IVDD Setbacks – the Ups and Downs of Living with a Dachshund with the Disease

I remember the day that my Dachshund Gretel was diagnosed with IVDD back in 2016. Our active life, and the future plans I had for us, flashed before my eyes.

I was devastated. And by the responses I’ve heard and seen from readers, members of our Dachshund club, and in Facebook groups, I know I am not alone.

When you get the news that your Dachshund has Intervertebral Disk Disease, you may wonder if your dog can ever live a normal life again or if you have to treat them like breakable glass for the rest of their lives.

While it’s true that some Dachshunds never recover from a disk rupture due to IVDD, most will recover partially or fully, with or without surgery, depending on the degree of disk rupture and subsequent nerve damage.

However, it’s not always a straight like to recovery and, even if your Dachshund does “fully recover, IVDD is a genetic disease that can calcify disks and result in arthritis-like conditions or the future rupture of another spinal disk.

My Dachshund Gretel was diagnosed at Stage 2 – more like a disk protrusion than disk explosion – and I was very, very dedicated to her recovery.

Surgery was not recommended for her condition so we did 10 weeks of conservative treatment, which consisted of strict crate rest, cold laser treatments, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, dog strength-building exercises, and several consults with a rehabilitation veterinarian.

While she did generally progress toward recovery, there was a setback during the process.

She did fully recover that incident, and went on to live an active life, sometimes hiking again up to 15 miles in a day, but she has periodically experienced IVDD flare ups throughout her life.

My Dachshund’s Flare Up History

Since the initial IVDD-related disk episode in 2016, Gretel has experienced maybe 6 flareups.

Most were minor and not noteworthy. However, there were a few that stood out.

During recovery

When Gretel was cleared to start doing more activity, our rehab vet recommended dog physical therapy exercises for IVDD.

Since these exercises were new to me, and I needed help learning to better communicate to Gretel what I was asking her to do, we visited a dog gym and worked with a trainer.

It was my fault the flare up happened.

I had signed up for a 45-minute training session but didn’t say anything when the trainer ran over time.

Gretel was doing so well that we increased the difficulty on an exercise she had already been doing. We also tried a couple of new ones.

There were no signs that she was getting sore or tired.

As soon as walked Gretel towards the door, I could tell that something was off.

I tried to walk her across the parking lot to go potty, and she was very hesitant. I thought that was weird but not alarming.

However, by the time we got home, it was clear she was in pain. She making small, quiet grunts when I picked her up.

I did the foot flip test where you fold over their toes so the top of the foot is touching the ground and she seemed to be righting her feet without delay (a slow response can indicate nerve damage)

However, I was still concerned she was having a problem with another disc. A couple of phone calls later, we were back in the doggy ER.

The vet couldn’t find any pain points in her spine and the vet confirmed that there was no delay in flipping her her feet back over. They sent us home with more Tramadol for pain and the ant-inflammatory Meatcam.

I feared that we would have to start the crate rest and rehab all over again but they said that she was probably just sore from the workout. I was told to decrease her activity for 10 days.

I asked if I should put her on crate again and they stressed that it was only necessary to back off on the hiking and rehab exercises.

I think they didn’t want me to keep her in the crate because it might undo some of the progress we had made in her strength.

In the fall

It took me a few times to figure out that the flare ups were coinciding with the fall weather change when the air temperature changed to chilly.

Fall is when most of Gretel’s flare ups have occurred. Like people, the change in temperature and barometric pressure can aggravate old injuries.

Most of the flare ups were unremarkable – something seemed a little off so I gave Gretel an anti-inflammatory for a few days, and limited her exercise, and any mobility issues quickly resolved,

There is one flare up in particular that I remember though.

We have one step up in between our porch and the back door. Gretel normally bounds up this stair of even jumps the 18 inches to get in through the door.

One day, I was watching her. She put her front legs up on the step and tried lifting one of her back legs on.

But she couldn’t quite make it. It looked like she couldn’t raise her back leg as high as the step.

This behavior seemed more extreme than the smaller flareups that had been occurring in fall and, to be honest, I didn’t make the connection between the changing weather and her reduced mobility.

Off to the vet we went! Again, I wanted to make sure this wasn’t the early signs of another ruptured disk. Or an orthopedic injury of another kind.

After the exam, which included the foot flip test, articulation of her hips, and x-rays, the vet said it was probably the weather change aggravating her calcified disks, which are expected in Dachshunds with IVDD (and were verified by x-ray).

Again, a little pain and anti-inflammatory medication, and rest for about 10 days, and she was back to normal.

During our month-long road trip

In spring 2022, we went on a month long road trip along the west coast. The goal was to visit friends and to host Adventurewiener Club meetups.

This means there was a lot of walking, hiking, including on sandy beaches, and generally being more active than we normally are.

Half way through the trip, Gretel started acting strange. Her back was a little more hunched than normal and she wouldn’t potty for over 24 hours.

She was still eating food – she is food obsessed so it’s a tell-tale sign she is in pain if she won’t eat – so that was good but something had to be done.

I had brought her prescription of gabapentin on the trip with us so I gave her some.

After a few hours, she went potty. I was worried that her nerves were being pinched, resulting in her being unable to express her own bladder or bowels, which is common with IVDD but typically with dogs whose back legs are paralyzed.

It turns out that it was too painful for her to hunch or crouch down to potty. That’s why she was holding it.

After a phone consult with our veterinarian, and getting her prescription refilled while we were driving through the mostly-barren southeast California desert, we decided to stay on the road.

Gretel sleeps in her car seat when we drive; she mostly sleeps at camp, especially when on pain meds, and I carried her in a dog backpack when we went to events or to meet friends.

At first I felt guilty for not cutting the trip short and heading home immediately.

However, our vet assured me I was doing all the right things and my friend’s and I discussed the fact that she would be resting just the same at home so why not make it less boring for her.

This was the worst flare up she’s ever had and it lasted almost two weeks.

Are future IVDD complications inevitable?

Whether a Dachshund that suffers an IVDD disk rupture will have future complications depends on the individual dog.

I’ve known some Dachshunds who, whether through surgcial treatment or conservative treatment, made a full recovery and never experienced a flare up or another ruptured disk.

Unfortunately, I have heard of Dachshunds who rupture multiple disks in their lifetime and need more than one surgery (read: the risk of needing future surgeries).

Then there are a lot of Dachshunds who, like Gretel, experience several flare ups in their lifetime.

We’ve been fortunate that Gretel’s setbacks have been resolved in under 2 weeks. I have heard of Dachshunds who experience discomfort for a coupole months though.

In my completely anecdotal opinion, based on talking with hundreds of Dachshund owners over the years, I would estimate that:

Approximately 10% or less of Dachshunds that recover from one rupture need surgery for another disk in the future.

Approximately 40% recover from a disk rupture and never have another issue

Approximately 50% of Dachshunds that suffer an IVDD-related back injury have at least one flare up in their life in the future.

Be Prepared for IVDD Setbacks

Many believe, and new studies are showing, that regular exercise is important to help prevent future complications due to IVDD.

A moderate to high level of exercise for generally healthy, adult Dachshunds help keep their spine supporting muscles strong and help keep them at the proper weight.

Some of the evidence even suggests that jumping from conservative heights, and moderate, regular use of stairs, isn’t as harmful as once thought. It might even help prevent future injuries.

But, besides keeping your Dachshund fit and at a proper weight, the best thing you can do to help manage your Dachshund from flare ups down the road is to know how to spot a flareup and know what to do about it.

Know the difference between an IVDD flare up and a new disk rupture

Only a veterinarian (I am not one) can tell you definitively if what your Dachshund is experiencing is a flare up or a new disk rupture.

However, if your dog experiences a couple flare ups, you will start to learn when a vet visit is on order and when it might be ok to just wait and see if the issue resolves.

Symptoms of a flare up mimic early signs of IVDD, but I have identified a few distinct differences between Gretel’s initial injury, and pain level, and what we’ve experienced since.

IVDD InjuryIVDD Flare Up
Not wanting to move and hiding in her crateWalking around normally but exhibiting a slight mobility issue
Refused all food and treatsWill enthusiastically eat
Yelping when picked up or touched in certain placesNo yelping
Shaking and in obvious painSomething is off with her behavior but not in obvious pain
Significant lag between when feet are flipped over and she right themNo delay or under 1 second

Only you know your own dog. If you suspect the start of an IVDD-related disk rupture, it’s important to see a Vernerian.

Potentially, even an emergency vet because time is off the essence when it comes to disk ruptures.

However, if based on past experience, you think it’s just a flare up, you may be able to address it at home.

What to Do If Your Dog Has an IVDD Flare Up

I treat an IVDD flare up similar to how I would treat any back injury. But it’s more like “conservative treatment light”.

Conservative treatment typically includes a round of pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, and a period of crate rest.

I keep both pain medication and anti-inflammatories on hand. Most veterinarians will prescribe extra for you to keep around home of you ask.

When I first notice something is off with Gretel, I start giving her the anti-inflammatory.

If she still looks uncomfortable, I give her a half of the recommended dose of pain medication.

The bonus is that this medication usually makes her sleepy, so she is more likely to just lay around and sleep.

I also have a cold laser for home use so I start giving her treatments to help reduce pain and inflammation.

While I don’t put her on strict crate rest, I do limit her activity, which includes putting her in her crate when I can’t supervise her, until she has improved (usually 1-2 weeks).

If I want to take her out for a “walk”, I push her in her stroller.

Gretel resting in her stroller

Final Thoughts

I’ve been dealing with a back problem for over 15 years. Since the injury, my life has been a series of active periods and recovery periods.

That’s often the way it is with dogs too – the initial injury comes back to nag at them when the weather changes with the seasons, if they tweak something during exercise, or they just happen to wake up that way.

My goal is to let my Dachshund live a happy, fulfilled, active, healthy life so that means letting her “be a dog”.

But I am always monitoring her for changes and am prepared to take whatever action needed if I detect a flare up or I think she has ruptured another disk.

Like I have, I think it’s important to recognize that living with an IVDD dog can be filled with ups and downs – with good times and times when mobility is limited and discomfort must be managed.

But, except for a few, small modifications, life with an IVDD Dachshund who has recovered from their initial injury can be just as enjoyable as with any other dog.

Like I have, I think it's important to recognize that living with an IVDD dog can be filled with ups and downs - with good times and times when mobility is limited and discomfort must be managed.

But, except for a few, small modifications, life with an IVDD Dachshund who has recovered from their initial injury can be just as enjoyable as with any other dog.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. Fur babies and humans can easily have set backs as I know you are well aware of with your own personal situation. With you being attentive to Gretel’s behavior is key in caring for her. As humans we over do when we feel better and once again we feel invincible!! The same for our fur babies!! Take care of both of you! Keep your goal, it just may have to be reached a little slower or at a later date! Best wishes to you and Gretel ( Chester too!)

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I know she could go hike 7 miles tomorrow if I let her but she shouldn’t. I keep our walks intentionally shorter than I think she can handle. It’s actually good for me too because I have a tendency to push myself too far and regret it later too.

  2. Dang, poor girl. It will be an ongoing management thing, just like with your back. Better than sitting on the couch though. Give her a hug from me.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I expect a lot of ups and downs for the rest of her life. I feel good know we are out living it though 🙂

  3. Thanks for posting this. We are about 2 weeks out from our 2nd episode. We have decided to go the conservative route mostly due to the expense of surgery. Pain meds , prednolisone and restrictions are working so far. I cannot stress restrictions enough.

    1. Yeah, it’s very important to rest your pup as long as the vet says you should. Many people cut that short because their pup seems to be feeling better but that can make them more prone to re-injury. Gretel was given a controlled, active rehab program but I was committed to keeping her in the crate the entire 8 weeks when she wasn’t doing approved movements. I hope the second recovery goes well for you guys.

  4. Poor Gretel! It is so easy to overdo things when they are having so much success. I wouldn’t have hesitated to keep going if I noticed we were getting a little extra time with the physical therapist, either. Hope Gretel’s back to being active again soon!

  5. Pawsome attitude!

    Life is meant to be lived but it’s best when we understand our personal needs and have realistic expectations.
    Stay strong my little furiend Gretel!

    Nose nudges,
    CEO Olivia

  6. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad that it wasn’t a major setback! It’s great that you’re getting Gretel up and moving to keep her strong, and she seems to luckily be dong great.

  7. I used to obsess over the idea that my extremely active and very fit dox might have a back event. Suddenly finding myself with our other ancient dox, whom we had recently adopted, in a hospital filled with back surgeons and different kinds of therapists actually calmed my long held fears. One thing I would say to dox owners is to know right now where you would go in case of a back event. Time is of the essence, esp. if surgery is needed. Our dox takes two meds that resolved his issue and I’m grateful for every day that our little old guy is still scampering around; every day that he’s on his feet is gravy, as my dad would say. Best wishes to Gretel for a long happy life.

    1. Thanks. And great tip. I, too, have heard that time is of the essence if a dog has an episode. I’m so glad that meds resolved your pup’s issue.

  8. My mini dash Pip., blew his back out, surgery, disk repair, no movement six full months. Then he’s back one day doing his exercises he pulls a leg back, two weeks later like nothing ever happened. Did the preventive surgery to prevent further blow outs of the disk. He has good days and bad, but he knows his limits, when we are out walking, playing fetch, when he starts to feel the pain, he comes over and stands on my foot. The sign to pick me up, and backpack me back home.

    1. That’s good that Pip knows when and how to regulate himself. Gretel is a pretty ambitious girl so I don’t think she’s figured that out yet. Hopefully someday 🙂

  9. Please share with me the pet insurance you have. I have two doxies, both have had surgery, and I have not found any pet insurance that will cover potential disc problems. Thanks, and your little Gretel is so cute!

    1. Hi Sheryl. We have Trupanion. They are one of the only pet insurance providers that will cover congenital diseases – so back issues in Dachshunds caused by IVDD are covered. Unfortunately, NO insurance will cover pre-existing conditions. That means that it won’t be possible to get insurance for your two Doxies that will cover any future back problems. If you have a Dachshund that hasn’t had any issues yet, then it might be good idea to get it. For your two that had surgery, I suggest putting some money away monthly to help offset any future costs. I pay around $80 a month for both dogs with a moderate deductible. Putting the same amount away in savings might be a lifesaver if they ever need surgery again. Good luck!

      1. Trupanion is great but it does not cover pre existing conditions. To all who have a new fur baby it is definitely worth the price. My seven year old jack russell mix had ivdd surgery and they held true to their word. Keep in mind there is a deductible but well worth every penny.

        1. Unfortunately, no pet insurance covers preexisting conditions. However, there are some “reimbursement programs” that can help cover a dog’s medical bills and a few of them have looser rules. Also, some insurance companies in the UK have time limits for what constitutes a preexisting condition. For example, if it’s been a certain number of years since a dog has had a particular issue, it may not be considered preexisting anymore. There may be some of that happening with US companies too. My friend’s Dachshund needed back surgery and then needed it again 4 months later. Trupanion covered both surgeries because the disk rupture happened in two different areas of the spine (so they were not considered the same condition). However, it’s important to note that they had Trupanion insurance before either of the surgeries were needed.

  10. My dog (a beagle/hound mix) is currently in the hospital recuperating from surgery for IVDD. He was in a lot of pain and he is typically a very active dog (we hike 3-4 miles per day). I didn’t think twice when the neurologist recommended immediate surgery. He will be coming home tomorrow and on strict rest for up to a month. This is the part that concerns me, so reading your posts with tips and tricks for crate rest are so much appreciated! I just purchased a larger crate that can accommodate his bed and food bowls and give him some room to stand up and turn around, but I plan on following the post-op rest period very carefully. I never want to see my dog in that kind of pain again!

  11. Hi
    My dog Dash and I are active hikers like you and Gretel. Dash is used to doing about 5miles at least three times a week. Last month she suffered from IVDD at three and half years old. Recovery has been tough as hard to keep us both in the rest period. She recovered well and we got the ok now 6weeks post-op to go on short walks 20 mins. It’s been two days of short walks but I get nervous when after she gets a bit wobbly till we’re home and goes crazy with toys. I just looking for insight how did you increase mileage and activity level to get back to hiking mountain status?

    1. Hi Jenna. Sorry you guys had to go through this. Gretel’s case was mild so she was allowed to start short walks after about 2 weeks. Our rehab vet had us start with just 5 minutes and after the walks she was to be put back in the crate. We were still only at week 2 of recovery, not 6, so I wouldn’t expect that is what you should be doing with Dash. I’d definitely go back to shorter walks if she’s coming home wobbly and stop her from running around crazy when you guys get back. Part of Gretel’s rehab also included doggy gym exercises. You can see what she did here: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/ivdd-recovery-exercises-for-strengthening-balance-and-body-awareness/

      Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.

  12. My IVDD dachshund just had his first flair up yesterday since his initial incident about 8 months ago. He’s three and when he first hurt himself we were walking three miles basically every day. I’ve massively dialed things back since his six weeks of crate rest, and this was good to hear while contemplating his recovery period from this flair up. It gives me hope. I’ve been torn between the advice of my vet (2 week’s crate rest this time) and the IVDD community telling me that it should be six weeks even with cold laser therapy. It sounds like you recommend maybe checking out a canine rehab place for after his crate rest?

    1. If it were me, I would definitely go closer to the 6 weeks of crate rest for the flair up. I find that most veterinarians (as reported by readers) way under-recommend the proper length of crate rest. If you can afford it, I definitely do suggest talking to a rehab vet. You could even do that after the two weeks. The rehab vet can reassess him and give you a plan to rehabilitate him during the remaining weeks he is on crate rest (My Gretel was allowed very short walks in a controlled (safe) environment and some “doggy gym” exercises to strengthen her core). Good luck to you guys!

  13. Hi my Melvyn was diagnosed with possible ivdd. Did you get pet insurance after her diagnosis? Wondering if I can get it now. We are only on 3 weeks cage rest?

    1. No, I did not. No pet insurance will cover a pre-existing condition. However, I think one or two that cover “hereditary conditions” like IVDD treat each different disk rupture as a separate incident. it doesn’t hurt to call and ask if ruptures with a different disk would be covered in the future. I would start with Trupanion if you want to call and ask.

  14. Hi Jessica,

    My pup Rex (11 year old schnauzer) has his first Episode from a herniated disk in his neck about 3 months ago. We were lucky and blessed that we caught it on time before it got worse. He was on steroids for 1 week and Pain meds For 2
    Weeks (tramadol and gabapentin) – he has been back to his normal old self for about a month now, maybe a bit over a month. Today he woke up and I noticed a slight limp and I’m afraid it might be a sign of a soon to come flare up. Is there anything that you would recommend to maybe avoid flare ups? I have his pain
    Meds and the gabapentin for nerve pain. Should I maybe start off with the meds again to Avoid him even reaching pain??
    Thank you so much for all your posts on this issue.


    1. Hi Jess. You didn’t mention crate rest. Did you do at least 5 weeks of strict crate rest after his first injury? That is how long it takes for the scar tissue to form over the disk and “heal” it. I can take longer (We did crate rest with Gretel for 8 weeks, plus rehab, before she fully recovered) but that is the minimum. Without doing that, he can continue to re-injure the same disk over and over. Unfortunately, even with that, a DIFFERENT disk can become an issue but it’s not as likely as re-injuring a poorly healed disk. I do have pain medication and anti-inflammatories on hand for Gretel. If it’s just a small sign of a flare up, I will give her both for a couple days and put her on crate rest for at least a couple days to see if it resolves itself. It always has but if it didn’t I would take her back to the veterinarian to be assessed (I would also do this if it were more than just walking a little stiff – I would take her right away if there was clear pain). Hope that helps.

  15. My little Jack (Beagle) was recently diagnosed with IVDD. He had surgery in February of this year and he’s doing very well recovering. I made the mistake of trusting that pet insurance would help with the financial impact and they did not. Even though I had never filed a claim, my premiums were always paid on time, Jack’s surgery still wasn’t covered. I would absolutely still so it all over again without insurance but it’s been so crushing that 24PetWatch was not there when I needed them. Please beware of pet insurance companies. I would NEVER recommend 24PetWatch to anyone.

    1. Hi Anita. Gretel was with 24PetWatch when I adopted her from the rescue. I agree that it’s not a very good one. This was almost 11 years ago but, when I reviewed the fine print at that time, hereditary/congenital conditions were not covered (IVDD is a genetic disease Dachshunds are prone to). I switched to Trupanion and never looked back. I haven’t used them for IVDD surgery, although I have used them for several other things, but my friends have. One dog had to have two surgeries within 6 months of each other and Trupanion covered both of them.

  16. Hi Jessica,

    Your site has been very helpful. Thank you! My pup Tater tot (Poodle terrier) was diagnosed with IVDD herniation on T12 and T13 back in Dec 2022. We chose the surgery route due to paw dragging and our Neurologist was concerned worsening condition. 6 months later, had too much fun at the beach and flared up. Seeing your IVDD flare up vs IVDD injury chart, he’s leaning towards the IVDD flare up minus the shakes and obvious pain. It breaks my heart to see him in pain. My partner and I are getting worried since it’s nearing 2 weeks since the flare up and he’s still in pain. I know it’ll take longer than that, any suggestions to speed up the recovery? I did purchase a light therapy thanks to you! We’ll see if it works. Any thoughts on ortho-back brace “Lil’ Back Bracer?” Ty for your time!

    1. Hi Dee. I have asked my vet for prescription pain medication and anti-inflammatories to have on hand at home for flare ups. When Gretel is experiencing one, I give her those medications, restrict her activity (crate her if I need to but the pain meds keep her pretty sleepy/still), and give her some cold laser treatments. I’m getting ready to write a through blog post on back braces for Dachshunds, but I’ve mentioned them in various articles before. See #10 in this article. https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/how-to-help-a-dog-with-back-problems/

  17. Thank you for your reply. Turns out, it’s a new IVDD injury on his neck. What’s the longest flare up Gretel has experience? I hope she’s staying healthy. Tater Tot has muscle relaxant, steroids, and pain medication on hand. I’m starting to look into CBD, Acupuncture and cold laser therapy. We’re trying all options before putting him through another surgery.

    1. I am sorry it is a new injury. Gretel’s longest flare up lasted almost 14 days. Most other issues were resolved after 5-7 days rest.

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