Common Diseases in Dachshunds

The title is a little misleading since no disease is truly common in Dachshunds. The overwhelming majority are born healthy and live long, mostly disease-free lives.Some minor health issues arise for nearly every dog at some point, even those who receive early vaccinations and excellent life-long care.

Nevertheless, some conditions do occur more often in Dachshund than in other breeds.

Diseases of the Adrenal Gland

One common disease of the adrenal gland is Cushing’s Disease, or hyperadrenocorticism. In Cushing’s Disease, too much of the hormone cortisol is produced, either by a primary tumor or the adrenal gland, or a malfunction of the pituitary gland, which is the master gland that tells the adrenal gland how much cortisol to produce. The elevated cortisol level results in excessive drinking and urination, a pot-bellied appearance, skin conditions, hair loss and some times diabetes. Lab tests are performed to measure the cortisol levels and the ability of the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. Several drugs are can be used to decrease the level of cortisol. On occasion, surgical removal of the adrenal gland may be needed. Cushing’s disease is not limited to Dachshunds and can be found in other breeds, too.

The opposite condition is called Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticsim (low cortisol). Whereas, Cushing’s takes some time to present itself, Addison’s disease is a sudden episode of collapse due to to low of glucose (blood sugar) and an imbalance of the electrolytes. The sudden illness results in an emergency visit to the veterinarian for cortisone injections and fluid therapy to correct the imbalances. Addison’s  is the most difficult disease to diagnose because the sudden collapse resembles many disorders. Specialized blood tests are needed to identify both Cushing’s and Addison’s Disease. Prednisone and electrolyte supplements will be needed for life long treatment of Addison’s disease.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Several eye diseases can affect Dachshunds, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. PRA is a gradual degeneration of the retina, the lining of the back of the eye. The degeneration results with gradual vision loss and blindness. PRA is a genetic trait and because it often does not show up until the dog is older, the dog may have already been bred and passed the condition to the puppies. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for PRA. Other eye diseases that can affect Dachshunds are glaucoma, cataracts, optic nerve hypoplasia, distichiasis (abnormal eyelashes) as well as other conditions. Regular eye exams can help detect these eye-disorders early.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

By far the most common disease of Dachshunds is related to the discs between the vertebrae (the bones of the spine). The disc is normally gelatinous and provides a cushion between the bones of the spine (back). In Dachshunds, this material some times calcifies, or hardens, and sometimes ruptures. The protruding disc material causes inflammation, swelling and pressure on the nerves coming from the spinal cord and sometimes presses on the spinal cord itself. A herniated disc starts with back pain or a reluctance to jump, and can progress to partial or even total paralysis of the back legs. The majority of Dachshunds with disc disease can be managed medically with pain medication and anti-inflammatory medications. Acupuncture and Chiropractic manipulation is sometimes used to help relieve the pain with varying success. With a complete rupture resulting in total paralysis, immediate surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord may help restore full function in the legs. The sooner the surgery is preformed, the greater the chances of full recovery.

Experimental treatments are being tested using laser needles to fuse the disc material to try and prevent the herniation. Because this is such a common problem in the Dachshund, I do recommend purchasing health insurance for your pet. Unfortunately, some owners cannot afford the surgery and pets suffering with total paralysis or extreme pain are euthanized. A few of my patients that were partially paralyzed did recover some function of their legs over time. There is no way to predict which dogs will recover without the surgery.

Vaccination Reactions

Allergic reactions to vaccinations does seem to occur in the Dachshund more often than any other breed. Usually, the reaction is minor, resulting in swelling of the face and muzzle and occasional hives. Occasional vaccine reactions can occur with any dog so it is always a good idea to observe your pet for a few hours after their shots. With the advances in vaccines, fewer side effects do occur and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Dachshunds can lead a very long and healthy life, sometimes upward to 15 years. Proper diets, preventive health checks, vaccinations, heartworm and parasite prevention, and good dental care can help your Dachshund live longer.  You can find more information concerning your dogs health at as well Dachshund breed gifts.