Has your Dachshund just been diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)? You may be now looking for information on what this disease is and what testing and treatments you should be expecting. Understanding everything that you can about this disease will help you be able to prevent this from developing and allow you to recognize signs early on in the disease process.
Overview of IVDD in Dachshunds
What is IVDD in Dachshunds?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition seen in many dachshunds that affect their backs. The cushioning discs are located between the vertebrae of the spinal column. These discs will either bulge or herniate and put pressure on the spinal cord. This pressure will affect the nerves running through the spinal cord, causing pain, damage the nerves, and even cause paralysis.
What is a Disc?
The disc is a spongy, doughnut-shaped pad that is in the joint between each vertebra. The disc is just underneath the spinal cord in dogs and cats. Each disc has a semi-liquid center and a tough outer fibrous layer. These discs help form a bridge between the two vertebrae and act as a cushion. This helps give strength and flexibility to the spine.
What Age Do Dachshunds Get IVDD?
Most dachshunds who develop IVDD will get the first signs around 3 to 6 years old. Some Dachshunds will start to show signs much younger and some will show signs later in life but many Dachshunds start in the early adult years.
How Common IVDD in Dachshunds?
IVDD is very commonly seen in Dachshunds. Based on research about 16% of dachshunds will show some signs of IVDD in their lifetime. The highest levels of IVDD were seen in smooth-haired dachshunds at 25% and about 7% of wire-haired dachshunds developed IVDD.
Which Breeds Are Most Likely to Get IVDD?
While any dog can develop IVDD, chondrodystrophic breeds are more commonly affected. Chondrodystrophic breeds are those with backs that are longer than normal. Common chondrodystrophic breeds are:
- Basset Hound
- French Bulldog
- English Bulldog
- Cocker Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
There are a few non-chondrodystrophic breeds that also have a history of back issues are:
- German Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
How to Pick up Your Dachshund If It Has Back Problems
If your Dachshund has back problems it is best to pick them up very carefully. When picking them up you should slide your arm under their body supporting both their front and back end at the same time. This will keep their back in the normal position and not put any extra strain on their back.
You should not pick them up by their front leg or by their chest as you do with a human baby. This can cause their back end to move while you pick them up and puts stress on their backs in places that there should not be any extra pressure.
Does Neutering a dachshund Increase The Risk of IVDD?
Based on recent research, having your dachshund spayed or neutered after 1 year of age will decrease their risk of developing IVDD. It is best to discuss the pros and cons of neutering your Dachshunds before they are 1 year of age to help decrease the chance of them developing this disease.
What Causes of IVDD in Dachshunds?
There are two different types of IVDD that can be seen in Dachshunds. Depending on what type your dog has is based on what has caused this to happen.
Type I is seen in the neck area of smaller Dachshunds. The disc’s outer layer will harden This hardening of the disc will allow it to break down easier. When your dog is jumping and landing, they are causing a forceful impact on the disc. The inner material of the disc burst and puts pressure on the spinal cord.
Type II the disc herniates. The discs become hard and fibrous as your Dachshund ages; this disc will eventually break down, bulge out, and compress the spinal cord.
When the nerves in the spinal cord are compressed, they are not able to transmit their signals to the rest of the body, such as to the lower legs, or bladder. If the damage is too severe, your Dachshund will become paralyzed and lose control of the bladder and bowel movement. The signs that you see will depend on where the bulging disc is located. This location can occur anywhere in the body from the neck to the rear legs.
What Are The Symptoms of IVDD in Dachshunds?
Some many different signs and symptoms would indicate that your Dachshund has IVDD; these include:
- Not wanting to jump up on things
- Weakness in the back legs
- Painful back
- Muscle spasms
- Hunched back
- Decrease activity level
- Not eating
- Not able to control bladder
- Trouble having a bowel movement
If you notice any of these signs, it would be best for your vet to see your Dachshund. They will want to examine your dachshund and take x rays to see what is causing your Dachshund to show these signs.
The 5 Stages of IVDD
There are 5 different stages of IVDD in dachshunds.
- Stage 1: Your dachshund has neck or back pain without neurological deficits
- Stage 2: Your dachshund can walk but starting to show proprioception deficits such as knuckling of paws, and incoordination ataxia or drunken gait
- Stage 3: Your dachshund can move their legs, but not able to stand and walk on their own
- Stage 4: Your dachshund is paralyzed and cannot move its legs but can still feel a deep pinch of the toes
- Stage 5: Your dachshund is paralyzed and cannot feel a deep pinch to the toes
All dogs with IVDD will progress in this order and they will get better in the reverse order. If your dog has severe IVDD they will need surgery to get better.
Treatment Options of IVDD in Dachshunds
This will depend on how severe the damage is.
1. Conservative Medical Treatment
If your Dachshund has mild signs, conservative treatment may be fine. Conservative treatment includes medications such as steroids, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxers. These medications will help decrease the swelling around the spinal cord and decrease the pain. Your vet will stress that your dog has a strict cage rest for six weeks. This helps the spinal cord to heal and prevents your dog from doing any other damage.
2. Surgical Treatment
If the damage is severe and your Dachshund cannot walk or urinate on its own, then emergency surgery is usually needed. Very rarely do these Dachshunds recover without surgery. This surgery will open the space around the spinal cord by removing a piece of the vertebra over the spinal cord. Once this piece of bone is removed, the disc material that is pushing on the spinal cord will be removed. Even with surgery, there is no guarantee on your dog returning to normal. The longer the damage is present, the harder it is for them to recover fully.
Most Dachshunds that have mild to moderate symptoms of IVDD will return to normal and walk again. Dachshunds who have surgery recover quicker if they have surgery as soon as they are initially diagnosed. Some dogs may have other bouts of IVDD when other discs are affected later in life.
3. Physical Therapy
Rehabilitation of your Dachshund after surgery will help your dog regain the function of its legs and recover quicker. Your Dachshund can return to a good quality of life if they receive great aftercare. Even with great care, your dog may need a doggie wheelchair. These help them to be more mobile and active again.
Some Dachshunds will also need physical therapy to help them fully recover. This may include cold laser therapy, water treadmills, or acupuncture. Your vet can discuss all the different options that your dog can benefit from to help them regain their strength and motor function.
What do I do in an IVDD emergency?
If your Dachshund suddenly becomes lame, it is best that they see a vet right away. If it is the middle of the night or the weekend, they will need to go to the emergency clinic. Do not delay treatment as this can affect the ability that your dog can walk again.
How do I prepare for an IVDD emergency?
If you are on your way to the emergency vet with your Dachshund, expect them to examine your dog and possibly take X-rays. If your dog is completely paralyzed, your vet will suggest emergency surgery. They would need an MRI and surgery as soon as possible. You should have a small crate to bring your dog to and from these visits so that your dog cannot injure themselves when riding in the car.
Can dachshunds recover from IVDD?
With quick discovery and emergency surgery, many Dachshunds can regain motor function of their legs. About 90% will be able to walk again but they may never be 100% normal. Many dachshunds will have mild gate abnormalities after surgery but can still get around the house normally.
The longer that you delay treatment and surgery, the worse the chance for recovery. Many veterinary surgeons will say that if a Dachshund is not walking and they cannot feel its legs without having surgery in 24 hours your dog only has a 40% chance of ever walking again.
When should I do IVDD surgery?
If your Dachshund is not walking and dragging its back legs, your dog will need surgery. Your vet can test for deep pain. This will be done by pinching their toes. If your dog does not have deep pain they will need surgery within 24 hours of losing function of their back legs or they may never walk again.
What is the cost of IVDD surgery?
The cost of surgery will vary depending on the severity of your Dachshund’s condition if they have to have surgery in an emergency and where you are located. Many times this type of procedure is only done at large specialty hospitals. This can cost $5,000 to $10,000. The surgeon can give you a better estimate of this type of procedure for your dog based on their exam.
Recovery from IVDD
There are many things that your vet will recommend that you do to help your dog recover from IVDD.
1. Cage Rest
After surgery, your Dachshund will be required to have strict cage rest. This means that they stay in their cage. This should be big enough for them to stand up and turn around and comfortably lay down. They should not be running and playing.
2. Leash walks only
Your dog will need to go outside on a leash only. This will prevent them from running and jumping around.
3. Passive range of motion exercises
Your vet may recommend after your dog has recovered from surgery that they undergo physical therapy. This can many times be done at home. Passive range of motion exercise will help strengthen your doglegs.
4. Take your dog swimming
Swimming is a low-impact exercise that your Dachshund can do. With supervision, you can allow your dog to swim in the pool or even the bathtub. This can help strengthen their back muscles.
5. What do I do if my dachshund is paralyzed by IVDD?
Some dogs never recover from IVDD. They may be permanently paralyzed. There are a few things that you can do to help your dog that is paralyzed.
If your dog is still not walking, you can get them a doggie wheelchair. There are many different companies that will make your dog a wheelchair specifically made to their body. This will help your dog be able to move around much more effectively.
Hind end Slings
There are slings that you can get for your dog’s back end. This helps you to support their back legs while they walk. Many times the handles are long enough that you can stand and support their back while they walk with their front legs.
Talk to your vet about all the different options for helping your paralyzed dog be able to function.
Preventing IVDD in Dachshunds
What to do if you think your dog might get IVDD
Many times prevention is one of the best ways to treat your dog for this disease. While it cannot be 100% prevented there are many things that you can do to help keep your dachshunds from developing severe IVDD.
If you have a breed that is susceptible to developing IVDD it is best to start early precautions to help prevent this issue. These are a few things that you can do to prevent your dog from developing IVDD:
Keep Your Dachshund at a Healthy Weight
Dachshunds that are predisposed to IVDD it is best to keep them at a healthy weight will decrease the amount of stress on their backbone and neck. Overweight dogs tend to have extra pressure and strain on their back and joints. This can cause your dog to quickly develop IVDD. Your dog should be kept at an ideal body condition and allowed plenty of exercises each day to keep them fit. It is best to provide your dog with a good quality diet dog food to maintain them at a healthy weight.
While IVDD can have a lot of nursing care, keeping your dog at a weight and bring them to the vet as soon as you notice a problem will keep your dog happy and healthy.
Fully Support Your Dachshund’s Back When Picking Up
When you pick up your dachshund, it is best to fully support their back. Do not pick them up by their front legs and let their back legs dangle. Put one hand under their chest and the other under their back end to fully support their back end when you pick them up.
Use a Harness on Walks
Using a harness when you take your dog out for a walk will keep strain off the neck. This is especially needed if your dog tends to pull on the leash.
Prevent Your Dachshund From Jumping
You can limit your dog’s ability to jump on off furniture by placing parries in the way and providing your dog with steps or a ramp to help them get up on furniture or beds. Dog ramps or dog stairs are best for helping your dog get on furniture without having to jump on and off.
If your dachshund is having trouble getting around and walking normally, it is best that you see your vet right away. Many dachshunds will need immediate attention to help them fully regain motor function and be able to walk again. Your vet will want your dog to be on strict cage rest for a few weeks to allow them to recover from this. Even with immediate attention and surgery, some dogs do not walk again. This is when trying a few of our recommendations will help you be able to manage your paralyzed dog.