Like most of the hound dogs and dogs that were bred for an active, robust lifestyle with their owners, the Dachshund is typically a very healthy pet. Like any dog breed there are health issues that are associated with the Dachshund, several which are genetic while others are more likely to develop with poor diet and lack of exercise.
The long, low to the ground body of the Dachshund can in itself become a contributing factor to the health issues that can develop in the breed. It is important to avoid overfeeding the Dachshund as additional weight on the long spinal cord leads to increasing likelihood of paralysis and movement and mobility problems as the dog ages. In addition there are also some genetic factors involved in the development of mobility problems within the breed. It is essential for owners to understand that even following all the recommended management and exercise issues for the breed there is still a chance that genetic factors may cause temporary or permanent loss of movement in the hind quarters for even a healthy, slender Dachshund.
Dachshund Paralysis is actually a spinal disc problem known as Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD. In some lines there is a definite genetic predisposition to the condition, often when dogs have been bred for exceptionally long backs. It is not statistically more common in the Miniature or Standard sizes of Dachshund, however it is somewhat more problematic in the Toy size which is not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.
In general terms the back is made up of vertebrae which are just round cylinders of bones. These bones are separated by tough, jelly like cushions known as discs. The disks prevent the bone on bone contact of the vertebrae and allow the spine to flex and move. The spinal cord, which contains all the nerves that control the body movements runs down the middle of the vertebrae and discs. In a long backed dog like the Dachshund the weight of the dog's body will begin to pull downward on the spine, resulting in uneven compression on the top areas of the cushioning discs. Over time this downward pull and uneven pressure on the discs can cause ruptures and press against the spinal cord nerves, resulting in pain and loss of movement of the hind quarters. In very severe cases and with specific types of ruptures loss of bladder and bowel control can occur.
Typically there are signs of temporary paralysis, hind leg movement pain, messes indoors with an otherwise housetrained dog and any sign of arching or roaching of the back which indicated a pending disc problem. Often if the dog is put on restricted exercise and cage rest as well as using hydrotherapy treatments to strengthen the back without pressure the problem can be averted. If the disc does actually rupture there are surgical procedures that may be possible to remove the pressure and correct the problem to a greater or lesser degree.
One key factor that owners need to consider is to avoid any type of jumping activities for a Dachshund. Jumping up and down off of furniture or beds puts huge pressure on the middle of the back, leading to a greater risk of disc problems. Another essential preventative measure is to keep the dog lean and well exercised as this helps the body, legs and spine stay strong while avoiding the additional pressure that weight puts on the spine.
Additional weight and obesity also leads to a slightly higher than average rate of diabetes within the Dachshund breed. Like diabetes in humans it can be managed and controlled by diet as well as insulin provided at routine times. Avoiding human foods and poor quality of foods can help in the prevention of diabetes while routine exercise also helps with weight management and control.
The long, pendant ears of the Dachshund can also be prone to waxy build up and ear infections. It is important to routinely check the ears for any wax of foul smell that may signal a bacterial or yeast problem in the ear. Cleaning with a cotton swab but not a Q-tip is important, as is drying out the ear after bathing to prevent the ideal conditions for infections to occur. For dogs with chronic ear infections there are drying solutions that can be prescribed by your vet that will help eliminate the conditions needed for the bacteria to grow.
Both male and female Dachshunds are somewhat more prone to mammary tumors than other types of dogs. The good news is that almost half of all tumors in Dachshunds are not malignant and require only surgical removal as a treatment. Malignant tumors are treated with surgery and chemotherapy with fairly good prognosis if treated early and aggressively. As with any breed early spaying and neutering, ideally around the six to eight month mark and definitely before the first heat cycle in females greatly reduces the risk of any type of tumors and reproductive system problems.
Pregnancy is a huge health issue for many Dachshunds because of the additional pressure it puts on the back as well as problems with whelping with the longer birth canal. Always talk to your vet and work with a breeder that has a lot of experience in caring for expecting Dachshunds before deciding if this is the right thing for you and your dog. Many female Dachshunds have difficulty in conceiving and may require artificial insemination in order to become pregnant. This is not a costly procedure but it is an added expense that owners and potential breeders need to consider.
Skin and coat problems can occur with any age of Dachshund but they are more common as the dog ages. Thinning hair can be a sign of allergies, metabolic or digestive problems or skin conditions. Hot spots can occur with the breed as with any type of dog, with the shorter coated Dachshunds slightly more likely to have skin and coat problems than the longer haired varieties. Routine grooming and bathing only when necessary using hypoallergenic dog shampoos and conditioners is highly recommended.
Flea treatments and routine heartworm treatments are also very important with this breed as with any type of dog. Keeping regular vet appointments and following recommended vaccination regimes is also essential in maintaining your Dachshund's good health.