Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
The Dachshund has quite a distinctive body structure. Their elongated bodies and tiny legs render them close to the ground.
Still, their big personalities make them close to our hearts.
As a dog parent, I know you care about them so much that you want to know the health conditions they are predisposed to.
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That’s why I’ve compiled six common problems seen in dachshunds to give you a heads up on what may occur in the future and what action you should take.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
IVDD is a musculoskeletal condition that results from a slow and gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs.
These discs are crucial in holding the spinal column together and providing flexibility to the back.
They also contain a jelly-like fluid that cushions the spine from impact.
As dogs mature, their discs become susceptible to calcification (hardening).
Hardening means the discs stop absorbing shock efficiently, and this can result in disc herniation (slipping) and spinal cord injury.
Dachshunds are more susceptible to developing IVDD earlier in their lives than most dog breeds due to their unique skeletal structure.
IVDD is a painful ailment, and pet parents should look out for these common signs:
- Severe pain indications like yelping, shivering, or shaking.
- Reluctance to move their neck or head, play, climb or descend the stairs, etc.
- Uncoordinated walking, limping, or limb paralysis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vet may use several diagnostic imaging techniques like X-rays and MRIs to diagnose the disease and locate the affected area along the spinal cord.
The kind of treatment administered to your pet will depend on the severity of the symptoms.
Your vet may prescribe medication and rest if the disease is in the beginning stages.
In severe cases, however, the vet may recommend surgery.
Rehabilitation therapy is also often recommended for faster recovery after surgery.
As treatments differ, it’s vital to see a veterinarian for guidance on the best course of action.
Meanwhile, there are various measures you can take to reduce back problems in your doxie:
- When carrying or picking them up, ensure you support their body weight evenly to prevent stress on the spine.
- Ensure your doxie exercises regularly and eats nutritious meals to promote a healthy weight. Excess weight puts a lot of pressure on the dog’s skeletal structure.
- Discourage them from jumping up and down high places like cars, furniture, etc. This can cause stress on the back.
Acanthosis Nigricans (AN)
Acanthosis Nigricans is a genetic disorder mainly found in dachshunds and extremely rare in other breeds.
It is a hyperpigmentation condition causing the skin around your Weiner’s legs, groin, and armpits to darken and harden.
AN can present itself in the first year of your doxie’s life (primary AN) or later as a consequence of a different illness (secondary AN).
As a result, the affected areas are predisposed to secondary bacteria or yeast infections.
Signs of AN begin with increased pigmentation in your Weiner’s limbs, groin, and armpit regions.
In primary AN, hyperpigmentation manifests uniformly and is usually diffuse with no inflammation but can develop secondary inflammatory lesions due to conformational friction.
The hyperpigmentation is distributed unevenly and in patches in secondary AN and often begins with a lacy appearance.
The affected areas might initially experience mild inflammation, which can become severe with time.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Primary AN is usually diagnosed through physical examination.
A secondary AN diagnosis, however, involves identifying the underlying illness and determining how it is affecting your Dachshund and why it’s causing them to experience the symptoms of AN.
Primary AN in Dachshunds is not curable but can be managed by symptomatic treatment.
Antibacterial shampoo therapy and drugs may treat the inflammation in the affected areas.
Secondary AN should resolve after identifying and treating the underlying disease.
Due to their elongated bodies and pint-sized legs, Dachshunds are also predisposed to joint issues, especially in the knees and hips.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder characterized by the abnormal development of the hip joints.
Puppies are usually born with normal hip joints, which start deteriorating within the first few weeks of their lives.
The ligaments holding the joints in place become loose, making them unstable.
This instability usually causes further alterations in the hip joint’s structure.
In most cases, it causes the ‘ball’ part of the joint to flatten, making it not fit in the socket as it should.
The ball and socket, therefore, can easily detach, leading to dislocation.
Even though the condition is congenital, numerous other inherited genes can cause hip dysplasia.
Your Dachshund will not necessarily develop it even if they have the genes. However, factors such as obesity may worsen the problem.
You should visit your vet for a diagnosis if you observe any of these symptoms:
- Reluctance to go for walks or exercise
- Difficulty in ascending or descending the stairs
- Trouble getting on their feet
- Clicking joint sounds
Treatment and Diagnosis
The vet will likely check your pooch’s mobility for any signs of anomalies. They’ll usually perform an X-ray to check for any changes in the joints’ structure.
Hip dysplasia, as mentioned earlier, is hereditary. It, therefore, cannot be cured.
However, medications like painkillers and anti-inflammatories can be prescribed to alleviate pain.
Your vet might also recommend surgery to improve the ball-and-socket alignment and, in other cases, to replace the hip.
They may also recommend physiotherapy.
It’s also essential to keep your Dachshund’s weight healthy if they have been diagnosed with this condition.
A few extra pounds can increase strain on the hips, worsening the situation.
Also, you’ll need to be extra careful when exercising your dog and avoid long walks, runs, or obstacle courses requiring your dog to jump. Instead, opt for shorter walks twice a day.
A luxating patella is a condition prevalent in small dog breeds like Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.
It is characterized by the kneecap (patella) shifting away from its normal position.
The condition is also referred to as a dislocated kneecap.
In approximately 75% of cases, the patella shifts inward, that is, towards the opposite hind limb.
This type of shift is referred to as medial patellar luxation (MPL) and occurs more often in small-breed dogs.
The patella shifts outward on rare occasions and away from the opposite leg.
This type of luxation is called lateral patellar luxation (LPL) and is more common in larger dogs.
MPL is mainly genetic, but environmental factors can also cause it.
The most common symptom of patella luxation is when your dog suddenly lifts the affected limb.
The lifting may or not be accompanied by yelping. In this short period, they will briefly hold the leg off the ground before walking again.
Other signs of patella luxation that are also common in other orthopedic ailments include:
- Occasional limping
- Bowed lower back
- Cracking sounds when they bend the affected knee
- Bow Legged posture in the hind legs
Diagnosis and Treatment
The vet will diagnose your pet by performing a physical exam. They may also recommend imaging such as scans and X-rays, although this is rare.
Your vet will, most probably, recommend medical treatment. The treatment involves:
- Administration of anti-inflammatory drugs
- Temporary movement limitations
- Weight loss program
In severe cases, the vet will recommend surgery to correct the problem.
However, surgical treatment usually comes with additional complications such as infections, fractures, and seromas.
Seizures and Epilepsy
Many popular breeds are genetically predisposed to epilepsy, and Dachshunds are, unfortunately, one of them.
The Dapple variety is particularly susceptible to idiopathic epilepsy.
Lafora Disease (LD), on the other hand, is prevalent in the Miniature Wirehaired type of Dachshund.
The disease is also genetic and is characterized by brief, convulsive seizures that stop after a few minutes.
Besides genetics, there are other causes of seizures, including environmental triggers and underlying diseases.
Genetic epilepsy often starts before the second year of the doxie’s life. Some dachshunds, however, can go up to 6 years before the first episode strikes.
You should take your Dachshund to the vet as soon as possible if any of the below behaviors were present before the seizure:
- Restless pacing
- Hiding or following you closely
- Growing or aggression
When the seizure happens, you may observe:
- Stiffness in limbs or whole body
- Jerking of specific muscles or the whole body
- Foaming at the mouth
- Urination and bowel movements
Seizures can be terrifying for pet parents, especially if it has never happened before.
During the attack, remove any objects near them to prevent injuries. Also, consider putting a pillow or blanket under them.
You shouldn’t try to hold them or inhibit their convulsing.
Note that one seizure episode doesn’t necessarily mean that your furry friend has epilepsy.
It takes several episodes to diagnose them with epilepsy, but you should still take your Dachshund to the vet to be on the safe side.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The vet may take blood samples to rule out the possibilities of liver disease, toxicity, and diabetes.
They may also recommend imaging diagnostics like CT scans, MRIs, and Spinal Fluid analysis.
Your vet may prescribe anticonvulsant drugs such as phenobarbital or primidone.
If so, make sure you give your Dachshund their medication regularly.
It may take time for the seizures to subside as the medication kicks in. However, don’t stop the medication unless your vet says you can, as this can trigger seizures.
Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (DMVD)
Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease, also known as Myxomatous, is a heart disorder identified by a thickened mitral valve with rolled-up edges.
To help you understand what a mitral valve is, note that the heart consists of two sides; left and right.
It also has four chambers or rooms; two on the upper part (left and right atria) and two on the lower part (left and right ventricles).
There are valves between these chambers; the one connecting the left atrium to the left ventricle is the mitral valve.
In a normal heart, the valves ensure blood flows in one direction, that is, no backflow of blood.
In a heart with DMVD, however, the mitral valve cannot prevent drops of blood from flowing back into the heart.
With time, the severity of DMVD increases resulting in an enlarged heart and, eventually, congenital heart failure (CHF).
Even though DMVD can occur in any dog breed, it is most predominant in aging small-size canines like the Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Maltese, etc.
Symptoms of DMVD
Below are some of the most common DMVD symptoms in your pet;
- Respiratory problems, such as breathlessness, panting and coughing
- Weight loss
- Low tolerance to exercise with the need to rest after a short period
- Occasional fainting
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose this condition, your vet will probably begin by listening to your Dachshund’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
In doing so, they may be able to detect a murmur on the lefthand side of the heart and check for abnormalities in the heart rate and rhythm.
A heart murmur is typically the first sign of DMVD.
The vet might perform a chest X-ray to evaluate the heart’s valve, shape, and size and show if there is fluid in your dog’s lungs.
To be more thorough, the vet might also perform an ultrasound to evaluate the heart’s function and the degree of leakage.
Blood tests may show if other complications have been caused by DMVD, as it can affect organs throughout the body.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for DMVD. However, medication can improve your Dachshund’s quality of life and heart function.
Most vets will only begin treatment with medication if the dog’s heart is enlarged (before that, your Dachshund will just be monitored).
Treatment with medication is usually lifelong, and the dose is generally modified over time depending on factors like disease advancement, kidney function, etc.
Dachshunds, like other breeds, are more susceptible to particular health conditions and less susceptible to others, mainly due to genetics.
Some of these health issues cannot be prevented, while others can with proper medication, nutrition, and lifestyle.
It’s vital to learn how to recognize these problems early and manage the symptoms to enable your Dachshund to live a long, high-quality life.
Finally, always seek advice from a vet in case of health concerns about your dog.
- Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease: Homepage
- For My Dachshund: How Common are Seizures in Dachshunds?
- Handicapped Pets: Dachshund Health: IVDD and Mobility Loss
- Pawsitive Steps Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine: IVDD: A Dachshund’s Tale
- Pet MD: Luxating Patella in Dogs (Knee Dislocation)
- MSD Manual: Acanthosis Nigricans
- My Dachshund Online: What Health Issues are Dachshunds Prone to?
- Sweet Dachshund: 9 Main Miniature Dachshund Health Issues You Should Know
- K9 Carts: Dachshund Health Problems
- Alpha Paw: Everything You Need to Know About Dachshund Health Issues
- Carson Animal Hospital: Dachshund
- PDSA: Seizures and Epilepsy in Pets
- The Kennel Club: Dachshund Health UK IVDD Scheme for Dachshunds
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society