Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Breed of the Week: Dachsund

I'd been considering doing a feature on different dog and cat  breeds. A friend suggested it as well, so I am going forward with this. My goal is not simply to regurgitate all the breed info/stats/data. You can find that anywhere on the internet or in a pet magazine. I will touch on some of those things that make each breed unique but I would like to utilize my experience as a veterinarian to expound on the medical and behavioral issues I see with each breed.

In honor of my very supportive friend, I am going to start with a breed close to her heart - the Dachshund. Their name means "badger hound." They were bred and used to hunt badgers and other animals found in burrows. They can be very fierce when it comes to getting these critters.  

Doxies (as they are affectionately called) come in several sizes: toy, miniature and standard. They also come in three coat varieties: 

Wire, Short and Long Haired

They come in a variety of colors and coat patterns. 

In any case, they are freaking adorable :)  One of my first "loves" was a long haired doxie named "Fritz." When I was in HS, I used to work summers and holidays at a boarding kennel. This little long haired dachshund was a frequent guest of ours. I recall my mom picking me up from work one day. I told her I was in love. She was thinking it was some guy. Nope. It was "Fritz." He was a charmer. 

Doxie owners tell me one thing time and again about them: they just want to be with you. Literally. They will follow you to EVERY room...yes, even the bathroom. 

As a veterinarian, what I see most with them are several things:
1. Obesity (sadly you will hear me say this with A LOT of breeds)
2. Back problems - most people know they have this propensity
3. Dental disease
4. Behaviorally - resenting nail trims, difficulty house-breaking

The back problems I refer to are more properly called IVDD - Intervertebral Disk Disease. This can be anywhere along the spine but most frequently is mid-way down the back in the thoraco-lumbar region (where these spinal bones meet up). It can be further down as well.  There are two main ways this happens in dogs:

1. Trauma - by this I don't mean "hit by car" trauma. Just a young healthy dog running around, twisting, jumping, etc and BOOM, the disk material "explodes" into the spinal cord.
2. Older dogs - typically this is due to the disk getting "brittle" with age so that NOT much is required for this material to sort of "pop" into the spinal cord. 

What owners usually see are dogs that are painful or won't move or in bad cases, are paralyzed in the hind end. 

We can usually diagnose these guys based on an exam and a bit of history BUT to truly KNOW it, one needs either a myelogram (where a dye is injected into the spinal column) or  more commonly these days, an MRI.  An xray MAY show a collapsed disk space or calcified material between the disks but not always. 

As long as they have deep pain they (generally) can respond to cage rest and medications. However, some cases require surgery to remove that disk material that is compressing the spinal cord. These dogs WILL absolutely require an MRI before the surgeon sees them. How else can they know where the offending lesion is? AND it can be in more than one place.

Obesity definitely increases the risk for this happening to a dachshund. I can recall several morbidly obese doxies that, then, also had skin issues. Too many folds and moisture. Not a good combo.  

I know a lot of doxies that resent a nail trim. It's always helpful to play with a puppie's feet - not just touch them but squeeze them, etc to get them used to things being done to them. This applies to all breeds.

They will often require professional dental cleanings during their lifetime as well. If they like to chew - a good knuckle bone or something similar will help.

One last thing about this breed: Nearly every Doxie owner I know says this  ---> They are like potato chips, you can't have just one!


  1. Thank you Christine - you know how much I love Sparky. If I can ever convince my husband we will have another one - after all we need a matched set!!

  2. Research I have read states that 1 in 4 dachshunds will have IVDD. I have had two dogs suffer from it. After 3 surgeries, one walked the rest of his life, and the other is in a wheelie cart. I'm glad you are spreading the word Christine; I love dachshunds, but I have seen too many put down because their owners simply didn't want to pay for treatment when their dog came down with IVDD. Both Hunter and Oscar begin having bouts with IVDD around the age of 8. It usually strikes between 4-6, but it seems you really are never completely out of the woods with this dreadful disease.
    Thank you for your blog.:)

  3. Thanks Mystic! Very true. When you have one, you never know when it could happen. It can be in any age. Thanks for mentioning the surgical outcomes AND the carts. They can do great in carts! The main issue with any paralyzed dog is bladder function and the possible need to express the bladder for the dog's lifetime.

  4. Yes, and I do have to express Oscar. I've been doing it for about 4 years now. It isn't hard, but it is a commitment that has to be kept to keep Oscar happy and healthy! :)