Is surgery for intervertebral disc disease in the Dachshund effective?
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Is surgery for intervertebral disc disease in the Dachshund effective?

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Dachshund or sausage dog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, being ranked in 14th position overall out of over 240 different dog breeds and types that are formally recognised or well-known in the UK.

This is one breed that is instantly recognisable to most dog lovers, due to the Dachshund’s unique conformation – a long body and particularly short legs. This trait is actually caused by a form or achondroplasia or dwarfism, and historically, helped Dachshunds to find their niche within working roles as dogs that could fit into underground setts and burrows to hunt for pests.

However, this very trait itself can cause problems for the dogs that possess it, as a long back coupled with short legs is placed under pressure over time, which can lead to malformations of the spine and a range of back problems like intervertebral disc disease.

Intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds tends to occur in older dogs whose back length to leg length ratio is particularly high, as a result of the long-term effects of carrying this type of conformation. However, it can also develop in younger dogs too, and is one of the main hereditary health conditions associated with the breed as a whole.

If your Dachshund is diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease, there may be a number of different viable approaches to treating or managing the condition. One of these is surgical correction of the problem, and whilst this is not a viable option for all dogs, can be one of the most comprehensive and effective.

Intervertebral disc disease surgery can prevent full paralysis in dogs for which it is a viable candidate, but it is also a serious procedure, and one that can have a long recovery time, and cost a lot to perform.

If your vet recommends intervertebral disc disease surgery for your dog, they will talk you through the various risks, implications, and pros and cons, in order to help you to reach a decision. This article is designed to provide a basic guide to Dachshund owners on the potential efficacy of intervertebral disc surgery in dogs, and what you might expect as the end result.

Read on to find out how effective intervertebral disc disease surgery can be for Dachshunds.

Is surgery always the best option?

As mentioned, surgical intervention for intervertebral disc disease isn’t always the best or most viable approach for all dogs, and particularly when treating older dogs, the implications of the anaesthetic, surgery and recovery may mean that surgery is not an option at all.

If the effects of the disease itself are comparatively mild or your dog is not a good candidate for surgery, your vet may prefer a different, less invasive approach instead.

This may involve supportive treatments such as pain medications, rest and limited exercise, physical therapies and weight management, and for many dogs with only mild presentations, these things can go a long way towards restoring their quality of life.

However, for some dogs, surgery is clearly the best or only viable option, and so it is natural to want to know more about how effective this is likely to be before going ahead.

The prognosis for Dachshunds that have surgery for intervertebral disc disease

How effective any surgery is and the end result that can be achieved from it can never be guaranteed beforehand, as there are so many variables involved. No surgery is without risk, and not all surgeries are fully or even partially effective, even if they appear to go well – and healing and recovery come with risks of their own, such as infection and poor healing, which all further complicates matters.

However, intervertebral disc disease in dogs is ranked according to its severity of presentation on a rising scale of 1-5, and generally, only dogs diagnosed with grade four or five are considered to necessitate surgery. For dogs graded one, two or three, supportive care is generally more appropriate and less invasive.

However, the more severe the dog’s grade, the slimmer the chances of a full or significant recovery becomes. How soon the surgery is performed after the problem becomes apparent has a huge part to play in things too, and this is often one of the main factors that reduces the efficacy of the surgery.

Intervertebral disc disease in the dog can be in development for a long time before it becomes symptomatic, but once it does, surgery ideally needs to be performed in a matter of days rather than weeks or months in order to stand a good chance of being effective.

For dogs with grade four intervertebral disc disease, prompt surgery results in success and a good recovery in the vast majority of cases, although recovery can be fairly lengthy and needs to be managed carefully. However, the more time that passes between diagnosis and surgery, the lower the odds of a good recovery become.

For dogs with grade five intervertebral disc disease, the odds of a good recovery begin at around even for prompt surgery, but fall quickly after that initial window of time has passed.

Regardless of the stage of your dog’s disease and any other factors that may influence the viability of surgery and its recovery, your vet should take the time to talk things through with you in detail and provide a realistic picture of what you might expect, and it is important to ask questions and ensure that you’re clear on everything before you make a decision either way.

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