A Dachshund is in general a very healthy dog. If given a healthy diet and plenty of exercise the Dachshund will live between 14 and 16 years of age.
However, it is very important to make sure that the Dachshund does not become overweight.
Dachshunds love their food and will take any morsel that is offered to them.
Another very important thing to remember is that because the Dachshund has a long back it is important to discourage them from jumping onto furniture and climbing up and down stairs and their tendency to beg at the meal table.
Another important thing is to keep their nails short.
Dachshund breeders test their breeding stock for three main health issues that generally may occur in mid to late life.
Miniature Dachshunds are DNA tested for cord 1 PRA which is a late onset blindness.
Miniature Wire Dachshunds are DNA tested for Laforas Disease which is a late onset epilepsy.
Many Dachshund Breeders are also testing their breeding stock through back x-ray procedures for evidence of IVDD (Intervertibral Disc Disease).
Cord 1 PRA (Progressive Retinal Degeneration)
What is Retinal Degeneration?
The retina is the light-sensitive inner layer of the eye. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a general term for degeneration of the retina found in some breeds of dog (and in humans). Several breed-specific forms of retinal degeneration are caused by mutations in different genes. The age at which deterioration in eyesight of affected dogs begins varies widely, from months to several years. The levels of visual impairment are also variable, with some affected dogs showing few problems even into old age.
Which varieties of Dachshund are affected?
Retinal degeneration was first documented in the Miniature Long-haired Dachshund (MLHD). A DNA test was made available by the UK Animal Health Trust in 2005 and is now available in Australia that identifies a specific gene mutation known as cord-1 (for Cone-rod Dystrophy). The identical mutation has been found in Mini Smooth and Mini Wire Dachshunds (MSHD/MWHD). The DNA test for the cord1 mutation applies to MLHD, MSHD and MWHD. We now know that there is a second mutation which affects the age of onset, but this cannot yet be tested for.
Research into retinal degeneration in the other varieties of Dachshund is under way in the UK, Scandinavia and the USA.
Advice for Puppy Buyers
If you are considering buying a Miniature Dachshund, you should ask the breeder whether the parents have been DNA tested for cord1 and if so what the results were
Only purchase a puppy if one of the parents has been DNA tested “normal“ (Clear) for cord1
Avoid buying a puppy from a breeder who does not know the DNA cord-1 status of the Sire and Dam of your MLHD, MSHD or MWHD puppy.
At the moment, you do not need to ask a breeder about PRA in the other varieties of Dachshund (WHD, LHD, SHD).
Advice for Breeders
The demands on responsible dog breeders grow ever greater, but it is imperative that we all stay focused in order to maximise the chances that the puppies we breed will live a long, happy and healthy life, giving their owners the best possible dog owning experience. The first important step is for breeders to DNA test all breeding stock before they are used to produce future litters.
This will tell you whether your dog/bitch is:
a “Clear” (two copies of the normal gene),
a “Carrier” (one copy of the normal gene and one copy of the mutant, cord-1, gene) or,
an “Affected” (two copies of the cord-1 mutation)
Use this information when selecting a genetically compatible mate. Avoid matings that are likely to produce “Affected” dogs. Be sure that when you do choose a “Clear” dog or bitch to breed from it is a good specimen of the breed.
Stud-dog owners should ask to see the Test Certificate of any bitch coming to their dog for mating. Likewise, owners of bitches should ask to see their planned Stud-dog’s Test Certificate.
This article has been reproduced by courtesy of the Dachshund Breed Council UK
What is Lafora’s Disease?
Lafora’s Disease is an inherited form of epilepsy that affects Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds, in particular.
Can also affect Bassets, Beagles and on rare occasions been reported in Miniature Poodles, Standard Poodles, Pointers & Corgis.
The condition typically only becomes apparent any time from the age of 5 to 7 onwards and can take the form of major fitting, jerking of the head, apparent blindness, dementia and unsteadiness on the feet.
Dogs that are “Affected” by the disease, or are “Carriers” of the genetic mutation, are at risk of producing more “Affected” puppies if they are bred from with others carrying the mutation.
History of Laforas Disease
Lafora’s disease was first recognised and described by veterinary neurologist Dr Sue Fitzmaurice in the UK in 1996.
Dr Clare Rusbridge a veterinary-neurologist in the UK diagnosed a few cases and, anxious to find a better treatment for them, read the human literature on this rare disease.
She read about the work of the eminent scientist and neurologist Dr Berge Minassian in Canada who was researching Lafora’s disease in children, which in humans is a terminal disease.
Dr Minassian’s work had already discovered two distinct genetic mutations causing Lafora’s in humans.
Sue Fitzmaurice and Clare Rusbridge collated their clinical information and arranged for DNA samples to be sent to the Toronto Hospital.
Subsequently Dr Minnasian was able to determine that the dogs did not have the human mutation.
However it did mean considerably more work as to find the genetic mutation in the dog would require extensive familial studies and therefore help from dog breeders.
In 2002 Dr Minassian visited the MWHD Breed Club in the UK.
Subsequently, several breeders provided pedigree information and DNA samples from their dogs.
Finally in 2005 the Toronto based team was able to announce to the world that the genetic mutation causing the disease in MWHD and the Basset Hound had been discovered (BBC News Friday, 7 January 2005)
The Genetics of Lafora’s
The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, with support from Dr. Clare Rusbridge in the UK, identified Lafora’s as an inherited autosomal recessive disease.
An autosomal recessive disorder means two copies of an abnormal gene must be present in order for the disease or trait to develop.
It appears likely that canine Lafora’s first appeared in the Mini Wire Dachshund population in the UK as the result of a genetic mutation. This means that a dog must have two of the mutated genes, one from each parent, to be clinically “Affected”.
If a dog has only one mutated Lafora’s gene, it will be a “Carrier”. It will not become clinically affected by the disease but, if bred to another “Carrier” or “Affected” dog, some of the puppies born will be likely to receive the two mutated genes and thus be clinically affected.
Can Lafora’s be Treated
Not all dogs with Lafora’s disease will need medication.
Anti-Epileptic drugs can be used but not all Lafora’s dogs will respond.
Lafora’s disease is caused by excess storage of a starch like compound, polyglucosan in the nerve cells.
There is evidence that a low GI index diet improves dogs with Lafora’s.
Many proprietary dog foods are low in carbohydrates.
But never give a Lafora’s affected dog Starchy or Sugary treats as this could aggravate the disease.
Lafora’s dogs can suffer from stress, anxiety and fitting can be triggered by sunlight or bright flashing lights.
The Benefits of Testing
The WHDC’s screening programme identified approx. 10% “Affected” MWHDs.
This could mean that over half the UK MWHD population is carrying the Lafora’s mutation.
Because the disease is “late onset” most dogs will have been bred from before they exhibit any symptoms. The only way to avoid breeding “Affected” Mini Wires is to use the full DNA test to screen all breeding stock, prior to mating.
Dogs known to be “Affected” should only be mated to a “Clear” dog if necessary. The offspring will all be “Carriers” and they should only be mated back to a “Clear” dog. “Clear” dogs can be safely mated to “Carriers”, but are likely to produce further “Carrier” offspring.
This article has been reproduced by courtesy of the Dachshund Breed Council UK
Intervertebral Disc Disease
There are two major back problems encountered. One is back injuries and the other is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).
What is IVDD?
IVDD stands for Inter-Vertebral Disc Disease. Between the bones that make up the spinal column, called vertebrae, there are gel-like cushions called discs. Discs are made of a material that should have the consistency of gel toothpaste. When a dog has IVDD, disc material hardens prematurely. When pressure is applied to the disc, like the pressure the spine receives from a jump, the hardened disc material can break through the weak disc wall, oozing or even shooting out with the force of a bullet. When the material escapes, it can enter into the space where the spinal cord is.
The spinal cord is the main communication system between body parts (legs, bladder, etc) and the brain. So if the disc material presses on the spinal cord, the affected limbs or organs cannot send or receive information to and from the brain. That is why the dogs become paralysed and commonly also lose bladder and bowel control. No information goes through from the site of the herniation towards the brain and vice versa.
If only a little disc material oozed out, the spinal cord may not be too damaged and the dog can fully recover. If the disc rupture is severe and hits the cord with enough force causing the spinal cord a lot of damage, the dog might need a lot of time to recover, perhaps surgery and therapy. Chances of recovery are slimmer with a severe disc rupture, but there are accounts of some dogs that have been paralysed for up to 3 years, that have suddenly been able to get up and start walking again. Nerves are the slowest part of the body to heal and each dog has their own timeline as to when or if healing can happen.
Many dogs that have IVDD have their first episode typically between the ages of 4-8. Disc disease may be an ongoing, progressive disease for the rest of the dog’s life. Some dogs have only one episode others have multiple episodes over their life time.
What signs should I look for?
Pain is present at the start in almost every herniation. Signs of pain are shivering, trembling, a hunched back and yelping, loss of appetite and hiding under the bed. A drunken walk or paralysis is a common sign of a more serious herniation.
How is IVDD diagnosed?
Discs are soft tissue which cannot be seen in X-Rays, which show only bone, but X-Rays can be used to rule out other diseases that mimic IVDD or to “suspicion” disc herniation. A myelogram, MRI or CT scan are the ideal methods to confirm IVDD, since in them you can see either the soft tissue of the disc or where the spinal cord is pressed by the disc material. Your vet can also do a neurological exam, in which he will see how the dog reacts to pain (called deep pain recognition) and how well his reflexes are working. A good neuro test can also tell, with a fairly good degree of accuracy, the approximate site of the herniation.
What treatments are available?
Currently there are 2 basic methods of treatments: Surgical and Conservative.
With surgery, a specialized neurological or orthopedic surgeon will first perform an MRI, CT Scan or myelogram to locate the herniation, and then will proceed to operate, removing the disc material that is pressing on the spinal cord, allowing the spinal cord to regain normal blood circulation and to have room again to begin healing so it can once again send and receive information.
The surgeon may or may not fenestrate. Fenestration is when the surgeon makes a small cut into the discs next to the one that herniated to remove a bit of the disc material. The theory is that this reduces the chances of those discs herniating on their own later, and damaging the spinal cord.
The conservative method is basically medicines (steroids or anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, pain killers and sometimes antibiotics) and 8 weeks of crate rest without surgery being done.
After both treatments, and when the vet OKs it, the dogs usually have to undergo physical therapy to regain muscle tone and improve coordination and nerve reconnection.
Is putting to sleep (euthanasia) an option?
There is no reason to. After the swelling of the herniated disc goes down, the dog’s pain goes away, so IVDD dogs rarely live in pain or suffer; as a matter of fact, even paralysed dogs don’t suffer a bit since they cannot feel pain from the site of the herniation downwards.
There can certainly be complications. Always keep in mind that dogs can heal from IVDD before you make a decision that you cannot take back. Most dogs do recover from IVDD and live happy healthy lives. They just need time and a chance!
Which is the best treatment?
It depends on the herniation itself. If the dog is still walking and the symptoms are mild, your vet might want to try conservative treatment first.
If the dog is suddenly paralysed, in too much pain, or conservative treatment is just not enough, surgery is generally thought to be the best way to go. Surgery is usually more successful the sooner it is done, (Ideally within the first 12-24 hours following loss of deep pain sensation) since the disc material will have less time to damage the spinal cord.
Crate Rest: Normal recommended times are 6-8 weeks and the dog should be evaluated by a knowledgeable vet or specialist before releasing to a slow program of re-entry to exercise.
Only time heals a disc. Restricting movement of the spine in order to promote healing is a must. A healing disc jarred by the spine moving can rupture again, similar concept to a scab on the finger being moved too early – it breaks open and bleeds again.
Drugs to reduce swelling and pain medications for comfort:
Reduce swelling is the purpose of using anti-inflammatories.
Steriods – Prednisone/prednisolone, dexamethasone, methyl prednisolone.
Wheelchairs: At the end of crate rest, you and your vet can better assess if a wheelchair is needed.
At the end of crate rest, many dogs are recovering to the degree that money is better spent on physical therapy to help them learn to walk again.
Keep in mind a cart is not for all day use, but rather a couple of hours at a time. It can be a very useful aid in training your dog to walk again and build strength in its rear legs
No stairs, no jumping up and down, use ramps, always attach a leash to a harness.
You never know when/if the first episode of herniation will happen. IVDD dogs have a special risk whenever they are anesthetized. You already know that an IVDD dog is always at risk for a future injury due to degenerating discs. You need to treat IVDD as a lifelong disorder that goes into remission but can pop up again at any time.
When dogs go under, risk is increased. The dog loses all muscle tone and support. If the surgical team is not careful, lifting or turning the dog the wrong way could potentially cause a secondary disc injury. It is rare but it can happen.
Please keep this in mind any time your dog goes under for a dental or medical imaging or any other reason. Make sure that whoever is working with your dog understands that your dog has IVDD, and they need to take special care to support your dog’s spine before, during, and after anesthesia.
Other treatment and research programs
Since 1993 the Oklahoma State University has been performing laser surgery on dogs with IVDD with a 96.6% success rate.
The laser surgery is done by placing needles through the skin into the centres of seven different disc locations while the dog is under general anesthesia. The locations are based on the most common sites of thoracolumbar intervertebral disc disease. An X-Ray is taken to ensure that each needle tip is precisely in the centre of each treated disc. Then a Holmium:YAG laser fibre is put through the needle, into the centre of the disc, and the laser energy turned on. This laser surgical treatment liquefies the disc material, and scar tissue forms, which prevents the disc from herniating and injuring the spinal cord in the future.
Stem Cell Transplants
Another form of treatment is being researched at the University of Cambridge in England using Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OEC).
Clinical trials are underway where the cells are harvested from the back of the dog’s nose, grown in culture and transplanted into the damaged area of the dog’s spine.
This is a very exciting development.
Prevention and being educated to catch symptoms early is important.
Many Australian breeders are conducting X-Ray tests on their Dachshunds that are now commonplace in Scandinavia.
What about DNA research programs?
Unfortunately there isn’t a simple DNA test available at this time. Some research is being conducted by the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California to develop a Gene Bank from dogs with severe IVDD but this is still at an early stage.