The most common cause of back problems in Dachshunds, and many other dog breeds, is a condition called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).
I previously wrote an article explaining what IVDD is and how to recognize the warning signs of a back problem, and what you can do to help prevent them.
However, IVDD is a genetic disease and it’s unlikely you can totally prevent your dog from having any back issues if they have the disease.
UPDATED: February 23, 2023
If you are looking for information on back injuries and IVDD, please check out my IVDD Resources page.
Dachshunds, the breed with the highest incidence of IVDD, aren’t the only breed prone to having it.
Other susceptible breeds include Beagles, Basset Hounds, Pugs, Pekingese, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Jack Russel Terriers, Mini Poodles, Mini Pinchers, Bichons, and Cocker Spaniels.
If you dog fell victim to IVDD, your veterinarian has suggested treatment options – typically surgery, or pain and inflammatory medication, followed by strict crate rest – and you have followed the best plan of action for you and your family.
Hopefully your dog has regained most of their mobility or has made a full recovery.
Even if your dog has “returned to normal” the fight against IVDD is never over.
Dogs can have flare ups, re-injure themselves, or become paralyzed again.
So, what can you do after your Dachshund or other dog has developed back problems to maximize their enjoyment of life and minimize any future incidence?
Here are some things you can do to help prevent a flare-up (many of these can help prevent injury in the first place too).
10 Ways to Help Prevent Dog Back Problems
1) Learn all you can about the disease
Whether you only just learned about IVDD, or only know a little about the disease, one of the best things you can do to help prevent and appropriately treat back problems in dogs is to arm yourself with more information.
One way to do this is to join an IVDD support community.
The groups are typically run by Dachshund owners, who have knowledge and experience with IVDD, who offer support, education, and a safe place to ask questions.
Some great websites for learning more include:
2) Help your dog maintain a proper weight
Making sure your dog keeps off any extra pounds will prevent unnecessary strain on your dog’s spine or neck.
If you are unsure whether your dog is at the proper weight or not, consult your vet for advice or determine how much your Dachshund should weigh and perform your own assessment.
If your Dachshund is a little chunky, check out these weight loss tips.
Note: because a dog with back problems might have physical limits, watching the amount of food and treats they eat is key.
3) Lift and carry your dog properly
The most important thing when lifting and carrying a dog with a long back (or any dog really) is to support both the front and rear of their body to prevent undue strain on their neck and spine.
Here are great instructions with pictures.
The only thing I don’t agree with here is the photo depiction of #6 – it’s just as important to support both the front and rump of your dog when you are setting them back down.
4) Use a dog a harness
There is some debate around this but, generally, using a harness instead of a collar when walking your dog helps to put the pressure on their strong shoulders instead of their fragile necks.
Those three harnesses will work for other breeds too.
5) Keep your dog’s nails trimmed
Toenails that are too long can cause your dog to alter their gait and cause alignment issues such as back, hip, or knee pain.
Over the long term, it can also contribute to the development of arthritis.
I know cutting a Dachshund nails is a real challenge for many but this dog nail trimming hack can help.
However you do it, avoid these nail trimming mistakes.
6) Raise food and water bowls
Raising your dog’s bowls off of the ground a bit, so they can keep their neck closer to a neutral position while eating or drinking, can help alleviate pressure on the neck and spine.
7) Keep your Dachshund active
Some people are so fearful of a re-injury that they protect their Dachshund too much.
Not only can this have a negative impact on their quality of life and their behavior, but it can actually make them more susceptible to injuring their back again.
It’s important for your Dachshund to exercise regularly, even if they have been diagnosed with IVDD.
Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, helps keep muscles and joints strong, and helps to maintain cardiovascular health.
It’s even suspected that healthy, adult Dachshunds who are moderately to highly active have a lower incidence of IVDD.
8) Use a ramp or stairs for furniture
While it is important for your Dachshund to be active, that does not mean they should do unnecessary, repetitive, high impact activities.
The most common culprit of high impact on a dog’s spine is jumping on and off furniture.
Using stairs or a ramp to help your Dachshund get on and off furniture will reduce the chance of a back injury.
If you are unable to train your Dachshund to consistently use a ramp or stairs, consider blocking off all but the ramp like I did.
9) Ask your vet about alternative therapies
Acupuncture and cold laser therapy can help dogs heal from a back injury.
Acupuncture helps regenerate neurons and stimulate stem cell regrowth.
Laser therapy has been proven to reduce tenderness, pain, and speed up the tissue healing process.
But both of these alternative therapies can also help maintain spinal health, and manage flare-ups, and reduce discomfort after the initial recovery period.
You’ll have to get acupuncture treatments in a clinical setting but cold laser treatments can be done at the vet or at home if you purchase your own laser.
10) (CAUTIOUSLY) Use back support
Using a brace, like the L’il Back Bracer, which was designed with input from veterinarians and provides comfortable but firm support to help stabilize the dog’s spinal column, and may help in specific situations.
Primary features of the L’il Back Bracer dog brace are:
- Comfortable, ergonomic construction to alleviate pressure on spine
- Designed to support the back from above & below to truly stabilize the dog’s spinal column
- Recommended for both treatment and prevention
- Snug, adjustable fit provides gentle, constant pressure for calming effect on nervous system
- Incorporated D-ring to attach a leash
- Easy to take on and off
- Medical grade, moisture-wicking, Breathe-O-Prene® fabric
- No need to remove dog brace for dogs to “do their business”
Here is a video of the Lil’ Back Bracer in action.
It is important to note that you should ask your veterinarian about a back brace before you buy one for your Dachshund.
While a few veterinarians think a brace can protect the back during rigorous activities like hiking or rough play, many neurosurgeons, and rehab specialists, think they should not be used because a brace can actually weaken your dog’s spine-supporting muscles.
Approximately 25% of Dachshunds, at some point in their lives, suffer from IVDD.
Many other breeds are affected too, but to a lesser degree.
Luckily, my first Dachshund Chester never developed IVDD and was pain-free most of his life.
He did develop a little pain and tenderness in his spine his old age but was due to normal spinal aging and degeneration, not the type of IVDD most Dachshund owners think of.
My second Dachshund Gretel did suffer a back injury and was diagnosed with IVDD.
I’ve implemented most of the things above (except the back brace and elevating all of her bowls) to help prevent future flare ups.
She’s had 3 relatively minor episodes since 2016 but they have been easily managed with pain medication, crate rest, and cold laser therapy treatments.
You might also find these articles helpful:
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.