Often referred to as a "weenie dog," the dachshund is well known and loved for his long round body and cute stumpy legs. This unique appearance is also the cause of serious physical problems, however, and owners must take special precautions to keep their doxie from hurting himself.
Conformation and Stair Height
The steps on a standard staircase don't even reach the middle of the shin on most people, but for a dachshund, the stairs are just about as tall -- or maybe even taller -- than the top of his shoulders. Coupled with his short legs and long body, getting up the stairs involves a lot of stretching, twisting and turning, while going down requires bone-jarring jumps. All of these motions can eventually cause back and neck problems.
Dachschunds, both standard and miniature, are prone to spinal problems because of their conformation. The combination of a long back and short legs leads to debilitating herniated or compressed discs. This condition is painful and makes movement difficult. Some dachschunds may even become paralyzed as a result, either permanently or temporarily. Because this breed is so predisposed to back problems, veterinarians recommend a combination of back-strengthening exercises and the avoidance of jumping, twisting, turning and other physical activities that damage the spine, including going up and down stairs.
If you live in a home with stairs, it's probably impractical to keep your dachshund on only one level. You can discourage him from using the stairs very often, however, by keeping his food, water, bed and toys all on the main floor where he spends most of his time. Install a baby gate on the stairway, carry him up and down the steps when he needs to get to another floor or put in a special ramp along the edge of the stairs and train him to use it instead of the steps.
Despite your best efforts, your dachshund is still likely to run up and down the stairs from time to time. Decrease the risk of back injury by keeping him in the best shape possible by taking him on regular walks, using a harness instead of a collar, picking him up properly with both hands and giving him supplements, such as fish oil, that encourage good spinal health. Also, monitor his weight closely, since excess weight puts strain on the spine and increases the risk of injury.
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