Its great so many people are aware of IVDD, but its sad that so many are now missing out on so much because they are so worried. I hope this blog lays to rest some worries and shares some advice to enhance your lives together.
Lets move into the new year with a positive and happy attitude.
Whilst I emerge from my study bubble, and procrastinating from the exam prep…. I noticed several people worrying about IVDD, even in very young dogs. This is so sad, you should be enjoying time with them not constantly fretting.
Obviously, we have dachshunds and with such a high number affected by this dreadful disease it is often the first thing we worry about if they limp, skip or have a wobble.
We can’t live our lives with them worrying about it though. Yes 25% of mini’s are affected….but that’s 75% that are not. Try to remember that! You need to enjoy every day with them, come what may.
Are they getting it younger?
Recently, anecdotally several of us were concerned that more and more younger dachshunds seemed to be affected by IVDD. Data and studies show they are most likely to be affected between 4-7 years old (this is the average so obviously there can be extremes). I personally am rehabbing a 3 year old right now with grade 5 so yep, it does happen.
Ian Seath, dachshund statistician, guru, breed champion, and Dachshund Health UK Chairperson ran a quick survey which although only a small glimpse confirmed this is not the case. Anecdotally speaking, it may just be these ones just stand out to us as they are so young.
We also need to remember that certain groups are only there for support so people only go there with an issue. With the huge boom in dachshund ownership, and the rise in breeding we are obviously going to see higher numbers of IVDD.
This is what Ian said about the results:
“The results show that Age of Onset is not getting younger (which we had, anecdotally, thought was happening). The Histogram of Age of Onset shows the majority (70%) were affected between 4 and 7 years old. Also, for this sample, there was no statistically significant difference in the Age of Onset between entire and neutered Dachshunds (5.5. vs. 4.9). There was also no statistically different Age of Onset between those Dachshunds neutered under 12 months vs. those neutered over 12 months.”
Now, for those of us who hate numbers and science speak. My translation is this
· The most likely age they will get IVDD is between 5-7 years old.
There are a number affected at 4 years too. So lets say 4-7
· There is no difference in the age they get it regardless of when they were neutered or if they are neutered.
To clarify, we do know neutering dramatically increases the risks of IVDD. This is peer reviewed research and widely accepted by the veterinary community. Here’s the link to the paper and translation. https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk/lifestyle-advice/neutering/. There is similar data in other breeds too.
If your dog suddenly starts limping and is lifting its paw….this says they have some sort of control. Generally, as IVDD is caused by a the spinal cord being squashed…..they lose control. They are more likely to drag or trip than hold their leg up!
Obviously if you are worried, speak to your vet, they are the only ones legally qualified to make a diagnosis. Take some video's of them moving around (not if they are in pain) to show the vet in normal situations. There are a whole host of things that cause issues with movement - irritation, luxating patella, hips, even tummy pain. Don't always jump to the back!
A word on risk. What does that mean?
There is currently nothing we can do to prevent IVDD once they are here. That ship has sailed! But….we can reduce the risks.
Risks being things that can increase the chances of them getting it. These things don't cause IVDD but can increase the chances of it happening.
Think of it like this:
With cancer – eating a good diet, remaining healthy, avoiding toxins, not smoking all reduce the risks, but even with all that if you are genetically predisposed you can still get it.
With diabetes – again, healthy diet, staying fit reduces the risk, but again, if you are predisposed…..you can still get it.
With breaking a leg - you avoid climbing big trees.....or you don't but you reduce the risks by wearing protective gear!
Crikey, even with driving, drive to the conditions, don’t speed, maintain your car and you reduce the risks of an accident…..but accidents still happen!
We live our lives by reducing risks and IVDD is no different!
Things to consider, but things we should be doing anyway:
· Make sure they have a good diet. Read the ingredients, are they specified e.g. which meat – don’t accept a generic poultry or animal descripter. Are all ingredient amounts given? What are they? Some high profile brands split the ingredients under different names, but are the same thing. Why? As together they make up the majority of ingredients. That’s classic for poor brands using a high number of carbs or fillers. They need meat – real protein. Protein is needed for growth and repair of body tissues and is especially important for healthy muscles and bones. www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk and their facebook page is a great resource for understanding diets.
· Hydration – give them extra fluids each day. Dachshunds are notoriously bad for drinking! (Anecdotally). In the summer we make extra efforts - but not in the winter.....why?
· Make sure they are fit. That doesn’t mean skinny, it means well muscled to support their bodies.
· A healthy weight (remember underweight is just as bad as overweight as the body will pull its resources from the muscles in the body - including the heart!). Where does yours sit on the body scoring chart? https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk/lifestyle-advice/body-condition/
· Address their emotions – constant stress, lunging, and pulling all cause impact on their bodies. Stress is largely indicated in back pain in humans. All those tense muscles will mean they are not supporting the body as they are meant to. That lunging - whiplash effect!
· Make sure harnesses are correctly fitted. Y shaped ones are recommended – perfect fit are also recommended. Make sure they don’t rub or restrict movement. Personally I prefer collars (Depending on the dog). If they pull, go back to basics. Loose lead walking is the most boring thing to teach but it has so much value. Don't yank at the lead to correct them, that has the same effect physically! See this blog by Dachshund Health UK for more information on harnesses and IVDD: Collars vs. harnesses - some research insights (dachshundhealth.org.uk)
· Don’t neuter them whilst they are developing, and remember research also recommends not neutering anxious dogs! I’d not consider neutering under 2 years unless there is a strong medical reason. I often wait until 4 with mine. Please see this blog for more information on neutering from a balanced perspective. https://www.perfectlypolitedachshunds.com/post/lets-talk-neutering
· Avoid repetitive games of high speed fetch. This is general advice for any breed, it puts immense pressure on their limbs.
· Warm them up before a run! Like us don’t let them run on cold muscles.
· Insurance or a large chunk of over 10k (specifically for IVDD) remember there are other diseases that any dogs can get, alongside any supportive therapies….so really look beyond that. Go as high as you can afford and even then, save a chunk too as you go along. And do make sure you check your terms and conditions, if changing companies, before you do – check your vet notes for anything that may act as “pre-existing.” And be aware that although when you start it may seem cheap many have been caught out by extortionate increases in premiums despite no claims! Ask your vets if they will accept direct pay from specific companies….if they say no, that says a lot about the company!
· Things like stairs and jumping are hotly debated. Personally I let mine do what they are comfortable doing. They have ramps and steps to use if they want to, but I don’t wrap them in cotton wool. They do agility, they run and jump, they swim. They have fun. They still need to be dogs. (Obviously if they have had IVDD go by your vets guidance). I'll leave this to personal choice based on your own research. Although obviously don't let young pups jump or overexercise - we know the impact this has!
Research is continuing. Cambridge are doing another trial after the phenomenal trial into conservative treatment – hopefully that paper will be written up any time now.
They are now exploring the use of a low cost treatment for those worst affected. Details here: https://www.hospital.vet.cam.ac.uk/small-animal-services/neurology-and-neurosurgery/ivde-chondroitinase-trial
To be eligible for inclusion:
· they must have become paralysed within 2 days
· have a neurological exam which points to a thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion.
Currently IVDD Screening for breeding pairs is our biggest preventative weapon, and Europe are leading the way with this one. The UK number of breeders screening is shockingly low. We need more breeders doing this where they can carefully select their breeding pairs to reduce the risk of future generations. This one will be a slow burner.
It is seeing some resistance by some as it is not a “yes” or “no” and they can’t be screened until they are 2 which adds to the hesitancy. Some are worried about the sedation element. I know I was. I am not breeding anymore, but with the knowledge I now have, I would! I would not want that guilt on my shoulders knowing several years down the line there was something I could have done to make a difference. As breeders we should be seeking to breed selectively anyway for health and temperament – this is just a tool to facilitate that.
There are no DNA tests at present that will help us (there are but they aren’t helpful as the test is for the gene the majority of dachshunds carry). It may be useful in other breeds, but not ours. Research in Europe is exploring this avenue and I am excited to see what comes from it.
Thought for the day….year….15 years…
Things happen, regardless of breed. You cannot live life and enjoy it if you are constantly worrying. Take each day for the miracle it is and enjoy it.
If IVDD strikes, then deal with it then. Yes be aware of how to respond if it happens – i.e. crate rest, vet for pain meds/referral (if appropriate), but don’t waste your lives together worrying about it.
How can I speak with such confidence?
I’m not a vet, and my advice should never replace that of a veterinary professional. A wise vet recently said to me in discussions with my frustrations over the law regarding speculating on a diagnosis - "in 60% cases it may well be obvious, but in that 40% that is where all those years of studying and continued professional development come into play." We put a lot of pressure on GP vets to know everything - in all breeds and all species, and we want an answer in that short 10 minute consult. That's a lot of pressure to stay up to date on the fast evolving world of research. I am always passing dachshund specific research to my vets to help them stay i the loop.
I have rehabbed over 25 grade 5’s dachshunds, that bit, I know well....sadly! Its one thing advising people based on books or from 10 minute interactions, its another thing living with it for months!
I also have many "normal" (if there is such a thing) dachshunds. I have owned many living to 18 years without issues at all. It's not all doom and gloom.
I pay attention to the research and am a proud trustee with Dachshund Health UK. I am putting together knowledge from research and experience of living with IVDD. I have supported so many owners through the challenges of IVDD and am so proud they seek me out when they need support (although I wish they didn’t need to).
Of those (over) 25 dogs, most are walking now. My current girl is a slow burner. She deteriorated slowly over several weeks and we’re in that limbo stage right now. But what will be will be. She’s already adapted and we are just motoring along. The priority is trying to keep her hind legs limber. That’s what you need to do, just focus on the now, not weeks ahead. Whatever treatment you do.
All the research I read (well over 200 articles) was very focused on specific time frames for recovery, but across the papers those time frames vary. There isn’t a time limit.
Look at Lola - after 2 years suddenly started taking steps. She still needs a sling and won't consider wheels, but she's up and doing it!
And Fudge, dear sweet (ha) Fudge.......we thought he was paralysed and no chance of recovery after 2 years of paralysis and yet his tail is now wagging high....at the right times! He’s regained continence over the last 6 months and moving his legs! So maybe….just maybe at 13 years old….he might just do it. But if he doesn’t…..he doesn’t care.
I love helping the ones with medical needs, they are inspirational. I'm totally selfish. They inspire me to stop worrying about things out of my control and just focus on one step at the time. They are good for the soul and oh so loving!
I really hope this helps those of you worrying about IVDD. We are going to worry, but don't miss out on the best times because of that. It'll ruin things. If IVDD Happens, please see this blog: https://www.perfectlypolitedachshunds.com/post/living-with-an-ivdd-dachshund-or-two
If your dachshund has any long term health condition please report it here so Dachshund health can monitor issues in the breed and drive research and funding into those areas: https://www.dachshundhealth.org.uk/submit-a-report
Some of my IVDD warriors past and present: