I didn’t always know a lot about Dachshunds. I was still pretty clueless even after owning my first Dachshund Chester for 8 years.
It wasn’t until I adopted my second Dachshund Gretel, and started this blog, that I really started researching and learning as much as I could about the breed.
UPDATED: January 31, 2023
It turns out that Dachshunds are notorious for having back problems.
Many Dachshunds end up fully or partially paralyzed, or with mobility limitations and pain related to spinal issues, at some point in their lives.
I had no idea when I adopted my Dachshund Chester.
But I’ve been studying Dachshunds, and Dachshund back problems, since about 2015 and now I really understand the cause and the current scientific research on the topic.
ATTENTION: If you found this article because your Dachshund is suddenly having trouble walking and you need help, go read my article about what to do if your dog is suddenly paralyzed right away.
How I Learned About Dachshunds and Their Back Problems
I run a 1,000+ member club for Dachshunds, have been walking and dog sitting Dachshunds for over 7 years, and have several friends with Dachshunds.
Besides my experience with my own 3 Dachshunds, I’ve momentarily “owned” at least 100 more through people sharing their stories with me and asking for my help with back injuries over the years.
Once, I had to take one of the Dachshunds I walk to the vet for the owner because she had another emergency come up and he was experiencing back pain.
Another time I drove my friend to the emergency vet when her dog suddenly had trouble walking and was experiencing pain.
Three of the Dachshunds I walked underwent surgery because of paralysis issues.
I helped “rehabilitate” them when they were able to start walking again.
Besides my own experiences, I’ve scoured online articles and resources and talked to several veterinarians about back issues with Dachshunds.
I feel confident that I know a heck of a lot about Dachshunds and back problems.
I’m telling you this so you believe me when I say I know what I am talking about… because I have to set the record straight!
The ONE thing Every Dachshund Owner Must Know
So many people don’t understand what causes Dachshund back problems.
I would say that 80% – and that’s being conservative – of the people are surprised by what I’m going to tell you.
I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing anyone for not knowing.
Like I said, I owned my first Dachshund for eight years and before I started to learn.
Now I’m passionate about helping people understand why Dachshunds are prone to back problems, how they can recognize back problems, and what they can do to help prevent them.
Some might even say I am obsessed with this mission.
You must know what is in the rest of this article if you own a Dachshund.
It’s the most important thing to know about their health.
I’m going to give you just the highlights in an attempt to be thorough but not overwhelming.
3 Ways a Dachshund Can Injure Their Back
There are three ways a Dachshund can hurt their back.
1) Acute Back Injury
The first way a Dachshund can hurt it’s back is the least common – acute injury.
Acute injury happens when a dog takes a fall, is stepped on, get’s into a car accident, etc.
It’s almost always obvious: you see it happen or there is a visible sign something bad happened just out of your sight.
The effect of the catastrophic event presents itself immediately or very soon after.
This kind of injury can occur at any age.
2) Age-related Back Problems
The second way a Dachshund can hurt it’s back is what I like to call “oldness”.
As an animal ages, it’s normal for the body to go through negative or degenerative changes.
Your Dachshund may naturally develop a disease, or their muscles and bones can degenerate, which can make them prone to injury.
If older dogs who haven’t previously had any back problems develop them, it’s often the result of the normal wear-and-tear on their spine as they age.
This is called Type II disk disease.
According to Veterinary Surgical Centers,
“The condition is typically slowly progressive and may or may not be painful.
It occurs most commonly in middle- to older age… dogs.
The chronic spinal cord compression with this type of disc disease often causes atrophy of the spinal cord.”
3) Hansen’s Type I Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
This is the most common culprit of Dachshund back injuries in dogs between the age of 3 and 8 years of age.
It’s a result of spinal disk degeneration that causes ruptures in the disks of younger dogs.
Hansen’s type I Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is commonly referred to as simply “IVDD”.
In other words, IVDD is a degeneration of the spine (due to the disease) that occurs at a younger age than can be attributed to the normal aging process.
At least 95% of the cases I can recall of Dachshund’s with mobility issues – ranging from slight to paralysis – is due to a current or previous diagnosis of IVDD.
If a Dachshund has IVDD, the disease typically presents itself as a sudden inability to walk normally between the ages of 3 and 8 years old.
I’ve heard of a couple recent cases where a Dachshund was diagnosed with IVDD at as young as 1-2 years old.
This most common form of IVDD – Hansen’s Type I – is what I’m going to talk about in this article.
About Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dachshunds
IVDD is a degenerative disease that causes the spinal disks to age faster than normal.
The disks become dry, brittle, and fragile.
IVDD starts when the jelly-like inner layer hardens (calcifies) and dries out, so it can’t cushion like it’s supposed to.
When the fibrous, outer layer of a disk cracks, and the inner layer bulges out, or herniates, it causes pressure on the dog’s spinal cord.
It can bulge out a little or a lot, causing mild to severe problems.
Some problems caused by IVDD are far more serious than others but they all affect the health and happiness of your Dachshund to some degree. (Source: L’il Back Bracer)
Below are some facts about IVDD-related back injuries.
Note: IVDD can also affect disks in the neck. It’s less common (but equally as critical to know about) so I am primarily going to refer to IVDD back injuries in this article.
IVDD is a GENETIC Disease
That means your Dachshund was born with it and whether your dog has no symptoms, mild pain, or becomes paralyzed is largely out of your control.
I’ve had people argue with me that IVDD is not genetic. We’ll here is some science to back up my statement.
According to the University of California – Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (UC Davis) – one of the premier research facilities for IVDD in the US:
“A Dachshund’s long back and short limbs (legs) is caused by Chondrodysplasia (CDPA), commonly called the dwarfism, which interferes with the body’s normal development of cartilage.“
All Dachshunds have some form of this gene. It’s what causes the unmistakable “long and low” Dachshund look.
Dogs with a certain mutations of this gene – specifically Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) – are at higher risk for intervertebral disk herniation.
In an article titled Genetic Discovery Finds Dachshunds’ Short-Leg Phenotype Linked To IVDD states”
“Type I IVDD is most common in Dachshunds.
It is an an inherited disorder caused by CDDY, a condition of shorter legs and abnormal intervertebral discs in which the discs degenerate prematurely in young dogs, occurring in some dogs as young as 1 year of age.”
Unfortunately, there is no reliable test for IVDD… yet anyway.
The reason, explained loosely, is because all Dachshunds have some form of the dwarfism gene and it’s still not 100% clear what mutation is causing IVDD.
But there is hope. Scientists are making progress on pinpointing the cause.
You can read more about the progress they have made in identifying the gene mutation responsible for IVDD HERE.
The good news is, because back injuries are due to IVDD, which is inherited in a dog’s genes, you can stop feeling guilty that it was “something you did” if your dog starts having back or neck problems.
But it’s also bad news.
If Your Dog Has IVDD, a Back Injury May Not Be Preventable
Approximately 25% of Dachshunds, or 1 in 4, will suffer some sort of back injury in their lifetime where IVDD can be pinpointed as the cause.
According to Danika Bannasch, from the School of Veterinary Medicine UC Davis, one of the primary researchers of IVDD in dogs,
“Dogs with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) are 50 times more likely to have this mutation [chondrodystrophy]; that’s an incredibly strong correlation with disc disease.” (source)
The bad news is, because back injuries are primarily caused by IVDD, which is an inherited, genetic disease, for the most part you can’t control if your Dachshund will injure their back or not.
There doesn’t have to be an external cause for back pain or issues in a dog with IVDD.
The majority of stories I’ve heard about Dachshund back injuries start something like “My Dachshund was perfectly fine and couldn’t walk when they woke up.”
I’ve heard countless stories of owners who were very careful with their Dachshunds – treating them like breakable glass – and their Dachshund ruptured a disk merely getting up from their dog bed.
There are precautions you can take to “stack the cards in favor” of a dog with IVDD but, again, you can’t control whether they will need medical treatment or not.
It’s true that environmental factors can influence whether a dog with IVDD (calcified and brittle disks) will rupture a disk.
However, in my opinion, Dachshund owners tend to over-emphasize this and often think their choices have more influence over a potential back injury than it does.
Still though, it’s important to know what these environmental factors are and control as much as you can.
Scientists have speculated that these environmental factors may influence whether a Dachshund ruptures a spinal disk or not:
- Jumping off furniture and other high places – it’s best to minimize this
- Using stairs – but there is some evidence that stairs may not be as bad as you think
- Obesity – when a Dachshund is overweight, it can put a lot of stress on the spine
- Exercise – Exercise helps a Dachshund’s spine-supporting muscles stay strong
- Nutrition – good food and quality supplements are important to overall health but may also influence spinal health
IVDD Symptoms to Watch For
In all my years of research and experience, I’ve seen 20 common signs and symptoms that can indicate a IVDD-related back injury.
The most common are:
- Walking wobbly or “drunk”
- Standing with their back hunched
- Showing signs of pain like shivering, rapid breathing, hiding in a corner or den (like crate or nook), and refusing to eat
- Yelping or crying out if you touch them
- Sudden paralysis of the hind legs (dragging the back legs)
What To Do If You Think Your Dog Injured Their Back
Immediate action is necessary if you suspect a back injury.
1) Keep your dog from moving around
If they are in severe pain, they may do this on their own.
If not, put them in a crate or wrap them in a towel and hold them.
If your dog is suddenly paralyzed, you must do this right away!
2) Immediately take your dog to the vet
Take them to an emergency clinic if you have to. Time is of the essence.
A veterinarian will determine the cause of your Dachshunds back pain, or lameness, and determine whether it is IVDD or something else.
If the injury is mild, crate rest and medication may be all that your dog needs.
Treatments Options For an IVDD-Related Back Injury
If your dog experiences an IVDD-related back injury and ruptures a disk, there are two primary methods of treatment.
Your veterinarian will examine your dog, how affected your dog’s mobility and nerves are by the disk rupture (grades 1-5), and recommend a course of action.
If your dog is experiencing advanced stages IVDD disk rupture, surgery may be recommended.
During surgery, a surgically-trained veterinarian will make an incision along your dog’s back, clean up the extruded disk material putting pressure on your Dachshund’s nerves, and repair the disk as much as possible.
This will be followed by medications – steroids and pain aids – and strict crate rest (see section below for details on that).
If your vet recommends surgery, it’s because they think it’s your dog’s best chance for fully recovering.
If you can afford it, you should do it, ideally within the first 24 hours.
Your veterinarian may give you an estimated chance of recovery if surgery is performed, which typically ranges from 50% to 95%.
I’ve seen several dogs that were paralyzed fully recover after surgery and and a period of restricted movement.
Surgery is expensive though. Not everyone can afford it.
Sadly, I’ve heard of many veterinarians who told people they should put their dog down if they can’t afford the surgery.
However, I’ve heard of some Dachshunds make a partial or full recovery without surgery, whether it was initially recommended or not.
In truth, surgery isn’t 100% effective anyway (please don’t use this for a reason to not do it if it’s recommended, just understand that there is a chance your dog won’t be exactly the same as they were before).
This specific discussion could be a whole novel in itself but just know that surgery is not your only option.
If you want time to think about it before making the decision to end your dog’s life, ask for the medications (pain and steroids), put your dog on crate rest, do some research, and watch their condition closely to make sure they are not declining.
Strict Crate Rest (aka. Conservative Treatment)
If the injury is not the type, or severity, that would warrant surgery, your Dachshund will be given steroids, pain medicine, and prescribed 5+ weeks of strict crate rest.
This is referred to as “conservative treatment.”
Conservative treatment may also be an option if surgery is recommended but an owner can’t afford surgery (I know several Dachshunds that have recovered with crate rest alone).
Strict crate rest is also used as a way for your dog to to recover after surgery.
In other words, whether your dog’s disk rupture is severe or mild, strict crate rest will be necessary at some point in their recovery.
This means that your dog will have to stay in a small pen or crate for several weeks.
Putting your dog on crate rest can be challenge.
The most common mistake that people make when their Dachshund is recovering from an IVDD episode is not making them rest long enough.
There are two of the most common reasons I see that crate rest is cut shorter than it should be.
- The pain medicine and rest start to work and the owner thinks the dog “is fine” so so they let their dog out of the crate earlier than suggested.
- Guilt. Dachshunds are master manipulators and are prone to anxiety. Most Dachshunds are not used to being locked in a crate, especially when their owner is home (that’s why it’s important to crate train them from a young age just in case). They will whine, cry, and give their owner the saddest eyes until they are let out.
Not letting a dog complete a full regimen of crate rest leaves them more prone to re-injury, flare-ups, and severe issues later.
What Does it Cost for Back Surgery or IVDD Treatment?
It can cost an average of $6,000, and as much as $10,000, for Dachshund spine surgery.
I thought I was off the hook with my Dachshund Gretel because she was diagnosed with very early stage IVDD (stage 2) and didn’t need surgery.
However, although the conservative treatment was recommend her for, and the minimum for that is crate rest and medication, I opted to also:
- Take her to a dog gym for rehab exercises
- Do hydrotherapy (walking on an underwater treadmill)
- Give her cold laser treatments, and take her in for acupuncture at a holistic vet
In total, I spent about $4,000 on her treatment, which is close to the approximate low-average cost of spinal surgery.
I know that some people can’t afford the cost of surgery or rehab treatment like we did. Don’t lose hope though.
Your vet will recommend the best treatment for what you can afford.
If it’s conservative treatment, you can probably get by just with strict crate rest and medication. You don’t have to do all of the extra, costly stuff like I did.
If surgery is recommended but you can’t afford it, know that putting your dog to sleep may not be the only option.
I’ve heard of many dogs making a full recovery with a long period of crate rest and exercises/massage that can be done at home.
I also know of many that didn’t regain full mobility but are able to live happy, normal lives with a little help from a wheelchair.
Frequently Asked Questions About IVDD and Back Injuries in Dachshunds
Over the years, these are some of the most common questions I’ve received.
At what age is a back injury most likely to occur in Dachshunds?
It’s been found that most dogs who are going to develop back problems due to IVDD do so between the ages of 3 and 8 years old.
What is the chance that my Dachshund will get IVDD?
As I stated, the majority of Dachshunds have the gene that causes IVDD, but that in no way means that every Dachshund will rupture a disk.
In fact, on about 25% of Dachshunds, at some point in their lives, suffer from damage to the discs in their spines to the extent that they require veterinary treatment.
Many more have mild symptoms that may not be obvious to the eye.
Getting a Dachshund is a bit like playing roulette – it’s a gamble whether it will happen to your Dachshund or not.
In my opinion, the risk is worth it though because Dachshunds are so wonderful.
Can I test my Dachshund for IVDD?
Currently, there is no reliable test for IVDD.
The condition is strongly linked to the genes that cause Dachshunds to have short legs (dwarfism), but other genes may also be involved.
All of the genes that influence IVDD have not been identified, so a reliable genetic test is not available to detect the disease.
That means that no one – not even a “reputable breeder” – can guarantee which Dachshunds will develop IVDD and rupture a disk and which ones won’t.
Can my Dachshund live a normal life after being paralyzed?
Just because your Dachshund has IVDD doesn’t mean they can’t live a happy, normal life.
It’s also not a “death sentence” if a Dachshund becomes paralyzed and never regains full mobility.
In severe cases, a Dachshund might need a wheelchair to get around, and have some special needs, but will still live life to the fullest.
A lot of Dachshunds moderately or fully recover after treatment and can go back to their normal activities (with a few precautions, of course).
Many veterinarians today point out that you have to strike a balance between protecting your Dachshund’s back and not treating them like they are fragile to the extent that it impacts their quality of life.
Are Dachshunds the only dog breed that can have IVDD?
Although Dachshunds are the breed with the highest incidence of ruptured disks due to IVDD, they are not the only breed that is susceptible to IVDD-related back injuries.
Other breeds that can get IVDD include:
- French bulldogs (Frenchies)
- Basset Hounds
- Shih Tzus
- Jack Russel Terriers
- Mini Poodles
- Mini Pinchers
- Cocker Spaniels
I just want you to be clear about what IVDD is, how to spot a problem, and what to expect.
There is a heck of a lot more information about IVDD than I touched on here but covered the basics.
If you want to get in-depth information about Dachshund back problems, I highly suggest you check out their websites.
I hope that most of you reading this will never have to watch your pup go through a back issue with your dog.
I’ve was fortunate with my first Dachshund Chester. He was never diagnosed with IVDD and never developed a back injury.
However, ironically, Gretel did injure her back and was diagnosed with IVDD not long after I originally wrote this article.
I also have a young Dachshund, Summit, and it’s yet to be seen if she has IVDD. You bet I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for signs!
If you want to read even more information, check out my IVDD resources page and read this great article on Intervertebral Disk Disease by Seniortailwaggers.com.
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.