The most common cause of back problems in Dachshunds is a condition called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). I previously wrote an article explaining what IVDD is, how to recognize symptoms of back problems, 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.
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, Pekigneses, 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 it’s mobility back 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 8 things that can help (many of these can help prevent injury in the first place too):
1) Join a community – Join a community of others who have experienced IVDD for support, to learn, and to have a safe place to ask questions. I highly suggest following the K9Back Pack Facebook Page and reviewing their website. The site and community are run by Brenda, Christina, Sharon and Guadalupe – former Dodgerslist team members, with many, many years of experience supporting IVDD dogs and owners. They’ve created a friendly and empathetic community where people can learn and help their dogs heal. In addition to Facebook, they are happy to provide help and support via Twitter.
2) Ask your vet about alternative therapies – Acupuncture and laser therapy can help dogs heal and reduce pain. Acupuncture, which regenerates neurons mobilizing stem cell regrowth, may be good for dogs that cannot tolerate pain medication or are not good candidates for surgery. Laser therapy has been proven to reduce tenderness, pain and speed up the tissue healing process.
3) 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 check out this chart so self-assess. Because a dog with back problems might have physical limits, watching the amount of food and treats they eat is key.
4) 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.
5) Get your dog a harness – Using a harness instead of a collar when walking your dog helps to put any pressure on their strong shoulders instead of their fragile necks. Three of our favorite harnesses for Dachshunds are the VelPro Choke-free Mesh Harness, Buddy Belt, and the mesh Hug-A-Dog Harness from Dachshund Delights. Those three harnesses will work for other breeds too. The Ruffwear Webmaster Harness is an excellent option for more active dogs (doesn’t fit some smaller Dachshunds well).
6) Keep your dog’s nails trimmed – Toenails that are 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. See this article on the importance of trimming your dog’s nails and for some instruction on how to do it properly.
7) 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, helps alleviate pressure on the neck.
8) (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.
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”
Make sure to ask your veterinarian about a back brace before you use one for your Dachshund. While a few think a brace can protect the back during rigorous activities like hiking or rough play, many think they should not be used because a brace can actually weaken your dog’s spine-supporting muscles.
Related Article: The Truth About Dachshunds and Back Problems
Approximately 25% of Dachshunds, at some point in their lives, suffer from IVDD. Luckily, Chester never developed IVDD and has been able to lead a very active life. However, my vet says he has developed some pain and tenderness in his spine due to old age. I can tell because he carries himself differently. He seems to walk a bit more gingerly with his back end slightly tucked, his legs shake sometimes when he is standing or putting pressure on them, he walks at a slower pace tan he used to, and he all but refuses to jump up on the couch anymore (technically, you should limit a Dachshunds jumping anyway)..
I was curious about the L’il Back Bracer so they sent me one to try on Chester to see if it would help him.
Chester really dislikes jackets. When I put one on him, he freezes in one spot until I come get him and make him come outside. I expected him to act the same with the L’il Back Bracer on until he got used to it but was really surprised. He didn’t seem to mind it much at all. Sure, he noticed it but he went about his usual business, including his “business” in the back yard, pretty much like normal.
I took him for a walk and, as you can see in this video, he was quite peppy.
Chester’s back pain symptoms are pretty mild now but I wonder about starting to use the L’il Back Bracer on hikes with him. We haven’t had time to try “off roading” with it but watching him move around a little more freely in this video gives me hope that it would help any current discomfort and reduce the chance of his minor issues progressing. I can’t wait to try it.