Dachshunds are one of the ‘chondrodystrophic’ breeds. Chondrodystrophia means ‘abnormal cartilage development’. Other examples of chondrodystrophic breeds are the Pekinese, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Basset, Beagle and Poodle.
In these breeds the cushion between the vertebral disc bodies can lose its normal elasticity sooner than in other breeds. This may happen as early as six to 12 months but more commonly between four and six years. When the outer layer of the disc becomes less elastic, the soft internal gelatinous content may leak through tears in the outer capsule. This prolapsed material may cause pressure on the spinal cord, causing symptoms including weakness, leg dragging and paralysis.
If the kids are old enough to safely and correctly pick up a puppy it should not pose an additional risk. I always suggest that keeping a Dachshund fit and in good shape will be an aid in reducing the risk of disc disease. However, excessive exercise might be detrimental. Furthermore, obesity is definitely a contributing factor. The excess weight puts increased pressure on the spinal column which strains the discs more. If you do have an older Dachshund it might help to limit him moving up or down steps. Making a little ramp next to the steps will limit strain on the back.
Providing a good quality diet will give your pet optimal nutrition and is always indicated. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which type of food will be suitable for your dog. When using a good diet in a controlled manner, obesity will be less of a concern. This also allows for better muscle development which, along with exercise, will strengthen your Dachshund’s back.
Text: Dr A Coetzee, Veterinarian