Ask a Vet: How can I help my dachshund avoid back problems common to the breed?

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Have a non-emergency question about your pet’s health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some advice to reader jane about common back problems in dachshunds:

Jane’s question: What are some ways to keep a dachshund’s back healthy and strong? Other than preventing accidents, are there any exercises or supplements I can give my dog?


Heather Oxford, DVM: As you may know, many dachshunds have a hereditary back condition called Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). This causes the discs to slowly degenerate, which makes them less resilient shock absorbers. Any activities that cause compression through the spine are considered high-risk for disc herniations and neurological problems including paralysis.

Such activities include running down stairs, jumping down from furniture, or jumping up and down on the hind limbs. At CARE, we encourage spinal flexibility and core strength by dozens of exercises. One such exercise is sitting up, a.k.a. ‘begging.’ This is a core strengthener that helps protect the back from injury. Also, I recommend fish oils that have concentrated amounts of omega-3s such as DHA and EPA. Not all fish oils are created equal, so make sure yours is independently tested for mercury and other contaminants, and that it meets its label claims.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford earned her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She also earned a master of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree. She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.