Canine Intervertebral Disk Disease Part 2

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I wanted to write a short follow-up to the article on intervertebral disk disease. It is such a complex condition, that justice can not be done it in one post…or two for that matter. But I wanted to add a few points and clarify a few points and mostly make sure you know where I stand very firmly on the issue of Dachshund awesomeness. They are one of my very, very favorite types of dogs. Every breed has issues, and knowing your favorite breed’s issues, especially if members of that breed also happen to be family members, is very wise. In emphasizing that back problems are common in Dachshunds, I fear I may have overemphasized that!

So here are a few things that I have been thinking about this week…

Though Dachshunds are the breed most commonly affected by Hansen Type 1 Thoracolumbar Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD), every chondrodystrophic breed of dog is at a higher risk than non-chondrodystrophic dogs. It can also occur in non-chondrodystrophic dogs.

Most Dachshunds will NOT have back problems.

Most Basset Hounds, Corgis and other chondrodystrophic dogs will not have back problems.

IVDD is usually treatable, and treated dogs usually do well.

We are still not sure what the “breaking point” that causes disk rupture is. It may be acute injury and it may be the end stage of disk aging. It may be different for different dogs. Some families choose to keep their “at risk” dogs only involved in “low impact” activities. In my opinion, it can’t hurt, and it may help. Ask what your veterinarian suggests for your specific pet. For dogs who have already had back issues, we usually will advise lower activity long term.

Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is probably the biggest risk reducer in preventing IVDD.

Chondrodystrophic dogs are predisposed to IVDD because of the make-up of their disk material. The same “defect” that gives them short twisty legs also causes the make-up of their disk material to be just different enough from other dogs to be predisposed to rupture.

Selectively breeding dogs who have not had disk issues will probably NOT reduce the risk for their offspring. That is, though it is a genetic disease in the sense it tends to be more common in some breeds, dogs within a breed are probably not more or less likely to be affected than one another. So selecting for healthy backs or shorter backs or other traits will probably not help decrease the incidence of disease, as it would for other conditions, such as hip dysplasia in retrievers, for example.

I can not imagine a world without chondrodystrophic (or brachycephalic or giant or tiny or…) dogs. Obviously, we, as humans, have selected for very certain body types at some expense to the health of dogs. We can go round and round about the ethics involved in that (and we should in the comments!) but the reality is that individual dogs of imperfect breeds have stolen the hearts of each of us, and we would not trade our relationships with them for anything. So our role, as always, is to love them the best we know how and preserve and maintain their health as best we are able. And the more we learn, the better we will be equipped to do so.

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