night 365 days a year through their animal ER. Surgery there for IVDD is capped and you can request to pay half the cost out over 6 months. A downed dog is an emergency.
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 breeds 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.
There are signs to watch out for that will alert you to a problem with your Doxie's back. If this happens, CRATE you dog immediately and get them to your vet or an ER!!
Pain - shivering/trembling, not wanting to move, not wanting to eat, yelping, tightened tummy, nose to the ground, or refusing to move neck.
Weakness or loss of leg movement - dragging nails, knuckeling, wobbly walking
EMERGENCY SITUATION - Complete loss of feeling and use of legs, loss of bowel control, bladder leaking, or any time there is rapid loss of function over just a few hours. Get to the vet, specialist or ER immediately!!!
Dodgers List : The number one online resource for Doxie back problems! This online community offers information, emotional support, and suggestions for owners with dogs suffering from IVDD. What symptoms should you be watching for? What do you do if your dog begins going down? What can you expect from crate rest? What can you expect from surgery? What kind of therapy works? What can you expect from a cart? How can you help your dog adjust to life in a cart? You can also contact us if you need suggestions for crate resting, surgery, physical therapy.
Carts : It is very important to know that paralysis is NOT THE END OF YOUR DOG'S LIFE!!! With some lifestyle adjustments on your part and the help of a wheeled cart, your dog will adjust, become mobile again, and be the same happy dog that has always adored you. Dogs can live long, full, happy and healthy lives with carts. The important thing is do NOT give up on your pet.
One suggestion for sturdy, affordable carts is Dogs To Go near Houston, Texas. Their carts were designed by a surgical vet tech when her own dog went down and she did not care for the cart choices she found. With input from one of the best spinal vets in Houston, she and her husband designed a cart that has prooven to be well built, light weight and affordable. Dogs To Go carts are being used all over Texas, the USA and even other countries! They also offer a great manual for helping you and your dog cope with IVDD and what to expect from surgery as well as sevaral great therapy techniques. They also accept back their no longer needed carts to refurbish and donate to rescue.
There are several resources for carts. We encourage you to investigate on your own and determine which cart is right for you. Here are some others we have heard about: Eddies Wheels / K9 Carts
Most carts can be expensive. There is a new fund we know of working to help called The Frankie Wheelchair Fund. It was started in honor of a very special little dog named Frankie, The Walk 'N Roll Dog. Frankie was a very special little girl who helped spread the word about cart dogs and how to love life, live it to the fullest, and be positive. When Frankie passed away, her mom and author, Barbara Techel, created The Frankie Wheelchair Fund to help other dogs Roll On! She also created the now official National Walk 'N Roll Dog Day (September 22nd). Visit all of Frankie's pages to learn about her, her mom Barbara, the fund, the official day, Barbara's books, and Joie....the special new Walk N Roll Dog in her life. If you are moved to do so, you can also make a contribution to the Wheelchair fund.
Prevention : Sometimes you can do all the right things and your Dachshund will still have back problems. Remember it is also genetic afterall. But there are many things you can do to reduce the risk.
Weight and Food - Keep your Dachshund at it's healthy weight!! This is the number one thing you can do. Added weight is added stress on their back. And added stress makes their back more fragile for all other hazards that can contribute to IVDD. If your dog is overweight it is important to talk to your vet and follow a healthy feeding program to take off the pounds. This will require tough love on your part and the ability to resist those big, round, sad, begging eyes all Doxies have perfected in the mirror while you are not looking. Diet foods are not all the same. By regulation they must only be fewer calories than the brand's regular food. Leaving most of them far too high in calories to be helpful. There are many weight control food out there but currently only 3 foods on the market under 300 calories. All three are good quality:
Nutro Essentials Weight Control Chicken or Lamb - both available at Pet Co, Pet Smart, many feed stores and online
If your dog is already at a healthy weight make sure you are feeding them a good quality food. Make sure there is ABSOLUTLY NO Corn and also preferrably no Wheat, Soy, Gluten, or Grain "By-products". Grain itself is not bad although whole grains are preferred, however many dogs are allergic to grains. If your dog is one of these, look for a food that is also completely Grain Free, which means no Rice, Barley, or other grains that are otherwise consitered ok. Also look for a food that has a real, named protein source as the first ingredient...for example Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, Fish Meal....not generic "Meat" or any "By-Product". Avoid any food colorings or dyes. Also important is whatever is listed as the first 3-5 ingredients is what makes up 90% of the food. You want these to be good wholesome things.
There are many excellent quality food available out there. Most will be on the slightly higher cost side and NONE will be found at supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores or gas stations. You will find them as choices at Pet Co, Pet Smart, other pet boutiques, feed stores and online. One excellent food is called Victors. It can be found at feed stores or online. They meet all the criteria for a great food and the price is actually lower than the crummy foods! Check them out when you are researching the best food for your dog. Note their weight control food will generally have too many calories to be used for weight loss however.
Also keep calories in mind when feeding treats. Most dog treats given in moderation only once or twice a day are great. But keep in mind they are adding calories to your dog's diet. Usually a lot of them! Veggies are a great natural snack for your Doxies. Fresh or frozen Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Tomatoes, Green Bell Peppers....doxies usually love them all and they are healthy snacks with few calories! Things like Carrots or fruits like Apples, Pears, Blueberries, Strawberries, Bananas are also a delicious treat, but be careful as they are all high in sugar and can add calories. Use them in moderation. Yogurt and peanut butter are also great treats as little dollops here or there, but again are high in sugar. NEVER feed a dog anything that is labled SUGAR FREE!!! Artificial sweetner is VERY toxic to them and can lead to death!
Feeding the right amount is also necessary. No diet will work well if you are over feeding. So be sure to adjust your feeding to the appropriate amount for your dog. Generally speaking, the feeding charts on dog food bags are too much for your Dachshund! It depends on their age and activity level of course. Puppies need lots of high protein/high calorie food to grow correctly. Seniors are usually not terribly active, however their bodies sometimes do not utilize nutrition as effectively, so they may sometimes require higher calorie food. You must assess the size and activity level of your Dachshund. As long as they are at a healthy weight and not loosing or gaining too much then you are doing great! These are only suggestions but in general, for normally active Dachshunds we usually recommend:
Under 10 lbs - 1/8 cup of food twice a day 10 to 14 lbs - 1/4 cup twice a day 14 to 18 lbs - 1/3 cup twice a day 18 to 23 lbs - 1/2 cup twice a day 23 to 28 lbs - 2/3 cup twice a day 28 to 35 lbs - 1 cup twice a day Jumping - Jumping down off of furniture, going down steps and stairs, jumping up and down in excitement. All these things are very bad for your Dachshund's back. Their discs act as shock absorbers for these types of things. However we know Doxies can have brittle, calcified discs. Since they may no longer be soft, this kind of activity will put jarring stress on them and potentially cause them to rupture. If their backs are bad enough even hopping off a 2 inch drop can cause a rupture. Usually these things are dangers lurking in their spines that you have little warning of until it happens. Be sure to lift your Doxie on and off of furniture, carry them up and down the stairs, train them to sit patiently and not jump. To help with furniture you can purchase or build a ramp. Elderly or small pets frequently use steps and ramps, however as we know, steps are a No-No for Doxies. So go with a ramp. There are small ramps for couches and chairs and large ramps for getting into the "Big" bed. You can buy kits for them online, build them yourself, or find someone local who makes them. We do recommend you get one that has a safety rail so your pet does not fall off the edge or knock another off.
Crusoe's DoggoRamps - Yes, Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund now has his very own line of bed ramps. Couch ramps may soon follow!! They are actually very well made and easy to assemble.
Fandango - This is a great place to get dog ramps!! After making cat furniture all these years, Steve had never thought of a ramp until we met! Now many happy doxies are enjoying his ramps and getting up and down from the "big" bed safely. Steve can also make couch ramps! All his ramps have a safety rail. And if the furry fealine in your life needs a play house, cabin or tree, Steve can help with that too!!
Discount Ramps.com - very nice wood furniture looking ramps. Your choice of wood color. You can probably modify these to add your own safety rail out of wood, and stain to match
Crating - Crating your Dachshund while you are away from the house can help protect it from injury. Crating is not cruel. It keeps your Doxie our of mischief, protects it from accidents, keeps your house from disarray, and prevents injuries outside from doggie door access. We are not suggesting that doggie doors or whole house kenneling is bad or wrong. Just be sure to consider that accidents can happen when doxies are left to their own devices all day, playing and jumping. Coming home to a paralized Doxie is not something anyone wants to find. If you choose to crate you can utilize a wire or plastic crate, or gate off a hallway, bathroom, kitchen or utility room. You can keep multiple dogs together or seperate based on temperment so no disagreements occur. And remember, if you choose to crate, you may be gone for many hours, so you must consider this and return home to let them out to potty. Do not leave them crated longer than 8-10 hours.
www.HANDICAPPEDPETS.com - Great resource for many things to help your disabled pet: Carts, diapers, harnesses, slings, drag bags, ramps, traveling products, rehab services, and other great products to help you help your pet!!
Piddle Pants - If your pup needs diapers for whatever reason, these are a great way to keep them on!! These seem to work best with the girls to us.
Pee Keeper - These are a really great idea for pups (especially males) who have urinary issues. And unlike belly bands...they cannot walk our of these!! Use them with a diaper, feminine pad or in conjunction with a belly band!!
www.ABLEDOGS.net - another resource for learning about IVDD and getting help from a community full of support
*** This information is presented for educational purposes and as a resource for the Dachshund community. We are not veterinarians or health care professionals. Nothing herein should be interpreted as medical advice and everyone should contact their pet care professionals for advice.***