If you own a Dachshund, you probably already know about IVDD.
Intervertebral Disc Disease affects around 20% of Dachies over their lives. All of them will experience severe pain. Many are permanently disabled and some even die as a result of irreversible and severe spinal damage.
To learn more about IVDD, visit our page on back problems. Here I want to talk about some new knowledge of a way to reduce the risk of it happening.
The Neutering Age & IVDD Study
For a long time it’s been suspected that the age of desexing might influence the risk of IVDD. A study of English Dachshunds1 has recently confirmed the theory.
Here are the results of the study. The key findings are:
- Desexing all Dachshunds before 12 months of age adds a significant risk of IVDD
- Female Dachshunds have an increased risk even when desexed after 12 months of age
So what do we do?
Desexing Age Recommendations
For male Dachshunds, it appears reasonable to simply delay desexing until after one year of age. That’s the same as we do for most large breed dogs.
For female Dachshunds, it’s possible that the increased risk of IVDD might offset any health advantage gained from desexing. Therefore, it’s reasonable to look at other alternatives.
This might be the occasion when ovary sparing spay is the best choice. You will need to watch closely for mammary tumours as she ages. You will also have heats to manage every 6 to 12 months and the occasional false pregnancy.
If this seems too much, it’s reasonable to just delay desexing as long as you can bear. Personally, I think that doing it after two heats should be sufficiently careful. For many dog owners this will be a necessary compromise.
Other Prevention Options
There will always be faults in the first papers to appear on any topic. The most obvious one in this case is bodyweight.
It’s well known that desexing is associated with weight gain, and higher weights are likely to increase the risk of IVDD. But just because your dog is desexed doesn’t mean they have to get overweight; it’s still in your hands. Therefore, some of the extra risk could be easily preventable by good dietary management.
While unproven, risk is also likely to be reduced by not allowing access to furniture. Most cases of IVDD where the cause is known seem to occur after jumping down from a height.
The last prevention option is the hardest one, but also a hope for the future. Good breeders are trying to select for dogs less prone to IVDD. If your breeder shows awareness, that’s a good sign they’re trying to do something about it.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
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- Dorn, M., & Seath, I. J. (2018). Neuter status as a risk factor for canine intervertebral disc herniation (IVDH) in dachshunds: a retrospective cohort study. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 5(1), 11.