Bone and Joint Diseases

There are several skeletal disorders that can affect dachshunds. The most common is disc disease. In addition, the dachshund puppy can suffer from Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) disease, and the senior dachshund, like seniors of all other breeds, will eventually develop arthritis to some degree.

Back and Spinal Problems

Up to half of all reported canine cases of intervertebral disc disease (IVD), or herniated discs, involve dachshunds. A disc, in very basic terms, is like a cushion that is positioned between each bony vertebra that makes up the spine. Discs have a tough, fibrous outer ring with a gelatinous interior. When the gelatinous interior of the disk penetrates and protrudes through the disk's tough exterior (as in a hernia), it puts pressure on the spinal cord. The result can be excruciating pain, reduced mobility, and even paralysis. The dachshund's discs are metabolically different from those of other breeds, with 75 to 100 percent of them already being degenerated by the time a dachsie is one year old.

Your dachshund has a one in four chance of suffering from a slipped disk at some point in her life. Of the herniated disks that occur, 85 percent are in the back and 15 percent are in the neck area.

When it occurs in the neck (cervical disk disease), symptoms of 1VD include crying out in pain when the dachsie's neck is touched, difficulty or inability to move the neck or head, tight neck muscles, and difficulties moving the limbs. Symptoms of IVD when it occurs in the lower back (thoracolumbar disk disease) include a hunched back, difficulty walking, dragging back toes, crying out in pain when touched or picked up, and, in severe cases, paralysis of the dog's hind end.

At the first sign of suspected disc disease, keep your dachshund quiet in his crate and carefully transport him to your veterinarian for a complete diagnosis. Additional damage to the herniated disk may cause the dog to become paralyzed. Paralysis caused by IVD is often irreversible. In some cases, through aggressive physical therapy, a paralyzed dachshund is able to regain enough mobility to be functional. Other times, a dachshund can adapt readily to a wheeled cart that supports his rear end and allows him to be mobile on flat surfaces. As research into the field of spinal cord nerve regeneration continues, perhaps in the future there will be a means by which this severe damage can be reversed.

In more serious cases of IVD, in which the dog is not paralyzed but is exhibiting difficulties walking, an arched and painful back, or dragging its back toes, surgery to the affected areas can have lasting and outstanding results. Surgery is expensive, however, and can cost upward of $2,000.

The best treatment for IVD is prevention. Don't allow your dachshund to jump up or down from furniture or other high places, and keep your dachsie fit and trim to reduce the chances that she will suffer trauma to her spine because she is obese.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

LCP is an inherited disease that affects the blood supply to the femoral head (the ball that fits in the socket of the hip), which in turn causes the surface of the ball itself to become irregular. With a poor fit in the hip socket, the femoral head becomes even more damaged, causing pain.

The disease causes hip stiffness and pain, soreness, lameness, or complete disuse of the affected leg, resulting in atrophied muscles. Symptoms of LCP begin to show in affected puppies between four and twelve months of age. Treatment for LCP ranges from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to surgery.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is an organization that reads x-rays to determine if a joint shows the presence of an inherited disease. If disease is present in a joint, the OFA assigns a level of severity to the joint, which assists breeders in deciding whether they should breed a dog.

Osteoarthritis

This is a disease of the older dachshund. All dachshunds are born with cartilage between their joints. In very simple terms, this cartilage is the cushion that absorbs jolts and pressures between moving joints. The process of the joints constantly rubbing against the cartilage wears the natural cushion down. Eventually, a joint may have very little cartilage left, which means there's hardly any cushioning, or the bones are actually rubbing against each other. The result is pain, heat, inflammation, stiffness, and discomfort.

It is estimated that one in five adult dogs in the United States suffers from osteoarthritis. Nearly half of the mild cases go untreated, along with 44 percent of moderate cases and nearly 20 percent of severe cases. There are many options available to help reduce pain and increase an arthritic dog's mobility, so there's no need for senior dogs to suffer.

Conventional as well as holistic veterinary treatments can help ease the pain and perhaps slow the progression of this disease. However, to date there is no cure for arthritis. If you choose alternative therapies for your dachsie, make sure they are part of a treatment plan that is being supervised by your veterinarian. Pet owners frequently try something on their dogs that they've read about on the Internet or picked up from a health-food store. This not only is ineffective, it also can be extremely dangerous for your dachsie.

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