Hind leg paralysis, commonly known as Dachshund paralysis is most common in the long backed breeds. The Dachshund has been bred for centuries to have a disproportionately long back with short little legs to support his or her weight on either end. This results in a huge problem for the long spine, especially close to the middle where there is little support and the bulk of the weight. For Dachshunds that are obese this problem can become even more pronounced, however even very fit Dachshunds can have this problem if they injure their back jumping up or down or twisting.
The spine is made up of many vertebrae which are bony structures that form the protection and support of the spinal column. Between each vertebrae is a small cartilage disc that allows the spine to flex and move. Without these discs the spine would just be one solid, long bone that would not be able to bend or flex. With long backed breeds the pressure of the subtle downward bend of the spine towards the middle of the back results in uneven pressure on the discs, causing ruptures. This is known as intervertebral disc disease. Once this happens and the disc ruptures, it presses up against the spinal cord, causes pain and neurological problems resulting in paralysis. Unless the pressure is released the paralysis will continue.
Traditionally the only options for owners of Dachshunds with paralysis was either a surgical procedure to try to locate and correct the rupture or to consider using a movement device such a as dog wheelchair to support the paralyzed hind end while still allowing the dog to move about. In severe cases of Dachshund paralysis the bowel and bladder control can be lost or severely compromised, leading to further problems for owners.
More recently there has been a growing number of vet hospitals and research centers that have worked with paralyzed Dachshunds with hydrotherapy techniques. This involves allowing the dog to gradually strengthen his or her back by exercising in water, taking all pressure off the spine as the body is evenly held up by the water. The results have been very promising with some Dachshunds recovering the full use of their hind legs within six to eight weeks of hydrotherapy and restricted movement.
Evidence is overwhelming that hydrotherapy and cage rest is most effective at the first signs of any tenderness or trouble walking with the hindquarters, which will often prevent the disc from rupturing. Humping or roaching of the back as well as problems with making it outdoors to urinate is also a first sign that back problems are developing. Talk to your vet about hydrotherapy or alternative treatments if you have any concerns about your Dachshund's back.