Treat and Prevent Back Problems in Dachshunds

Dachshunds are known for their distinctive appearance due to the animal’s long spine. Unfortunately, slender spines make dachshunds more susceptible to back problems. One of the more common problems is called disc disease or IVDD.

Dachshunds develop disc disease for two reasons. The first is genetics. If a dachshund has had an episode of IVDD, then their offspring and siblings are more likely to have IVDD. Some work has been done to predict which dogs will be affected in order to exclude them from breeding, but the results have been mixed.

The second reason is their conformation. Dachshunds have short legs and long backs. This formation is called chondrodystrophy, and while it may look cute, it’s not a good thing for back health. The legs usually absorb a lot of the vibration from walking and moving around so that not too much of it is transferred to the back. But this does not happen when the legs are very short compared to the back. The discs end up having to absorb more shock than they can handle. So over time, they degrade, and the end result is IVDD.

Dachshund Slipped Disc Symptoms and Diagnosis

The earliest clinical sign is pain. You’ll know your dachshund is injured when they whine or scream while walking, or are unwilling to jump or climb stairs. Other symptoms of pain include changes in habits, changes in diet, loss of bladder control and aggressive reactions.

If you find that your dog hunches his back and won’t bow his head while eating, or won’t go up stairs or outside, spinal problems may be at the root of the problem. One of the main symptoms of IVDD is the dachshund’s posture. Most dachshunds hold their heads high, but if they have back problems, you may notice their heads bowed and their backs arched. Eating with their head down relieves pressure on spine and reduces pain.

When your dachshund gets IVDD, you may notice a change in their daily diet. Dogs may eat and drink less than usual. Try to watch portion sizes. Changes in diet can also easily lead to changes in bowel movements. One of the signs of IVDD is loss of bladder control. You may notice your dog urinating in areas where dogs don’t normally urinate, or just leaking urine while lying there. Bladder control issues should not be overlooked, as major bladder problems may lead to more problems, including kidney problems.

As the disease progresses, the dog begins to have trouble coordinating his movements. Shaking, stumbling, or rocking are the most common symptoms of a dog’s loss of coordination. When dachshunds are in pain, their defense mechanisms may kick in. If someone tries to pet or handle the dog, the dachshund may bite or growl. In some cases, their primary owner may even become the focus of their attacks. It’s not personal because the dog is in pain and is just defending itself.

Without proper treatment, back problems in dachshunds can lead to paralysis, meaning they can lose control of their hind limbs or even their all limbs.

Diagnosing IVDD

Observing symptoms is crucial for early detection of a slipped disc. If you notice that your dog is showing any of symptoms, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

A veterinarian will perform a complete neurological examination of the dog to determine the exact location of the damaged disc.

X-ray examination will find any abnormalities in the spine.  Since radiographs do not detect any changes in soft tissue, further analysis may be required.

Dachshunds may need a special procedure called a myelogram. During this procedure, the vet injects a special dye into the area around the spinal cord so that it appears on X-ray. It is painful, though, and the little fella must be put under anesthesia. Sometimes MRI and CT scans are also performed to locate where the nerves are compressed.

Prevention of Herniated Disc in the Dachshund

To prevent spinal problems in dachshunds, you should ask your beloved dog to avoid as many activities as possible: jumping, up and down the stairs, tug-of-war, and fast running. In addition, you need to keep your dachshund’s weight under control to avoid obesity. You also need to pay attention to home care. Regular heat therapy is very helpful.

Jumping. Sudden and powerful movements such as jumping can lead to injury, and reaching for a bed, sofa or car seat can be risky due to Dachshunds’ sensitive backs.

Up or down the stairs. Regular stairs are not suitable for dogs of the dachshund’s size, and frequent climbing up and down may put unnecessary strain on the dog’s back.

Tug of war. Do not play this mentally and physically challenging game with your dog. Your Dachshund will probably love it, but keep in mind that this game activates a dog’s weakest points: the neck and mid-back.

Fast running. You should never encourage your dog to run at full speed. Even the slightest uncontrolled movement can turn a carefree stroll in the park into a nightmare.

Less active dogs tend to gain weight, so even if your dachshund shows signs of being overweight or obese, exercise should not be canceled. Avoiding obesity is especially important. Let your dog try some good exercise, such as swimming.

Heat therapy is great for reducing stiffness and muscle cramps, increasing blood flow, and relieving pain. Heat therapy is most commonly used on joints: the shoulders, elbows, and wrists of the front legs, and the hips, knees, and ankles of the back legs. It can be used on any part of your dog’s body where a muscle injury, strain, or spasm has occurred. For example, dogs with disc problems in the spine (neck or back) may have muscle spasms that can be relieved by heat therapy.

Dachshund Back Surgery

Unfortunately, the disease causes severe symptoms, such as incontinence and hind limb paralysis, and in many cases leads to surgery. The two main surgical procedures are Fenestration and Hemilaminectomy.


Relatively quick and easy.

Doesn’t require specialised equipment.

Disc material (nuclei pulposus) is removed through a small window created in the fibrous ring (anulus fibrosis).

A non-decompressive technique; disc material in the vertebral canal is not removed.

Not suitable for large spinal cord compression.


Technically difficult and requires specialised equipment.

Extruded disc material is removed from the vertebral canal after drilling a hole.

In the back, this is usually done from the side of the bone.

In the neck, the underside of the bone is used.

A decompressive technique.

The time it takes your dog to recover from surgery and how much normal function it achieves depends on several factors: how quickly the extruded disc material hits the spinal cord, the extent of the damage to the spinal cord, and the duration of the spinal cord injury. In general, the less severe the injury, the faster the surgery and the better the recovery.