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My grandfather used to breed dachshunds, needless to say we and many of our extended family owned dachshunds.

Due to their long back and small frame and legs, they are prone to back problems; in particular herniated discs.

One of my grandfather's dogs developed a back problem and couldn't use his hind legs. Surgery wasn't an option and the vet recommended putting him to sleep.

Is there anything owners can do to help their pet dachshund with this kind of problem, rather than putting the dog to sleep?

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My grandfather was a devoted dog owner and could not bear to have his dog put to sleep. He was retired, so had ample time throughout the day to tend to his pets. Initially his dog required some wheels at his rear quarter so he could walk around with his front legs without having to drag his body weight.

Everyday he would fill their bathtub with water. He would leave it filled for the day, and twice a day he would put his dog in the bath and support him and encourage him to swim. He never missed a session.

The water relieved the dog's back of the strain of his body weight, and the problem causing the disc compression (perhaps because his spine was stretched and not under any strain?). His back muscles and rear leg muscles were able to strengthen, not waste due to lack of use which is especially important.

Gradually the dog was able to start moving his back legs and scrambling around. His back improved and the strength and use of his back legs kept improving and he no longer needed the aid of the wheels to support the weight of his rear quarter.

Eventually, he was able to walk on all four legs. He always wobbled. Never able to totally recover, but enjoyed a happy and long life.

In dogs who have suffered motor losses, physiotherapy is extremely useful to speed their recovery to more normal function. Swimming is the best exercise because it allows the limbs to move freely in the water without having to bear weight. It also provides a bath to clean the dog and prevent skin infections. The lukewarm water also serves to increase circulation in the limbs and massage the muscles. Most chondrodystrophic dogs will fit nicely into a bath tub filled with just enough water to allow the dog to float with its toes off the bottom. Care should be taken not to leave a dog unattended to avoid drowning. Swimming exercises may be begun 4 to 5 days post-operatively. The surgical incision may be "waterproofed" with a thin film of Vaseline. The dog should be exercised until tired and then removed and thoroughly dried. Each day the sessions will lengthen as the dog's endurance builds up. Swimming once daily is good but twice daily is even better. This will vary with the time available to the owners.


References:

Canine Intervertebral Disk Disease
The Dachshund Club of America, Inc.
by Patricia J. Luttgen, DVM, MS
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine,
Specialty of Neurology Denver, Colorado

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