IVDD Information for Dachshunds
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All Dachshund owners should be aware of the debilitating disease called IVDD.
Small dog breeds, including dachshunds, are more susceptible to this disease because of their short stature and long spine.
We have researched IVDD and found a bunch of helpful information for those who are currently going through IVDD with their dachshund and for dog owners who would like to educate themselves on the disease.
What is IVDD?
Intervertebral disc disease, also known as IVDD or slipped disc disease, is an inherited condition of the spine that affects about 25 percent of all Dachshunds. This disease occurs when a disk bulges, ruptures, or slips in the middle of the back. 
IVDD is considered a degenerative disk disease. These diseases are caused by progressive degeneration of the intervertebral disks, those cushion-like structures that separate each vertebra of the spinal column.
As the disks degenerate, they calcify and lose their shock-absorbing ability. The disks will then become more susceptible to compression damage, even from normal activities. If a forceful movement occurs, these disks can rupture.
The contents of the disks will then go into the spinal canal and place pressure on the spinal cord. Severe or prolonged pressure on the nerves can lead to pain, loss of bladder or bowel control, or even paralysis, to the spinal cord. 
Dachshund Fact: These degenerative disk diseases can show up as early as three years of age. The risk of incidence increases as the dachshund grows older. Dachshunds who are overweight are at higher risk for this disorder.
What Causes IVDD?
When the nerves of the dog’s spinal cord are compacted, they are not able to transmit their signals to the final destination in the limbs, bladder, etc. If the damage is severe enough, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control can occur.
Depending on the location of the disc that is bulging, signs occur anywhere in the body from the neck to the rear legs. 
How Do You Reduce The Risk of IVDD in Dachshunds?
It is important to learn how to prevent IVDD in your dachshund. But, keep in mind, sometimes IVDD unfortunately can just happen. Nevertheless, here are some safety measures you can follow to help reduce the risk of IVDD in your dog.
Reduce High Impact Activities
Walking with a Collar or Harness
1. Prevent Obesity
The most important step to lowering the risk of IVDD or any other degenerative disease is to prevent your dachshund from becoming obese or overweight. As a dog parent, your dachshund’s nutrition is a priority.
Keeping them at a lower weight will help reduce the stress on their backbone and neck.
Any extra weight puts a lot of strain on the spine and can increase the risk of intervertebral disk calcification.
Every Dachshund owner should ask their dog’s vet for some guidelines on how much to feed their dog to maintain a healthy body weight.
See our Feeding Schedule article for proper portion control recommendations.
2. Reduce High Impact Activities
Your dachshund may be willing to jump up and down on your furniture, but you really should discourage them from doing so.
Jumping or falling might cause the disks in the spine to burst, causing pressure and pain.
All Dachshunds should avoid high-impact activities including jumping, running at high-speed, and any activity that will put too much strain on their spine.
Activities that Dachshunds Should Avoid:
- Jumping up onto or down off the bed, couch, chair, high up furniture
- Going up and down steps
- High-Speed Running
- Rough-housing with other pets or humans
- Playing Tug-of-war
3. Dog Crate
Using a dog crate is one of the most effective ways to prevent all the above-mentioned high-risk activities that can happen while you are not at home.
It is important to use a larger sized dog crate or kennel and make it comfortable so your doxie can still roam around but avoid overdoing it.
Alternatively, you could keep your Dachshund gated in a room with no furniture to avoid jumping up and down. 
4. Walking with a Collar or Harness
Is a dog collar or body harness better for a dog when trying to prevent IVDD? Harness is the winner!
The body harness fits around the dog’s upper body and helps distribute the strength of the leash over a larger area rather than having all the pressure applied to the neck, unlike a traditional neck collar.
Using a dog body collar will protect the dog’s neck and back. If they are an aggressive leash puller, using a body harness may also help prevent some of the twisting and turning motions that can happen along the rest of the spine when pulling hard at the end of a leash attached to a neck collar.
The leash and harness collar combination should be considered the number one device that will reduce the risk of IVDD in your dachshund. 
Most dogs love to go on walks or hikes. When they are excited, they do tend to pull, which may cause strain on their backs.
Try a no pull harness instead.
5. Careful Handling
When you lift your dachshund, be sure to firmly support both the front and hind ends as you lift. Keep their back as straight as possible when lifting. Anyone who isn’t able to lift the dachshund with full proper support shouldn’t be allowed to lift the dog (including young children).
Avoid roughhousing with your dachshund. Dachshunds love to play, but it is best to keep aggressive play at a minimum.
My dachshunds love to play ball for a long period of time. To prevent them from straining too much, I play with them for about 20-30 and then make them rest afterward. 
Avoid the Stairs. Make sure to carry your doxie when going up or down the stairs. Install some baby gates at the top and bottom of all staircases so they don’t try to do it themselves.
6. Avoid Breeding
IVDD is hereditary, so veterinarians recommend against breeding dogs with IVDD.
How Common Is IVDD In Dachshunds?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) affects about 25 percent of all Dachshunds. That is 1-2 more times likely than any other dog breed.
What Dog Breeds Are Affected by IVDD?
Some small dog breeds are more at risk of IVDD due to their genetic skeletal structure. They are known as “Chondrodystrophic breeds”, which means these dogs are born with short legs and long backs and are more susceptible to prematurely aged disks.
Chondrodystrophy (also known as CDDY) is a trait shared by many small dog breeds and is characterized by the reduction of long bone length and shorter legs. CDDY can also impact the health of dogs by causing premature degeneration of the intervertebral discs. 
Dog Breeds susceptible to spine issues, including IVDD:
Cavalier King Charles spaniels
Are There Different Types of IVDD?
Yes, there are two types of IVDD seen in dogs: Type I and Type II. Type 1 IVDD is considered more mild, while Type 2 is considered more severe.
IVDD Type 1:
Dachshunds that have IVDD Type 1 can generally heal over time and are able to resume their normal daily routines, including walking and playing.
When my dachshund, Reno, would play fetch for a long time, he would move a lot slower when walking the next day. We learned then that we had to set a time during play time to help him stop before overdoing it.
It isn’t always clear when the injury actually happens. The dog’s symptoms may not appear for a couple of days after the forceful contact.
Type 1 IVDD is considered the most common form of the disease and the dogs who are affected tend to be younger or middle aged (3-6 years old). 
IVDD Type 2:
Type 2 IVDD is considered a more severe form of the degenerative disease. Type 2 is largely age-related and can happen slowly over time, resulting in few symptoms at first.
This type of IVDD occurs when the outer layer of the intervertebral disc bulges and enters the spinal cord space. This compression on the spinal cord can happen slowly overtime and may not cause pain immediately.
Older dachshunds are the most affected by Type 2 IVDD. 
What are the Symptoms of IVDD in Dachshunds?
If you notice any of the following signs, get your dog to a vet as soon as possible. Your dachshund won’t necessarily have all of these symptoms, so you need to know what to look for.
Symptoms of IVDD in dogs:
- Crying out in pain when touched
- Hesitancy to move
- Lowered head
- Back pain
- Arched or hunched back, tense muscles
- Bladder or Fecal Incontinence
- Down Dog: no control or dragging of back legs and bladder
- Knuckling a paw (paws placed upside down)
- Weakness or uncoordinated back legs
- Difficulty getting up from the floor
- Trembling or shaking
- Lack of coordination: swaying, wobbly
- Paralysis in one or more legs
- Anxious behavior
Dog Has Symptoms of IVDD?
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms listed above, call your vet and have your dog seen within 24 hours.
In the case of the paralysis (not able to move) symptoms, this should be treated as an emergency and should be seen immediately.
While waiting to see your vet, keep them secure and immobile. Be sure to confine your dog in a dog crate or gated area to keep them resting as much as possible.
How to Pick Up Your Dog With Back Pain
Diagnosing Back Problems in Dogs: What to Expect
An examination by your vet will include a complete neurologic exam, which will help identify where in the spinal cord the injury is located.
Plain X-rays may show an abnormal area in the spine.
However, because the spinal cord does not appear on X-rays, special imaging may be necessary to locate the source of the injury. 
“A procedure called myelogram, injects a special dye into the spine, which surrounds the spinal cord and allows it to appear on X-rays.
This test requires the animal to be put under anesthesia. In some cases, further testing such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan can also be used to locate where the nerves are being pinched, which is necessary for surgical repair.” 
Treating IVDD in Dogs
“Depending on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord, treatment can range from conservative to surgical.” 
Conservative Treatment Method:
“Conservative care usually includes treatment with drugs such as steroids and anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling of the cord and reduce pain.
The dog must also be kept confined in a crate or cage to prevent further damage from occurring for up to six weeks. After a period of resting, he may gradually return to normal activity.
If the dog still exhibits some sensation in the hind legs prior to surgery, it is highly likely that he will regain his ability to walk after successful surgery and rehabilitative care.” 
The conservative treatment includes lots of rest through crate confinement and reducing activities in order to recuperate. Some methods used include laser therapy, acupuncture, stretches, hydrotherapy, short walks, wobble boards, etc.
During the conservative treatment, some vets may require strict crate rest for 6-8 weeks. Note, the conservative method is not the “cure all” for IVDD, it is a treatment for the current spinal problem in order to help the dog possibly regain his strength in order to walk again.
Surgical Treatment Method:
“If the damage is too severe and the dog is paralyzed or incontinent, conservative treatment may not be enough. In these cases, emergency surgery is needed to open up space. This is done by removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord (laminectomy). Even after surgery, however, the dog may not recover fully.” 
Surgery is a hard decision to make, but it is necessary if your dog is not able to walk. At the first sign of symptoms, it is crucial to get your dog to the vet. If surgery is required, the sooner they have the operation the better chances of success they have to be able to walk again.
It is recommended that you have your dog’s surgery done by a trained neurologist, not a general veterinarian. If successful, this surgery may fix the injured discs, but with IVDD, it is possible that other discs can rupture in the future.
- DodgersList IVDD Forum: Learn more from other dog moms and dads about IVDD.
- IVDD Info on Pinterest
- DodgersList Physiotherapy YouTube Channel for a post-operative paralyzed dogs.
- Crate rest for dogs: advice for vets by Dr. Marianne Dorn.
- Walking with your recovering dog by Dr. Marianne Dorn.
- Crate Rest Activities for Dogs after Back, Hip, Leg Injuries
- Why your Dachshund with IVDD should not see a Chiropractor
- Sling walking your dog after surgery
Continue reading about Dachshund IVDD Post-OP (Part 2 of my IVDD Blog Series) Physical Therapy Exercises, Rehabilitation, Natural Treatment options, and Mobility Aids.