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Dachshunds & IVDD – What You Need To Know

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Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Related terms: Ruptured disc, prolapsed disc, slipped disc, herniated disc, disc protrusion, disc extrusion, intervertebral disc displacement, disc disease

Outline: Many Dachshunds (approximately 25%), at some points in their lives, suffer from damage to the discs in their spines (rather like ‘slipped discs’ in humans). This can cause serious pain that can be of prolonged duration and may lead to severe damage to the spine and paralysis.

Summary of Information

(for more information click on the links below)

1. Brief description

Abnormal intervertebral discs are a feature of Dachshunds which is linked to selection in the breed for the characteristic feature of short legs. These abnormal discs press into the spinal cord causing pain and spinal cord damage in around 25% of Dachshunds at some stage of their lives.

2. Intensity of welfare impact    

Severe: intervertebral disc disease occurs frequently in the Dachshund breeds and causes pain which can be severe and prolonged. It is a disabling condition that may lead to death or requires euthanasia.

3. Duration of welfare impact

The pain caused by this condition can last for days to weeks and may recur. Pain control using drugs can be difficult. If paralysis occurs, this can last for days to weeks or can be permanent and can lead to euthanasia.

4. Number of animals affected 

Around 25% of all Dachshunds will develop this condition to the extent that they require veterinary treatment. At any time, a greater percentage may be suffering from less severe back pain that does not get recognised and treated. From data on estimates of total dog population in the UK and on the percentage of all micro-chip registered dogs that are Dachshunds (Lucy Asher, 2011, personal communication), we estimate that the UK population size of this breed may be around 60,000. It follows that about 15,000 of these have, or will develop this disease. If, from the above, we estimate lifetime prevalence to be 25%, it follows that about 15,000 dachshunds in the UK have or will develop this disease.

5. Diagnosis

Veterinary surgeons will have a strong suspicion that a Dachshund is affected just from the signs of back pain and spinal dysfunction. Imaging the neck or back using x-rays, MRI or CT will confirm the diagnosis.

6. Genetics

The condition is strongly linked to the genes that cause Dachshunds to have short legs (chondrodystrophy) but additional genes may also be involved. All the genes have not been determined and so genetic tests are not available to detect animals susceptible to the condition or those likely to have affected puppies. It is unlikely that the disease can eliminated from the breed without a fundamental change in its physical appearance.

7. How do you know if an animal is a carrier or likely to become affected?

Taking radiographs of the dog’s back between the ages of 2 and 4 years gives an indication as to how likely that individual is to get IVDD. However, some individuals will develop the disease before reaching this age. If parents have been radiographed and they show less than 3 calcified discs at this age then their offspring may be less likely to be affected than if there are more than 4 discs. However, this has not yet been scientifically proven and it is likely that all Dachshunds are at an increased risk of IVDD compared to most other breeds.

8. Methods and prospects for elimination of the problem 

It has been recommended that dogs with more than 4 calcified discs at 2 years of age should not be used for breeding (Jensen et al 2008). Selective breeding programs based on this recommendation have been initiated in Norway, Denmark and Finland (Rohdin et al 2010). Though it is too early for evidence to have emerged to confirm that this will decrease the incidence of the disease, this seems a sensible way forward.

Ideally dogs used for breeding should have no calcified discs. However, it is possible that restricting breeding in this way would result in the breeding population being so a small that other inherited conditions may increase in frequency. In this case, out-crossing with dogs of other breeds would appear to offer a way forward.


For further details about this condition, please check out the full ufaw article
by clicking here.