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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dachshund Back Problems

Anyone who has or intends to have a dachshund needs to pay attention to this entry. Many dachshund owners are already aware of this issue, but those who aren't need to learn about it.

As a breed, dachshunds are extremely prone to injuring their backs. Specifically this involves a herniation of one of the discs between the vertebrae in their back. Between each bone is a cushioning disc that helps to soften movement of the spine and prevent pain and injuries. Imagine the disc like a seeded grape. If you squeeze the grape firmly, you'll compress it without breaking it, and the grape will return to its shape. If you squeeze too hard, the grape ruptures and the seed inside shoots out. An intervertebral disc is like that grape, with a hard center. When the center of the disc comes out, the only direction it can go is against the spinal cord. This causes a sudden pressure against the spinal cord and damages it. This can lead to temporary or permanent nerve damage. The nerve damage can affect anything behind the injury, causing paralysis, inability to defecate, and inability to urinate.

Depending on how severe the injury is, it can look like anything from difficulty standing, instability in the back legs, or full paralysis. This should be considered an emergency, as time is of the essence. The longer the pressure continues against the spinal cord and the more severe it is, the greater the likelihood of having long-term or permanent problems. The chances of improvement can drop dramatically within hours, so you shouldn't wait a day or two to see if this improves.

In mild cases, first therapy is usually high doses of steroids or similar potent anti-inflammatories. Studies have shown that this treatment has limited effectiveness, and there isn't much evidence to prove that it is worthwhile. However, most vets (myself included) have seen dogs improve on steroids, and therefore will usually try it. When cases or severe or if there is no improvement on steroids in 24-48 hours, surgery is indicated. This kind of surgery is done by a specialist and involves cutting away part of the vertebrae and removing the damaged disc material from the spinal cord. This is very expensive and delicate surgery, but can make a huge difference. Again, the faster the surgery is done, the better the outcome. If you wait days or weeks, chances are low that it will work.

Healing of nerve damage is very hard to predict, as it is difficult to tell if there is too much damage for the nerves to regenerate. That's why it can be hard for your vet to tell you if any kind of treatment will work, and it's why you can get some cases that start to heal after many weeks even beyond the expectation.

There are some things you can do to lower the risks. Keep your dachshund's weight normal, as any extra weight will put additional stress on the spine. Keep him or her from jumping on or off furniture, especially high things like beds. Sudden twists of trauma to the spine can cause a disc to slip out of place. However, there are some cases that you simply cannot help.

Even though dachshunds are a high risk breed for this kind of injury, it can happen to any dog. If yours ever shows any problems like this, get them to your vet immediately. It could be the difference between walking or using a wheeled cart.

27 comments:

  1. Seems like every post you do is relevant for me lately. This is sort of the injury my dog had only he was a big dog and it was from being twisted.

    Thanks for keeping everyone informed.

    My brother had dachshunds, they were good dogs. My music teacher had the meanest most evil dachshunds that smelled bad and were fat and mean.

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  2. We are seriously thinking of adopting a dachshund. Any idea what percentage of dachshunds have back problems? Are we doomed from the beginning if we try to limit stair climbing, etc???

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  3. Robin -

    I would not let this discourage you from adopting a dachshund if you are interested. I am no vet, but I have had three dachshunds during my lifetime, and they are truly great dogs. Most breeds have health conditions that they are prone to, with dachshunds it happens to be their backs. Speaking from experience (two of the three have had to have surgery, which is a bit unusual I think), it can be expensive, but the keys are catching it early on, and giving them some extra loving as they recover, both of mine have recovered and been able to walk and do nearly everything they could do prior to surgery. I have not regreted getting either for a second, even despite the hefty surgery bills. That said, my third dachshund, now a puppy will be getting pet health insurance (which normally seems a bit silly to me) between the ages of 3 and 5, according to my vet the most common age they have back problems.

    Dachshunds are very loyal, smart, and fun dogs to own, as you should with any dog, do your research so that you know what you're getting into and the best ways to care for your particular breed.

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  4. And I wouldn't say you are "doomed from the beginning." you are right, limiting jumping and stairs (especially down), keeping your dog at a healthy weight and leg muscles strong through exercise, will significantly help your dachshunds chance of staying healthy. Things I wish I knew before I got my first dachshund.

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  5. "keep your dog at a healthy weight and leg muscles strong through exercise"

    I don't think all Dachshunds are doomed to have back problems. I have not gotten any expert advice on this but I believe it is more important to prevent injury by keeping your dog in shape and his back and leg muscles strong rather than keeping him from jumping off things alone. I ration my dachshunds food and take him hiking with me all the time to keep his muscles strong.

    I have an 8 year old Dachshund. I always get comments on how good of shape he is in. He has never had back problems so either my theory worked or he just never inherited the genes.

    People treat their dachshunds like they are fragile and shouldn't be "too active" but I think that actually works against them when it comes to their backs. My dachshund is tough, strong and loves adventure. If you want to see what dachshunds are capable of if given the chance you can check out my blog at www.YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner.com.

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  6. I agree that not all dachshunds will have back problems. In fact, most won't. But they are most certainly prone to it, and they have a much higher likelihood than other breeds.

    I also agree that good exercise is important, but not only to the back. Building muscle helps overall metabolism and strength. Good cardiovascular exercise keeps the heart healthy. And overall activity helps burn excess fat.

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  7. Dr. Bern, some suggest 1 in 4 Dachshunds will be born disc disease. So it is a good thing for owners to be aware of the signs of a disc problem, crate to prevent movement and get to a vet ASAP to prevent damage to the spinal cord.

    When an owner receives a diagnosis of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) it can be a very overwhelming time. Because surgery is not always an option for all owners, they should know there is hope with the use of Conservative Treatment. I highly recommend owners check out http://www.dodgerslist.com a website devoted to education and support on this disease ... a tremendous resource of information in caring for an IVDD dog.

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  8. My standard size doxie, was injured through play. He is 4yrs and now he is fallig of the back of his legs. He is on 5mg of prednisone every 12hrs,for the last 4 weeks however I don't see an improvement. Should he be on a higher dose? Is there anything else to try?

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  9. If he has a slipped disc and a month of medication isn't making a difference, then the damage is likely permanent and something that can't be treated by steroids. You need to talk to your vet about this.

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  10. I just put my 12 years old male Dashund to sleep, and yes, he was obese and his back went out in 2 places. Since he was old, he would not survive the surgeries, even we had pet insurance. It was the most difficult decision, but the pain was so severe, that he cried for 40 hours straight. My other 8 years old Dashund had problem with his hind legs almost 2 years ago, and the Predisone helped him to walk again. However, Predisone put more weight on him, we were told to put him on a strict diet, if not, we will lose him. He lost almost 10 lbs in the last 5 months, and still losing. I wished that I had not overfed them, and regretted that I contributed to his death. I am very stern on feeding the second one, since I want to have him for a long time, longer than 12 years... I urge everyone to be firm with the feeding, it makes them happy but it will kill them at the end.

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  11. I have a 4 year old Doxie who is experiencing back pain. I took her to the vet a week ago and they prescribed steriod and a muscle relaxer. She is not getting worse, but still not herself. Is it normal for her not to show improvement yet. I took her to the 24 hr veterinary hospital and he said that it could take 6 weeks. He gave me pain medication and reinforced I keep her crated (which I am doing. Does this sound correct. I miss my happy go lucky puppy.

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  12. Gabby, it's hard for me to give advice without all of the details of the case. It's important to distinguish whether or not there was a concern for a slipped disc in the spine, or if the vet suspected something more like a pinched nerve or muscle strain. If it was simply pain without neurological deficits, then rest and medications for pain and inflammation are usually the best indication, and can indeed take over a month to heal. If there were neurological problems, I would want to see at least some response within days to a week. But if you have any concerns at all, you need to be talking to your regular vet who an look at your dog and make a proper evaluation.

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  13. We have a standard long hair dachshund, Emma, that is currently four years old. She weighs 19 lbs. and her vet said that she is slightly overweight.

    She is healthy and is very active. She likes to run and jump into the waves of Lake Erie at the beach down the street from our home. We also have a stair case which consists of 13 steps that she willingly scampers up but refuses to go down. She is not allowed to jump off of the bed since it's high, but can adeptly jump on and off the sofa.

    My question is are we allowing Emma to do things that will ultimately harm her back? My husband and I do not encourage her to do anything that she doesn't want to, but are we allowing her to do too much?

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  14. We love doxies, and currently have three. All of them were rescued. The first, Freeway, a male will be 10. He lives up to the breed because he loves to hunt gophers during the summer. He is a mini smooth red. The second is Hank, who is a 5 years old male, who coma from a doxie rescue. He i a smooth red tweenie, to big to be a mini, but too small to be a full size. He also enjoyshelping Freeway hunt for gophers during the summer. Th third is Ginger,a four year old long hair mini, who came from the same doxie rescue in Idaho. (Little Long Dogs) She is a real lover. She just recently started having some back problems. After a trip to the vet, she is on the mend, but is on a a diet. She was on a see food diet, (if she saw it, she ate it). We really have to be careful during feeding time. She has her own food and treats, but trying to keep her away from the other dogs food can be a challenge.
    They seem to be a lot more sociable within their own breed than other dogs. They will lay on top of each other in a pilegetting comfortable and are just a hoot to watch them interact with each other.
    Ginger is now spending the day in a crate while we are at wotk. We do let her go outside for some exercise and to do her thing, but we are now keeping her quite, kaying down on the couch or chair, and absolutely not letting her jump or running up or down any stairs. I would hate to confine her to a crate, but if it becomes necessary, it wll happen.

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  15. I have a sweet 6 yr old dachshund named Gracie who had emergency surgery almost 3 weeks ago for bladder stones. She came through that without any trouble at all until this past week when on Friday she somehow hurt her back. I took her to the vet on Sat. morning because she was in very obvious pain---first time I have ever heard her whimper and moan like that. She was put on an anti-inflammatory for a week along with pain meds as needed and we were told to limit activity as much as possible. From Saturday to Monday she was making slow progress when she jumped off the sofa on Monday evening ---- my husband came home and she just popped up and off! After that we noticed that she was walking differently----she seemed to be favoring her back left leg. Tuesday she was still walking a little strangely and again on Tuesday night she jumped off the sofa. This morning (Wednesday) she was walking okay but (please don't judge---I really am trying to keep her from jumping) then hopped off my bed and came down half a flight of stairs. I could not believe it. Anyways, I could see that she ws having a very hard time walking and for the first time ever I saw her back legs go out from under her. I called the vet, took her back in and while the vet said her reflexes are normal (which she said is a very good sign) she thinks that Gracie has aggravated her back injury with each jumping off the sofa episode. Gracie is now confined to her bed as long as we are sitting right next to her or she is in her crate. She simply cannot jump again---ever again. I am wondering how long it might be to see improvement in her back leg function (she is still walking drunken sometimes but not quite as bad as this morning right after she jumped off the bed). Interestingly enough, she has exhibited no signs of pain or discomfort---for which I am thankful. Any advice/information would be much appreciated as this little dog is like our baby and I am really fearful that this might eventually end up being fatal.

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  16. Return of nerve function is completely unpredictable. I recommend you talk to your vet, as he/she will know more about the specifics of your case.

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  17. I have actually had Gracie at the vet's every other day in the past week and a half between the back/leg injury and the bladder stones/UTI. So they are very familiar with us. I am very happy to say that Gracie is definitely improving----she is able to keep both legs firmly under herself now. When she pees she is back to "cocking" her right leg up, thereby putting all her rear weight on the left leg----which was the leg that had been falling out from under her. We have kept her crate rested and she is not happy with us---she feels fine, and cannot understand why we will not let her out to run in the yard or even walk around the room. She will take Rimadyl for another week and I am still giving her the Tramadol to prevent any pain. So far it is working well. Thank you for your site and for the information you provide.

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  18. I have a 5 yr old doxie who hurt his back. He is on prednisone and was getting better and we were keeping him low until one day I took him out and he jumped off two stairs because I didn't get to him fast enough. It set him back so we jumped his prednisone dose again for another week. He is not on pain medicine and doesn't seem to be in any pain. He is walking but he not walking completely normal. A good example would be a human keeping Thier thighs together and only walking at the knees. I want to know if we should continue prednisone and cage rest or if we are causing permanent damage if we don't do surgery sooner than later? I just want to make sergury a last resort if there is a possibility that he could recover on rest and meds.

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  19. I have a 5 yr old female mini that is quite small. She is very active and healthy, and is walked daily so her weight is good. She slipped going up the stairs in front of me 3 days ago. I do not allow her to go down stairs, or to jump off of anything. She sort of rolled on her back and slipped down one stair before I could catch her. She cried terribly. I honestly thought she must have broken her leg or a rib. I checked her over and could find no signs of serious injury so decided she did not need to see the vet. She is VERY sensitive and cries at the smallest things so I know she is a baby, and figured she must have bruised herself. She would whine slightly when I tried to pick her up around her middle. If I lifted her front and my other hand under her rear she was fine to be picked up. The next day (yesterday) she was almost completely normal. She was not exhibiting any signs of pain and was happy to go on our walk. She did seem a little off, but I figured by today she would be 100%. This morning she was very wobbly on her back legs. She was happy and not in pain, went about her normal routine, drinking, eating and going to the bathroom. By 8 am she seemed more wobbly on her hind legs, so I called the vet and took her in right away. They took an xray and said she has 2 discs that are bulged. I saw the xray. On her other vertebra you can not see the discs on her what would be L5 and in about the middle of her back you can see the discs on the xray. The vet said she can still stand on her legs, has strong reflexes and has deep pain....all good signs. She put her on 5 mg Prednisone every 12 hours and 500 mg Robaxin every 12 hours. The Robaxin pills are broken into 1/8s. She is to be on complete "bed rest" for 3 weeks. She is only allowed to walk to go to the bathroom. She said if her condition worsens in the next 24 to 48 hours to call her. Since I got home she can not use her back legs at all, she is totally dragging them. She can not put any weight on them at all. I gave her the first dose of pills and she is really out of it. When she is sleeping, she arches her head back and almost tips over. I have called my vet, but they are closed. Is this normal? She also is very rigid when I pick her up. She is a total lap dog and follows me wherever I go, so I have to carry her with me continuously, or put her in her cage (which she hates) and tries to move around so she can see me. Because her condition has worsened so dramatically do you think there is any chance the meds are going to help her in the next 24 - 48 hours? Do you know how much the surgery is and what the success rate is? I really can not afford it, but I can not bear to lose her. I live in the country and a cart would not be an option for her. I would have to carry her. I have to work all day (often 12 hur days), so she would be crated. That hardly seems fair. Please tell me your thoughts.

    Thanks

    Lynn

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  20. You should call an emergency vet and have her seen. It sounds like your vet did everything appropriately and used appropriate medications. Robaxin is a muscle relaxer and can cause sedation and lethargy as a common side-effect. However, progressive problems with her hind legs could be an indication of a worsening of pressure on her spinal cord. Even if she's sedated a vet should be able to determine if her reflexes are intact and if she might need surgery sooner rather than later.

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  21. I have a 7 year old that we took in when her owner died ...we have stairs that we go up and down a lot and she likes to jump on couches as well.. I've had her for 2 years and theres been no problem until last week..she stopped trying to jump onto anything and goes very slowly up the stairs and yes, sometimes her back legs go out from under her while climbing..I didn't know the "rules" with the breed as I have another mix who can do the stairs and jumping with ease...I took her to the vet and she felt her back and recommended glucosamine but said she felt nothing abnormal in her back...what should I do? we live in a house w/ stairs, the other dog and we are always going upstairs and down...she doesn't seem in pain but....does she need to live in a place w/o stairs now?

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  22. Talk to your vet again. You can't actually feel a slipped disc in the back, though there are neurological tests you can do to see if this might be an issue. Without knowing the details of this case I don't want to give inappropriate advice.

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  23. I have a 3 1/2 year old miniature dachshund who weighs about 9 pounds. She is extemely active, loves to jump up on the couch, jump on the beds and runs up and down the stairs. I came home one day and she wasnt her usual self running around frantically happy to see me. She was standing with her head down low and her back stuck up in the air. She wouldnt move at all so I went to pick her up and she screamed in pain. I took her to the vet and they did some xray's. The xray's showed she had 2 bulging discs in her neck and one in the middle of her back. They have her on some medications that seemed to help. Although, the last 2 days I have taken her for a walk (about 1 block and back) which she walked very normally. About 10 minutes after getting home she was sitting with her back arched and not willing to walk. She appeared to be in alot of pain. My questions are; Should I restrict her by putting her in a crate 24/7 or do you feel she needs to see a specialist? Should I refrain from taking her for walks? Should I keep her in a crate at all times? I have a crate that is really big which she can jump in if she choozes to. Should I get something smaller to avoid the chance for her to jump? What size crate should I use for her?

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  24. You should talk to the vet who made the diagnosis since I don't have the details of the case. In general you want to keep activity very low, preventing running, jumping, and so on. Your vet will have more specific recommendations and is the person you should talk to.

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  25. Reading up on these Dachshund back issues recently as our 4.5 year old male - half mini, half regular size dachshund has a compressed/ruptured disc. He initially showed signs of problems while we (his owners) were on vacation. Pet sitters informed us they thought he'd hurt his right hip. Upon our return 1 day later, I gently tested his flexibility/pain threshold in his leg but nothing set off the pain. He would cry out in pain randomly but seemed fairly normal aside from mild lameness in his right leg. Two days after the onset of the symptoms we noticed his back-end was unstable/wobbly. We contacted our vet who moved schedules to get him in ASAP and did the X-ray. Since, he's been on steroids for three days and is showing improvements in controlling his legs but is still somewhat unstable. The meds are definitely helping his pain threshold but what I didn't realize is that the damage, once done, cannot likely be undone. A dachshund back surgery in Hawaii is $6K minimum (talked w/ multiple hospitals), which is more than we can spend on a military salary. We've contemplated flying him back to the states to get the surgery but is it even worth the risk if the damage is already done? He's under a strict crate regimen and gets out four times per day to go to the doggie bathroom. Nerve damage is an extremely slow recovery process but what remedies outside of surgery have proven most beneficial for people with this unfortunate problem? I worry we may be postponing a surgery that could prove helpful to try alternative solutions which could possibly create a worse situation in the long run. Will he always be in pain/limited without the surgery or is it possible for him to recover to a point that he's pain free again? What happens to the hard part of the ruptured disc when no surgery is done? Will it move back into place? Thanks for your thoughts!

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  26. We are thinking adopting a Dachsund here where we live in Mexico. Its parents are both very healthy looking and i guess tweenie-sized. One is dark brown, one is tan. Should we have a vet evaluate the pup before we adopt if the family that owns it lets us?

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  27. I've started answering some of these comments in a more recent post. You can find the first one in the series here: http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.com/2012/10/dachshund-week-back-problems-part-1.html

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