Why Do Daschunds Have Back Issues?

Dachshunds are very well known for their long and slinky appearance, but it comes at a cost. These little dogs suffer from ruptured disks that lead to pain and paralysis.

Mar 16, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
why do daschunds have back issues

The Daschund, more fondly called the sausage dog, is a 9-inch bundle of fur with a charming and alert personality. They’re known for their unusually long bodies and extremely short legs, but these physical traits are also the source of their mobility issues. Daschunds can go from running and jumping to limping and lameness without warning, leaving many owners devastated by their injuries. To better understand why Daschunds have back issues, I explore their unique anatomy and the signs and sources of spinal problems in this breed.

Why Do Daschunds Develop Back Problems?

black dachshund standing with lead on green lawn
The long backs of Daschunds increase their risk of vertebral injuries.

You wouldn’t be wrong to think that the long back of a Daschund or doxie is the cause of their lumbar problems. It’s not that they have extra vertebrae or a spine that moves differently; it’s the proportion of their leg height to their long bodies. The gene responsible for the dwarfism of a doxie affects cartilage and bone development, eventually leading to disc degeneration.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a hereditary condition that causes the discs between the vertebrae to weaken or crack. The jelly-like material between the disks eventually oozes onto the spinal cord, creating pressure. This type of disc herniation leads to severe pain and limited movement. Eventually, the disease causes lameness, but some dogs may become paralyzed without warning. Of course, this is very distressing to owners; however, it’s important to remember that doxies are born with this disease. While their elongated backs and short legs give them a distinct look, they’re the main source of their back problems.

What are the Signs of Back Issues in Daschunds?

black daschund standing on grass
A sausage dog in pain will experience distressing symptoms.

When Daschunds first show signs of spinal damage, you’ll notice changes in their everyday behaviors. A doxie that was once frolicking up and down the stairs becomes hesitant to continue to do so. They might whimper or bite when you pick them up or touch their spine. Their discomfort will also cause them to arch their backs and lower their heads while standing.

In dogs with IVDD, signs include instability while walking, as if they’re tipsy, and a refusal to eat their food or take treats. Pay attention to sudden shivering and panting, as these symptoms indicate pain. Unfortunately, some dogs go from being fully mobile to becoming paralyzed. If doxies lose sensation in their back end, they will drag their legs and must be taken to the vet for an emergency assessment.

At What Age Do Daschunds Suffer from Mobility Problems?

old brown sausage dog standing on wooden ramp
Spinal diseases affect young and old dogs.

Most doxies experience spinal problems between the ages of 3 and 8 years old. There are reports of dogs as young as 1 year showing symptoms of IVDD; however, most adult dogs develop the condition by 3 years old. You can give your sausage dog a nutritious diet and strengthen their muscles with exercise, but you cannot prevent disc degeneration in this breed.

Tests such as radiographs can detect changes in the spine's vertebrae as sausage dogs mature. A vet will look for calcification of the discs, which allows owners to act before a rupture occurs. Doxies are more likely to suffer from IVDD than any other small dog breed because of their leg-to-back ratio. Large dogs, such as Labradors and German shepherds, are prone to disc degeneration.

Will All Daschunds Have Back Problems?

face of black and tan sausage dog
Spinal conditions in doxies have a genetic component.

No, around 25% of all doxies, including the miniature type, will experience back and mobility issues. It’s a significant percentage and one to consider if you plan on bringing a sausage dog into your home. The last thing that you want to hear is that your doting Daschund has a severe spinal injury that could compromise their quality of life.

In addition to pain management, there’s the cost of surgery, rehabilitation, and the risk of joint collapse. Most Daschunds with lumbar problems will require surgery to correct the damage. While the recovery is long and relies on the vigilance of owners, in most cases, it can improve, if not restore, their mobility.

What Places Daschunds at Risk of Back Injuries?

young brown daschund running on grass in black harness
Focus on low-impact activities to strengthen your Daschund’s muscles.

Despite the Daschund’s hereditary lumbar problems, there are risk factors that can lead to a ruptured disk of the spine. Much like herniated discs in people, doxies experience the same type of injury when they perform vigorous activities and are overweight. To delay or minimize damage such as a ruptured disk, it’s better to stick to regular walks and playtime.

Swimming is one of the best exercises to support and strengthen a doxie's back. It’s a low-impact activity that encourages them to use all their muscles without placing physical stress on the spine. What your Dachshund should avoid at all costs is jumping on and off high furniture because it strains their spine and legs.

How to Treat Spinal Problems in Daschunds

brown and white doxie lying on fluffy blankets
Recovering sausage dogs must be confined for a few weeks.

Doxies that suffer from a spinal injury, such as a herniated disk due to IVDD, usually require surgery, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Based on an assessment by a veterinarian, less severe injuries may heal with strict rest and crating. However, if your little doxie is lame, surgery assists by recovering as much of the affected discs as possible to ease spinal cord pressure. Once the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves are freed, movement will improve, and the pain will ease. Even the smallest dogs that are paralyzed can recover with the appropriate treatment, but it all depends on the severity of the damage.

Conservative treatment for an injured sausage dog involves restricting them to a crate to prevent unnecessary movement. In addition to crating, affected dogs benefit from medication such as steroids to manage pain and inflammation. Supportive bracing is a conservative option to stabilize the spine during recovery, but this is highly individualized. Each treatment is tailored to your pet, so always speak to your veterinarian before you move forward with a recovery plan. Remember that while Daschunds have a high incidence of IVDD, they can live normal lives. Don’t go to extremes by restricting them for fear of lameness because it stresses you and your pet out.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.