Dachshunds or Doxies are cute, loyal and make surprisingly good watchdogs. But the secret of their charm – their short legs and long back – makes Doxies prone to back problems, including hind limb paralysis. The most common spinal condition of Dachshunds is called intervertebral disc disease or IDD. According to The Everything Dachshund Book (Adams; 2005) about half of all canine IDD cases are Doxies.
Anyone looking to bring a Dachshund home needs to be aware that the chances of the dog developing spinal problems are very high. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare state that 25% of all Doxies will suffer some form of disc damage in their lives. One reason why Doxies are relinquished to animal rescue groups is because their owners cannot afford veterinary care. Doxies can live happy lives with hind end paralysis if their caretaker is dedicated to their care, including expressing the urine and feces from the dog.
The Doxie Spine
This breed was originally bred to hunt badgers, foxes, rats and other critters that live underground. Having short legs allowed the dog to enter the quarry’s den. Dogs can suffer dwarfism which allows them to have normal sized heads and bodies on stunted legs. Dachshund breeders deliberately bred for dwarfism.
Unfortunately, the genes for canine dwarfism also seem to be inevitably linked to weakened spines. The Everything Dachshund Book notes that Doxies have structurally different spines than other breeds of dogs. This causes the spines to start degenerating before the Doxie is even one year old. There may be other genes or sets of genes involved in IDD or other neurological problems in dogs. Some breeders will not begin breeding their dogs until after they receive an X-ray to check for damaged or calcified vertebrae.
It’s not inevitable that all Doxies will develop back problems or slipped discs. There are several things a Doxie caretaker can do to help prevent back problems in Dachshunds. Keeping the dog at an ideal weight helps keep the dog active and the spine supple. Being overweight increases a Doxie’s chance of developing back problems.
Doxie puppies should ideally play only with small dogs or other Doxies, because larger dogs that don’t know their own strength may decide to pin the long dog down with a heavy paw or otherwise injure the puppy’s spine. Dachshunds that participate in agility should never jump hurdles larger than regulations allow (usually eight to twelve inches) to prevent injury when landing.