Understanding IVDD in Dachshunds

Last Updated on April 21, 2024 by admin

If you’re a proud owner of a Dachshund or considering getting one, it’s essential to understand a common health issue that affects this adorable breed – IVDD, or Intervertebral Disc Disease. IVDD can be a serious and painful condition, causing back problems for Dachshunds due to their long bodies and short legs. In this article, we’ll explore what IVDD is and how it specifically affects Dachshunds, providing insights into its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. By gaining a better understanding of IVDD, you’ll be equipped to help your four-legged friend live a comfortable and happy life.

What is IVDD?

Definition of IVDD

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common spinal condition that affects Dachshunds, a breed known for their long bodies and short legs. IVDD occurs when the discs between the vertebrae in the spine degenerate or become displaced, leading to pain, neurological symptoms, and potential paralysis. This condition can significantly impact a Dachshund’s quality of life and requires prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment for optimal outcomes.

Spinal disc anatomy

Before diving into how IVDD specifically affects Dachshunds, it’s essential to understand the anatomy of the spinal disc. The spine is made up of individual bones called vertebrae, and between each vertebra is a cushion-like structure known as an intervertebral disc. These discs serve as shock absorbers, enabling the spine’s flexibility and allowing smooth movement. Each disc consists of a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a gel-like core known as the nucleus pulposus.

How IVDD affects Dachshunds

Due to their unique body structure, Dachshunds have a higher predisposition to IVDD compared to other dog breeds. Their long backs and relatively short legs put increased pressure on the spinal discs, making them more susceptible to degeneration and herniation. IVDD can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time, causing pain, weakness, loss of coordination, and, in severe cases, paralysis. It is crucial for Dachshund owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms of IVDD to seek appropriate medical attention promptly.

Symptoms of IVDD in Dachshunds

Recognizing the symptoms of IVDD is essential for early detection and treatment. Dachshunds may exhibit various signs, including back or neck pain, difficulty standing or walking, reluctance to jump or climb stairs, loss of coordination, dragging the hind legs, and even complete paralysis. It is important to note that the severity and progression of symptoms can vary depending on the individual dog and the extent of the disc damage.

Causes and Risk Factors

Genetic predisposition

Genetics play a significant role in a Dachshund’s susceptibility to IVDD. The breed is genetically predisposed to develop this condition, as certain gene mutations can affect the integrity of their spinal discs. Therefore, if you have a Dachshund or are considering getting one, it is crucial to be aware of this genetic predisposition and take preventive measures to minimize the risk.

Breed characteristics

Dachshunds’ unique body shape, characterized by their long spine and short legs, contributes to their increased risk of IVDD. The elongated back puts added pressure on the intervertebral discs, making them more prone to degeneration and herniation. While this characteristic is part of what makes Dachshunds so endearing, it also requires extra caution and care to prevent spinal issues.

Age as a risk factor

As with many health conditions, age is a contributing factor in the development of IVDD. Dachshunds are particularly susceptible to IVDD during their middle-aged to senior years when the natural degeneration of the spinal discs occurs. It is essential to monitor older Dachshunds closely for any signs of spinal issues and seek veterinary attention promptly if symptoms arise.

Obesity and IVDD

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for all dogs, but it holds even greater importance for Dachshunds. Obesity can exacerbate the strain on a Dachshund’s already vulnerable spine, increasing the risk of disc degeneration and herniation. Providing a balanced diet, portion control, and regular exercise tailored to their needs can go a long way in reducing the risk of IVDD.

Trauma and IVDD

While genetics and breed characteristics are primary risk factors for IVDD, trauma can also contribute to the development of the condition. Physical trauma, such as falls or accidents, can lead to sudden disc herniation in Dachshunds. It is essential to safeguard your Dachshund from situations that could cause undue stress or physical trauma to minimize the risk of IVDD.


Clinical examination

When suspecting IVDD in your Dachshund, a thorough clinical examination by a veterinarian is the first step in the diagnostic process. The vet will evaluate your dog’s gait, range of motion, reflexes, and assess for any signs of pain or neurological abnormalities. They may gently palpate the spine, focusing on the affected area, to determine the presence of muscle tension or discomfort.


Radiography, or X-ray imaging, is a commonly used diagnostic tool to assess the spinal structures and identify any abnormalities. While it may not provide a definitive diagnosis of IVDD, X-rays can help rule out other potential causes of your Dachshund’s symptoms and provide initial insights into the condition of the intervertebral discs.


Myelography involves injecting a contrast dye into the spinal canal to enhance the visibility of the spinal cord and nerve roots. This procedure allows for a more detailed assessment of the affected disc and can help determine the extent and location of the disc herniation. Myelography is commonly used when surgical intervention is being considered.

MRI or CT scan

In cases where a more accurate and comprehensive evaluation is required, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT scan) may be recommended. These imaging techniques provide detailed cross-sectional images of the spine, allowing your veterinarian to visualize the intervertebral discs and identify any abnormalities, such as herniation or compression of the spinal cord.

Treatment Options

Conservative management

In mild cases of IVDD or for dogs who are not suitable candidates for surgery, conservative management may be the recommended approach. This typically involves strict rest, pain management medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and close monitoring for any signs of improvement or deterioration. Conservative management aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and give the disc time to heal naturally.

Surgical intervention

For moderate to severe cases of IVDD or when conservative management fails to provide significant improvement, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the location and severity of the disc herniation. Surgical options may involve removing the herniated disc material, decompressing the spinal cord, or stabilizing the spine. Your veterinarian will discuss the most suitable surgical approach based on your Dachshund’s condition.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of Dachshunds with IVDD, regardless of whether they undergo surgery or receive conservative treatment. Physical therapy techniques such as therapeutic exercises, underwater treadmill walking, and passive range of motion exercises can help strengthen the supporting muscles, increase flexibility, and improve overall mobility.

Pain management

Pain management is an integral part of IVDD treatment. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, to alleviate discomfort and improve your Dachshund’s quality of life. Additionally, they may recommend other pain management strategies, such as cold or heat therapy, laser therapy, or acupuncture.


Maintain a healthy weight

One of the most important preventive measures for IVDD in Dachshunds is to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places undue stress on the spine, increasing the likelihood of disc degeneration and herniation. By providing a balanced diet, monitoring portion sizes, and engaging in regular exercise appropriate for your Dachshund’s size and age, you can help prevent excess weight gain and reduce the risk of IVDD.

Provide appropriate exercise

While it’s essential to ensure your Dachshund gets regular exercise, it’s equally important to choose activities that are low-impact and gentle on their spine. Avoid high-impact activities like jumping, which can strain the intervertebral discs. Instead, opt for activities such as controlled walks, swimming, or using specially designed treadmills or underwater treadmills that provide buoyancy and support to their bodies.

Use ramps or stairs

Dachshunds’ long bodies make them prone to back strain when climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture. Minimize the risk by providing ramps or stairs to assist them in navigating different heights. This can help reduce the repetitive stress on their spinal discs and joints.

Avoid activities that strain the back

Activities such as rough play, excessive jumping, or twisting can put unnecessary strain on a Dachshund’s back and increase the risk of disc herniation. It is crucial to recognize and avoid these activities to protect their spine.

Regular veterinary check-ups

Routine veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection of any potential spinal issues in Dachshunds. Vet visits allow for comprehensive examinations and discussions about preventive measures specific to your Dachshund’s needs. Regular check-ups also help ensure that any emerging health concerns are addressed promptly.

Living with a Dachshund with IVDD

Creating a safe environment

If your Dachshund has been diagnosed with IVDD, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment for their recovery. Remove any potential hazards that could lead to falls or injuries. Provide comfortable bedding that offers adequate support, and consider using orthopedic or memory foam mattresses to relieve pressure on their spine.

Using mobility aids

In some cases, Dachshunds with IVDD may require mobility aids to assist with their daily activities. Slings, harnesses, or carts designed specifically for dogs can provide support and stability while walking or standing. These aids can help alleviate strain on the spine and improve mobility.

Promoting low-impact exercise

Once your Dachshund has undergone appropriate treatment and recovery, it is important to promote low-impact exercise to rebuild strength and maintain overall health. Consult with your veterinarian or a qualified physical therapist to develop a tailored exercise plan that includes activities like controlled walking, swimming, or specific exercises to target the supporting muscles of the spine.

Monitoring for signs of pain or discomfort

Even after successful treatment, Dachshunds with a history of IVDD should be closely monitored for any signs of pain or discomfort. Watch for changes in mobility, behavior, or any indication of recurring IVDD symptoms. Early detection and intervention can help prevent further complications.

Seeking support from a veterinarian or support group

Living with a Dachshund with IVDD can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. It’s important to reach out to your veterinarian for guidance and support throughout the journey. They can provide valuable advice on managing your Dachshund’s condition, recommend appropriate resources, and answer any questions or concerns. Additionally, connecting with other Dachshund owners who have gone through similar experiences through support groups or online communities can provide a sense of understanding, empathy, and additional insights.

Managing Pain and Discomfort

Medications for pain relief

Medications are often prescribed to manage pain in Dachshunds with IVDD. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, or other pain management medications may be recommended depending on the severity of pain and your Dachshund’s overall health. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions when administering medications and monitor for any adverse effects.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation

Physical therapy and rehabilitation play a crucial role in managing pain and discomfort in Dachshunds with IVDD. Alongside medication, therapeutic exercises, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and other modalities can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and enhance your Dachshund’s quality of life. Consulting with a professional veterinary rehabilitation therapist can provide tailored rehabilitation plans for your Dachshund’s specific needs.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies may offer additional pain relief options for Dachshunds with IVDD. Techniques like acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve their overall well-being. It is important to ensure that these therapies are performed by certified professionals experienced in working with animals.

Assistive devices for mobility

Assistive devices such as wheelchair carts or braces can provide support and promote independent mobility for Dachshunds with IVDD-related mobility issues. These devices are designed to accommodate their unique body shape and can significantly improve their quality of life by allowing them to move around comfortably and explore their surroundings.

Potential Complications


In severe cases of IVDD, where the spinal cord is compressed or damaged, paralysis may occur. This complication can manifest as partial or complete loss of movement and sensation in the affected limbs. The extent of paralysis can vary depending on the location and severity of the disc herniation. Immediate veterinary care is crucial in these situations to maximize the chances of recovery.

Loss of bowel and bladder control

Loss of bowel and bladder control, also known as incontinence, can occur as a result of IVDD, particularly when there is spinal cord compression. The nerves responsible for controlling these functions may be affected, leading to difficulties in holding urine or feces. Proper management techniques, such as regular toileting and appropriate hygiene practices, can help mitigate the impact on your Dachshund’s quality of life.

Secondary infections

Dogs with IVDD may be prone to secondary infections, especially if they have suffered from paralysis and are unable to maintain proper hygiene. It is important to implement a meticulous hygiene routine, including regular bathing, grooming, and monitoring for any signs of skin or urinary tract infections. Prompt veterinary attention is crucial if any signs of infection are observed.

Degenerative changes in the spine

IVDD can lead to degenerative changes in the spine over time. This degeneration may cause ongoing pain and discomfort, increasing the risk of recurrent IVDD episodes. It is crucial to manage your Dachshund’s condition through appropriate pain management, preventive measures, and regular veterinary check-ups to minimize the development of degenerative changes.


Recovery and long-term outcomes

The prognosis for Dachshunds with IVDD varies depending on the severity of the condition, the promptness of diagnosis and treatment, and the individual dog’s response to therapy. With proper veterinary care and adherence to treatment plans, many Dachshunds can experience significant improvement and return to a good quality of life. However, it is important to note that some dogs may experience residual neurological deficits or require ongoing management.

Recurrence of IVDD episodes

Once a Dachshund has experienced an episode of IVDD, they are at an increased risk of future episodes. The risk of recurrence depends on various factors, including the severity of the initial episode, the number of affected discs, and the preventive measures implemented. It is crucial to remain vigilant in managing your Dachshund’s overall spinal health to minimize the chances of recurrent episodes.

Quality of life considerations

Maintaining a good quality of life for Dachshunds with IVDD is paramount. Through proper management, pain relief, rehabilitation, and supportive care, many dogs can lead happy and fulfilling lives. It is important to regularly assess their overall well-being, monitor for any signs of pain or discomfort, and make adjustments as needed to optimize their comfort and happiness.

Euthanasia as a last resort

In some severe cases where the quality of life is significantly impacted and all treatment options have been exhausted, euthanasia may be considered as a last resort. This is an emotional and deeply personal decision that should be made in consultation with your veterinarian, based on the best interest of your Dachshund and their overall well-being.

Research and Future Developments

Advancements in diagnostic techniques

Ongoing research in veterinary medicine aims to refine and improve diagnostic techniques for IVDD in Dachshunds. Advancements in imaging technologies, such as MRI and CT scans, have already allowed for more precise visualization and detection of disc abnormalities. As these diagnostic techniques continue to evolve, veterinary professionals will have access to better tools for accurate and timely diagnoses.

Improved surgical procedures

Surgical techniques for treating IVDD in Dachshunds continue to advance, offering improved outcomes and reduced risks. Minimally invasive approaches, such as endoscopic procedures, are gaining popularity and can minimize tissue trauma and shorten recovery periods. As surgical skills and technology progress, Dachshunds undergoing surgery for IVDD can benefit from these advancements.

Development of preventive measures

Researchers are also focusing on developing preventive measures for IVDD in Dachshunds. Genetic studies aim to identify specific gene mutations associated with IVDD susceptibility, allowing breeders to make informed decisions when selecting breeding pairs. Additionally, ongoing efforts in promoting healthy weight management, appropriate exercise routines, and environmental modifications can help decrease the incidence of IVDD in Dachshunds.

Experimental treatments and therapies

Research is exploring experimental treatments and therapies for the management of IVDD in Dachshunds. Stem cell therapy, for example, shows promise in promoting disc regeneration and reducing inflammation. Various pharmaceutical agents are also under investigation for their potential role in preventing or reversing disc degeneration. While these treatments are still in experimental stages, they offer hope for future advancements in IVDD management.

In conclusion, IVDD is a significant concern for Dachshunds due to their unique anatomy and genetic predisposition. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for IVDD is essential for Dachshund owners, allowing them to provide the best possible care for their beloved pets. By implementing preventive measures, seeking prompt veterinary attention, and staying informed about ongoing research, Dachshunds with IVDD can lead fulfilling lives with minimized discomfort and improved long-term outcomes.