That 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.
However, there are some conditions that occur more frequently in Dachshunds than other breeds.
Problems with the Adrenal Gland
One common disease of the adrenal gland is Cushing’s Disease, or hyperadrenocorticism. In Cushing’s Disease, too much of the cortisol hormone is produced, either by the adrenal gland or a primary tumor, 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 skin conditions, excessive drinking and urination, a pot-bellied appearance, hair loss and sometimes diabetes. Lab tests are performed to measure the cortisol levels and the ability of the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. There are several drugs that can be used to decrease the level of cortisol. Occasionally, surgery may be needed to remove the adrenal gland if it is cancerous. Cushing’s disease can affect other breeds of dogs as well.
The opposite condition is called hypoadrenocorticism (low cortisol) or Addison’s disease. Cushing’s takes some time to present itself, but Addison’s disease is a sudden episode of collapse due to an imbalance of the electrolytes and too low of glucose (blood sugar). The sudden illness results in an emergency visit to the veterinarian for cortisone injections and fluid therapy to correct the imbalances. Being as the sudden collapse resembles many disorders, Addison’s is the most difficult disease to diagnose. Specialized blood tests are necessary 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 degeneration of the retina, the lining in the back of the eye. This results in slow vision loss and eventual blindness. Because of the slow onset of the disease, it may not be diagnosed until the dog has already been bred, thus passing the condition to their offspring. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for PRA. Other eye diseases that can affect Dachshunds are cataracts, glaucoma, optic nerve hypoplasia, distichiasis (abnormal eyelashes) as well as other conditions. Regular eye exams can help early identification of these eye-disorders.
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 back (spine). In Doxies, this material sometimes hardens, or calcifies, and sometimes ruptures. The herniated disc causes inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord and nerves. The herniated disc causes pain, a reluctance to jump up, partial paralysis and can progress to total paralysis. The majority of Doxies with disc disease can be managed medically with anti-inflammatory medications and pain medication. Holistic medicine, such as chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture, is sometimes used to relieve the pain. If there is 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 faster the surgery is performed, the greater the chances of full recovery.
Researchers are using lasers to fuse or burn the discs in order to prevent future herniation. Being as this is such a common problem in Doxies, I do recommend purchasing health insurance for your pet. Because surgery to repair the herniated disc is expensive, euthanasia is sometimes the option for the paralyzed pet. Over time, a few of my patients there were partially paralyzed did recover some function of their legs. Some dogs may recover without surgery, but it is impossible to predict.
Allergic reactions to vaccinations does seem to occur in the Dachshund more often than any other breed. The reaction is usually minor, resulting in swelling of the muzzle and face and sometimes hives. Vaccine reactions can occur in any dog, so it always best to watch your pet for a few hours after a health check. Vaccines have improved over the past few years so reactions are fewer and the benefits of protecting your pet against the diseases outweighs 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 LuvUrDog.com as well Dachshund breed gifts.