The short answer to what to do if your Dachshund has back trouble is to stop reading this and take him to your veterinarian. In severe cases, you literally only have a matter of hours to react, waiting can mean the difference between full recovery and your dog never regaining his mobility.
Hopefully you have already been to the vet and are now trying to understand what is happening to your beloved Dachshund. I am not a medical expert but after my personal experience I accumulated a significant amount of information.
The Dachshund’s elongated body predisposes them to back issues. Another genetic component is the discs outer layer being thinner than normal and sometimes calcifying making it brittle. Discs are the cushions between the vertebrae in the spinal column. The medical name for this health issue is Intervertebral Disc Disease. It is possible for the herniation to occur in the neck area, but more frequent in the middle of the back where the chest and abdomen meet (where most stress is absorbed when jumping).
The spinal cord in dogs extends to the hips; in people it stops in the middle of the back (we have nerves that extend beyond that but not the actual spinal cord). This is why disc problems in dogs are dramatically more severe than in humans. A disc weakened by age or trauma can bulge (herniate) or rupture. Bulged discs protrude and can place pressure on the spinal cord causing severe pain, weakness or even paralysis. The effect on the spinal cord depends on the severity of pressure. Ruptured discs release the contents (a jelly like substance) into the spinal canal. A ruptured disc is the most severe; the disc contents traumatize the spinal cord and create a great deal of swelling. When this happens quickly reducing the swelling is imperative. The longer the spinal cord is deprived of oxygen and spinal fluid the less nerve function there is to return.
The exact cause of a disc bulging or rupturing is frequently unknown. It is rarely associated with a severe trauma, many believe it occurs by dogs jumping off furniture. While preventing your dog from jumping off furniture is difficult, every effort should be made to train them to wait to be picked up or to use a ramp. There is a wide array of ramps or steps available to assist the dog going up and down to beds, couches and other furniture. Traversing long stairs should also be avoided as well as play that involves twisting and jumping. When you carry your Dachshund keep his spine horizontal and use two hands to pick him up with one hand supporting his waist or rear legs. Keeping your Dachshund’s weight down will also mitigate back issues, extra weight is a constant strain.
Treatment almost always includes using an anti-inflammatory medicine. You’ll hear the term “conservative treatment”, this means a less radical approach or non surgical. Conservative treatments can include rest and medication, injections (Adequan is a medication said to promote healing of disc cartilage) and even chiropractic or acupuncture treatments. While surgery is expensive it can be highly effective if done within the first twenty-four hours of paralysis. After twenty-four hours the success rate drops, but with therapy and rest there is still hope.
Confinement is a critical component of treatment regardless of the approach. A small crate placed where the dog can see you and is easy to clean can be effective. Confinement usually last two to six weeks depending on the severity of the injury, your vet can advise what is appropriate for your dog. Continuing this vital treatment is important since the dog can easily reinjure him-self. The medication they receive makes them feel so much better that they want to resume their normal activities before they are completely healed.
Paralysis in Dachshunds is not a death sentence. Surgery and conservative treatments will often bring your dog back to 100 percent. There has also been some success with therapy in paraplegic Dachshunds. Gentle manipulation of the paralyzed limbs and water walking (where the water supports his rear end) and towel walking (a towel slung under his abdomen for support) have been cited in success stories. Some paraplegic dogs are fitted for carts and back to racing through the house in no time. Dog diapers are available for bowel and bladder issues, I’ve even seen them in hot pink with lime green polka dots.
There is no universally correct treatment for all Dachshunds with back trouble. This is a choice that you and your vet need to make after evaluation of his symptoms, your dog’s overall health and age, and the length of time since injury. Unfortunately, like in human medical issues, your finances will also play a role. If you feel it is time to see a specialist look for one specializing in neurology and surgery with experience with Dachshunds.