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The complete guide to IVDD in dachshunds

September 03, 2017

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What is IVDD...

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition that affects the discs that sit between the vertebrae in a dachshund’s spine. These vertebrae are made up of a jelly like material that cushions the spine. All dogs' discs will deteriorate with time as the dog gets older, losing water and becoming more fibrous, sometimes they can start to mineralise. Unfortunately this can happen to your dachshund’s discs at a much earlier age compared to dogs with standard length legs.

IVDD in dachshunds is usually Hansen Type ll, as the disc deteriorates it bulges out and if it moves upwards it can compress the spine which leads to pain and ultimately paralysis - unfortunately this can happen very quickly. It is usually seen in dogs aged between three to seven years old, when they are most active

About a quarter of all dachshunds may be affected at some stage of their lives. Whilst many recover well in time, there is significant risk of permanent damage so severe it is life changing or threatening. 

How it affects dogs

Dachshunds are a short legged breed dog, not a long backed dog so to try to minimise IVDD make sure you purchase your dog from a recognised breeder who adheres to the ethical breeding practice and breed standards.

Symptoms of IVDD and what to look out for

  • Loss of/or reduced appetite
  • Reduced activity level
  • Lack of ability to jump up
  • Pain and/or weakness in back legs
  • Tenderness and/or pain
  • Change in behaviour/temperament
  • Muscle spasms and /or hunched back or neck.
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control

Prevention

The most important way to prevent IVDD is to keep your dachshund as fit and active as possible. Aim for regular, moderate exercise, and avoid any uncontrolled leaping or jumping from any high places like beds and sofas. Do not let your dachshund come downstairs on their own as their large bodies and comparatively short legs are especially prone to musculoskeletal and spinal injuries.

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Keep your dachshund’s weight under control as excess weight puts too much strain on their backs. Signs of back or neck pain should be taken very seriously. Owners who suspect a spinal cord injury should take their dachshund to the vet immediately if they suspect something and the vet can refer onto a specialist if necessary.

Treatments available

Treatment options range from rest and conservative medical management to surgical intervention. The exact therapeutic treatment will vary depending on how sever it is. In acute cases, pain management and control of inflammation are the first priorities. Corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (but not both at the same time), muscle relaxants, narcotics or other drugs to alleviate inflammation and pain may be recommended by the vet, together with strict cage rest. When given together, glucocorticoids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can cause severe gastrointestinal irritation and discomfort, possibly to the point of intestinal rupture. So it is strongly suggested that these drugs not be given at the same time.

If medical management does not control the dog’s pain and other symptoms, or if the results of imaging suggest that surgery is necessary or appropriate, there are several available techniques that the vet may consider. Basically, surgery is designed to decompress the spinal cord at the site of the injury and herniation/protrusion of disc material.

Whether or not surgery is undertaken, once a dog is stabilised so the pain and signs of injury are well controlled, there are a number of additional management things to take into consideration. Using a cage for three to six weeks is necessary to ensure a dog’s successful recovery. The pain or anti-inflammatory medications may mask a dog’s symptoms and owners can think their dog is much better and ease off the cage rest. All dogs recovering from IVDD should be on well-padded beds and a memory foam mattress such as the Wiener Dog World Snuggle Bed really helps.

Over time your dog’s medication should reduce and a weight loss plan introduced if necessary. Their exercise programme will be increased very slowly and a harness will be better than a collar. Your dog should be prevented from running or jumping, your vet may suggest swimming therapy as this is known to be a good way for your dachshund to make a good recovery.

You could also explore alternative treatments such as canine massage therapy to stimulate blood flow to the affected area and reduce overall pain and stress.

Outcomes

Many dogs with IVDD recover quite well and can be managed without surgery, especially if their disease is caught and treated early and if owners follow the instructions about strict cage confinement during the entire recovery period. However, owners must make sure their dachshunds follow the advice about not jumping and to keep their weight under control. Regular physical therapy also seems to reduce the recurrence rate. Dogs that have had surgical decompression have a good chance of full functional recovery within three to six weeks after surgery, however dogs that have lost their deep pain sensation and are unable to move their legs for several days or weeks before surgery can have a less positive outcome.