Short-legged and long-bodied, Dachshunds are the small and sturdy dog with a steadfast temperament inherited from their hound ancestors. Sometimes referred to as Weiner Dogs or Doxies for short, the Dachshund finds its way into all kinds of living conditions because they are such a versatile breed with a personality that is so easy to love and plenty of intelligence to go around. These dogs are just as curious as a cat, but far more friendly, and that has allowed them to snag a number 12 out of 195 rank in popularity by the AKC.
Background and History of Dachshunds
Dachshunds are easily pinpointed as an iconic dog breed because of their telltale appearance, but behind the certifiable Wiener-Dog is a long history that is easily appreciated. These dogs were initially bred for being fierce badger hunters, and their consistent breed bravery in spite of their small stature shows that trait quite well. The word "Dachshund" literally translates to "badger dog" in German, which is telling of the breed's long history in the region that stretches back as far as 600 years. In later years, Dachshunds were bred for hunting everything from small prey to wild boar. And, by the time these dogs gained their AKC recognition in 1885, they were a popular American breed prized just as much for their alertness and hunting abilities as they were for their loyalty.
- Lifespan: Between 12 and 16 years
- Weight: Standards weigh between 16 and 32 pounds and miniatures are 11 pounds or under
- Height: Standards stand between 8 and 9 inches tall and miniatures stand between 5 and 6 inches tall
- Breed Type: Hound/Miniature
- Personality and Temperament: Energetic, loyal, and curious
Common Dachshund Health Concerns
With sleek, muscular builds and a generally resilient body, Dachshunds do tend to be a healthier small breed. Thanks to their hound heritage, these dogs break away from some of the typical small-breed health concerns. However, there are a few general health concerns every Doxie owner should watch out for in their canine pal.
1. Dental Problems
Small dog breeds like Dachshunds can be prone to having teeth that are more crowded than most. Especially a problem in mini-doxies, crowding can make your pooch a little more prone to tooth decay due to the collection of food particles between the teeth. Dental disease can lead to a host of problems, and may even shorten a dog's life span by as much as three years.
Symptoms of Dental Problems
- Foul-smelling breath
- Yellowed or dark areas on the teeth
- Problems chewing kibble
- Loose teeth
Prevention is the biggest factor with dental problems in a Dachshund. Invest in teeth-cleaning supplies for your Dachshund puppy early on, and be vigilant about cleaning their teeth frequently. Proper diet can also lower risks of tooth decay, and having the dog's teeth cleaned regularly is always recommended. Cleaning should cost around $100, but extra care like x-rays can be an added cost of $33 or more. Treating a bad tooth or gum disease can be substantially more.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Never delay necessary dental treatment; decay can contribute to further health concerns
- Work with the vet to ensure your dog is getting the proper nutrition to protect their teeth
- Stay away from fatty treats that can get stuck to the dog's teeth and contribute to decay
2. Lafora Disease
Lafora disease is actually a form of progressive epilepsy. Lafora disease is a congenital problem related to genetics, but it can also be more prevalent in specific types of dachshunds as well. For example, the miniature wirehaired dachshund may have a prevalence of the condition of as much as 20 percent. The condition often does not show up until later in life; typically around 7 years of age and younger dogs may show no indication at all that anything is wrong.
- Reflective jerking or jumping
- Spontaneous muscle contractions
- Focal seizures that affect only one part of the body (such as the jaws or legs)
- Impaired vision
- Urinary or fecal incontinence during an episode
To date, there has not been a lot of research done into the therapeutic remedies for Lafora disease for dogs. Genetic testing may be helpful for earlier diagnosis, but these tests can be a bit expensive. Lafora-type epilepsy can also affect children, and there have been some cross-referencing studies that have been done on Dachshunds to garner insight into the condition in children. For the most part, the condition is treated with anti-epileptic or anticonvulsant medications, which can cost anywhere from $200 to $5,000 per year depending on the type and dosage given.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Make sure you get your dog from a reliable breeder
- Watch out for signs of the condition at around the mid-age point
- Lafora disease can be progressive and fatal; interventive therapy is important
3. Eye Problems
Dachshunds can be more prone to cataracts and other eye problems like glaucoma than some larger breed dogs. The eye problems can be relative to genetics, but they can also be a natural issue that comes along with age. Small dogs tend to be more prone to eye problems and blindness than larger breeds. The AKC does recommend puppies have an ophthalmologic evaluation shortly after birth.
- A change in the appearance of the dog's eyes (cloudiness or coating)
- Not reacting to visual stimulus
- Pawing at the eyes
- Redness of the outer white part of the eye
Treatment for eye issues in your Doxie can range depending on the severity of the condition. It is always important to have any changes in eye health assessed early, as progressive eye disease can be an issue with these dogs, and early intervention can thwart the risks of blindness. For example, glaucoma can cause damage to the retinal nerves due to pressure in the eye. Medications may be prescribed for daily use to help lower the undue stress on the optical nerve.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Protect your dog's vision by keeping hair trimmed away from the eyes
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight without shade
- Seek immediate vet care when you notice sudden changes in vision
4. PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Dachshunds are also at risk of another eye issue, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). It is described by Wikipedia as "a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs and, more rarely, cats. [...] it is characterized by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. " There's more documentation that it's more associated with the Siberian Husky or Bullmastiff. Unfortunately there's no treatment for PRA.
The Dachshund can be really prone to obesity due to its body type and small stature. Obesity is most often linked to a poor diet, overfeeding, or too much allowance of human food. Therefore, obesity is a health problem that most Doxie owners can control with a good diet plan and ample amounts of exercise. Unfortunately, obesity in a Dachshund can lead to a whole list of other health concerns, such as diabetes, spinal problems, and issues with joints in the legs.
- Weighing more than the recommended weight according to type
- Lack of energy
- Rounded midsection that makes it hard for the dog to move freely
Even though small dogs like the Dachshund are highly prone to obesity, this is a health problem that is fairly easy to treat. It is best to get the vet's advice on how to safely change your dog's diet. They may recommend a specially formulated weight-management kibble or prescription dog food that is specifically formulated to help a dog lose some weight.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Refrain from getting bad eating habits started at an early age by avoiding human food treats
- Make sure your Doxie gets plenty of exercise
- Monitor your dog's weight via regular vet wellness checks
6. Spinal Problems / Back Problems
Dachshunds have a trademark look that their owners love with their long bodies and short legs. Unfortunately, it is this elongated spine on a short frame that can also be linked to spinal issues. Specifically, dachshunds are prone to having intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which can lead to paralysis due to the breakdown of the vertebrae or the pressure on the nerves surrounding the spine. Disc damage is one of the notated health problems by the AKC, and something all owners must be mindful of as their little dog gets older.
- Walking in an abnormal fashion
- Arching the back or walking in a hunched-over way
- Seeming to be in pain during movement
- Loss of bladder or bowel functions
- Lack of appetite
Treatment for spinal problems in your Dachshund can range from rather mild and conservative to more intense involving surgery. In the case of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), conservative treatment options for a mild problem may include something like pain control and treatment with anti-inflammatories. The vet may instruct you to change your dog's diet or monitor their activity levels, and physical rehabilitation may be something that is recommended. If the case is more severe and the dog is suffering from something like incontinence or paralysis, emergency spinal surgery may be required. Quick action when the condition is this bad can mean the difference in whether the dog regains its full functions. Sophisticated imaging done for diagnosis, which is a lot like an MRI for humans, can cost as much as $1,000 to $3,000, and surgery to correct an issue can be from $1,500 to $4,000.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Keep your Doxie's weight in check; obese dogs are more at risk of spinal problems
- Talk to the vet about signs of IVDD immediately
- Make sure your dog gets ample exercise to keep the muscles that support the spine strong
7. Ear Infections
Dachshunds have those long floppy ears that frame their face, and dogs with longer ears are naturally prone to having issues with ear infections. Ear conditions are so common in canines that as many as 20 percent have problems with recurrent infections. Ear infections in your Doxie can affect either the internal or external parts of the ear, and the root cause of the problem tends to be related to scratching the ears or getting debris trapped inside. Bacteria, yeast, and ear mites can also be related. Left untreated, ear infections can become rather serious and even have the potential to cause permanent hearing damage.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
- Shaking the head and whining
- Scratching or pawing at the ears excessively
- Holding the head to one side
- Scabs in the ears
- Dark or yellowed discharge from the ear canal
- Foul odor radiating from the ears
The key to lowering the risks of an ear infection in a Dachshund is to be proactive as a pet owner. Make sure you are cleaning the ears during bathing and using medicated wipes if needed to keep the opening to the ear canal clean. If scratching is an issue, make sure you keep your dog's nails clipped and filed down so they're not going to injure themselves. If you do spot signs of infection, reach out to a vet right away. Treatment can be as simple as applying a topical medication or giving your pet a prescribed antibiotic, and the condition should clear up within a few weeks. This route of treatment tends to cost anyone from $10 to $30. Severe issues with chronic ear infections may lead to Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA), which is a surgery that closes the ear canal and prevents further infections.
Tips for Dachshund Owners
- Follow the vet's care instructions to the letter to avoid relapses after an ear infection is diagnosed
- Always make sure your dog finishes all of their antibiotics
- Natural remedies to soothe irritated ears are fine to use to help with the pain (aloe vera gel, coconut oil, etc.)
Other Potential Health Concerns
- IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) - Intervertebral Disc Disease appears to have a genetic component to it. In all cases of IVDD, Dachshunds make up 45 percent to 70 percent of dogs that have this condition.
- Kneecap issues, such as patellar luxation. (what is patellar luxation?)
- Hair loss or alopecia
- Hip dysplasia (what is hip dysplasia?)
Special Notes On Dachshund Minis and Their Health
Even though you can find Dachshunds with different appearances, both long-haired and short-haired, there are really only two types recognized by the AKC: the miniature and the standard. In general terms, the miniature Doxie is a little more prone to health concerns. For example, miniatures are more at risk of Lafora epilepsy and can be more prone to obesity.
Dachshunds Are Eager People-Pleasers with Few Health Concerns for a Small Breed
Dachshunds are loyal to their owners, highly intelligent for a small breed, and relatively easy to care for. With the proper care and attention to the health risks your Doxie has, you can easily have a friend that stays by your side for many years. In spite of a few health concerns and maybe a few extra vet visits, the Dachshund is a prized pet among families, elderly individuals, and people from just about every imaginable walk of life.