Five Common Genetic Diseases of Dachshunds
As with many pure breed dogs, Dachshunds are predisposed to certain genetic health problems. These sweet little dogs will provide a lifetime of love and companionship, especially to an educated owner. The following are five common genetic diseases in Dachshunds.
- Back problems: Dachshunds have a distinct skeletal structure in that their body is quite long and sits low to the ground. They also have very short legs. As a result, back problems are very common in Dachshunds. Chondrodysplasia, or disproportional dwarfism, occurs when some parts of the body are small when compared to other parts of average or above-average size. This condition can cause Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) which is a chronic disease that causes premature degeneration of the intervertebral discs. Dachshund owners can help to minimize back issues by providing moderate exercise to build strong muscles and healthy joints. Dachshunds should be discouraged from jumping up and down from furniture, beds, cars, or any heights, as this causes shock on the discs. When lifting or carrying a Dachshund, support the body in both the rear and front ends so the spine is not stressed. Joint supplementation can help support the intervertebral discs and there are several alternatives to naturally managing back pain.
- Obesity: Dachshunds, more than other breeds, are prone to obesity. Obesity can trigger a host of other problems, namely IVDD (see #1 above), diabetes, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella. Extra belly weight will put additional stress on the spine. Regularly check your dachshund’s weight, feed them a high quality dog food in the proper amounts, and make sure they get exercise.
- Cancers/Tumors: Dachshunds have a higher-than-average risk of developing cancers of the skin, fat cells, and anal sacs. This includes a particular risk of developing mast cell tumors and squamous cell carcinoma. Other cancers more common in Dachshunds than in other breeds include liposarcoma, and mammary gland cancer. It is important to check your dog’s skin regularly for any abnormal lumps on or just under the skin’s surface and to have your veterinarian check any lumps you find. If your Dachshund develops an extreme loss of appetite and/or energy, be sure to schedule a veterinary exam as soon as possible to look for possible cancer development.
- Liver Disease: Dachshunds are more likely than most breeds to have a liver disorder called Portosystemic Shunt (PSS). This is a hereditary condition in which the liver cannot effectively remove toxins from the bloodstream. Dogs with PSS may show an increased level of thirst and urination, loss of appetite, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Surgery is sometimes needed, but many times the condition can be treated with medication and a special diet. Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) is caused when the adrenal glands produce too much steroid and/or reproductive hormones, especially cortisone. Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease are similar to PSS and may include excessive drinking and urination, accidents in the house, hair loss, increased appetite, and weight gain. The conventional treatment for Cushing’s Disease includes oral medications, but they can have severe side effects in some dogs. Natural therapies including diet and herbal supplementation can be tried. Dachshund owners can also feed foods that support the liver such as chicken, beef or pig liver, dark leafy greens, carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms. Supplements that support the liver, such as milk thistle, are recommended to keep your Dachshund’s liver functioning well.
- Eye Disorders: Eye disorders seen in Dachshunds include cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, corneal dystrophy, night blindness and various problems with the tear ducts. The signs of eye problems include a cloudy film over the eye, visual impairment, and excess tearing. Dry eye (known as KCS, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca) results in itchy, sore eyes, and eye infections. Even though these conditions are a genetic factor with Dachshunds, owners can help prevent them from getting worse. Check your dog’s eyes regularly; gently clean away any discharge or debris with warm water. Schedule routine veterinary check-ups, and if recommended, have pets with eye problems examined and diagnosed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TVCM), the liver is the window to the eyes. Therefore, foods, herbs, and supplements recommended for the liver are also beneficial to the eye. In addition, dogs with eye disease can also benefit from chlorella, spirulina, eggs, foods high in lycopene (carrots, tomatoes, red pepper) and foods high in lutein (Brussels sprouts, summer squash).
Although any of the above health problems can shorten a Dachshund’s lifespan, owners can arm themselves with knowledge that can help prevent or minimize disease by catching it in its early stages. Even though genetic diseases are often beyond your control, you can take preventative measures to keep your pup healthy. High-quality food, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular check-ups are in your power to make your Dachshund as healthy as possible.