The Dachshund is often more colloquially known as the sausage dog, thanks to their long, sausage-shaped bodies and short legs! However, this very trait of the breed, a long body, can lead to health problems in the dog, related to the spine and the way that this is supported along the length of the long body with little legs to support it. Many Dachshunds will at some point suffer from some form of back issues, ranging from short term and minor up to more serious issues such as Dachshund paralysis, which is serious and has a large impact on the life of affected dogs for the long term.
While issues with the back are a breed trait that cannot always be prevented other than by selective breeding for positive health traits, there are some steps that every Dachshund owner can take, to help to protect their dogs from a heightened risk of back and spinal problems throughout their lives.
In this article, we will look at some of the steps that owners can take to reduce the chances of back problems in more detail. Read on to learn more!
Back problems in the Dachshund are almost always worsened or in some cases, caused by obesity, which places an additional strain on the conformation of the dog. The short legs of the breed may already be under stress from carrying the length of the body, and adding a few extra pounds to this weight can soon turn a borderline problem into a serious one.
It is vitally important to keep a close eye on your Dachshund’s weight and food intake vs. activity levels, and intervene promptly if your dog starts to get fat. Feeding the odd treat or table scrap is fine, providing that this is also monitored, and that you curb what they are offered if they start to pile on the weight.
Dachshunds are one of the most common small breeds of dog to be found carrying excess weight as the norm, and not all dog owners can tell objectively whether or not their dog’s weight is healthy. You should be able to feel your Dachshund’s ribs when you run your hand along their flanks, although these of course should not be pronounced or visible.
The long back of the breed is an inherent weakness, which means that activities and exertion that larger dogs take in their stride may prove risky for the Dachshund. While it is vitally important to keep your Dachshund fit and well, it is also important to curb and restrict exercise and activity that will place additional pressure on the spine.
Lots of jumping high or leaping around can place stress on the spine, as can climbing or jumping up high or wide stairs and steps on a regular basis.
Begin when your dog is young in training them not to jump up or leap about, and be prepared to carry your dog over tall things that they might otherwise try to jump over. You should also apply a critical eye to your home and garden, and consider putting in low steps or ramps in areas where your dog might run into problems.
When you have to pick your dog up, how you do this is important, as otherwise, trying to protect their back and spine by lifting or carrying them can actually cause damage of its own! Learn how to pick up and handle your Dachshund properly, making sure that both the front and rear of the dog is supported, as well as their middle. Do not simply cup your hands under the middle of the dog’s belly and pick them up with their front and back ends hanging!
If your dog appears to be having a problem with their back, even if it seems minor, comes and goes, or does not apparently affect their quality of life, it is vital that you take them to the vet ASAP. Minor strains and sprains can soon worsen and turn into a full blown problem, which may be painful and expensive to correct, or may not be able to be resolved properly at all further down the line.
Keep an eye out for symptoms such as stiffness of the back and body, yelping or crying when you handle them, and an odd posture of the head and neck. Minor problems such as these can often be corrected with a combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medications and pain meds, but in the long term, minor strains and sprains that are not properly handled can turn into much larger problems including intervertebral disc disease, and even potentially, Dachshund paralysis.