A word on Dachshund backs and Stairs

First, let me say our dogs are all health tested, however, this is never a guarantee they will not have any illness in their lifetime. There are still many unknown genetic anomalies we are not able to be tested for. That is where careful record keeping over generations and making hard decisions often come in, to ensure we do not knowingly breed any dogs with known faults.

The Dachshund breed as a whole because of the genetic factor (chondrodystrophic) that causes the shorter legs are more prone to spinal issues. A direct link between IVDD and back problems has not yet been established, but it is known breeds with this gene are more prone to it.

We have never personally had a dog that became paralyzed due to a back injury (knocking on wood). Maybe it is our exceptional genetics, or maybe it is the precautions we take. Dachshunds think they are invincible! Some dogs no matter how many precautions you take or ramps you provide will still jump up and down. Several we have had over the years for instance refused to gently jump off couches and instead launching themselves catching as much air as possible. It is nerve-wracking but there is only so much you can do.

Our dachshunds do go up and down the stairs, but it is not multiple times a day. They do however use a ramp to go out of our basement window to the play yard MANY times a day. If you have stairs your puppy will be using frequently may we suggest considering a ramp? I prefer this ramp because I was able to take it apart in the middle and use it as a shorter ramp on the couch as well. Ramps are pretty easy to build as well if you’re handy. A 4-6′ length of 1×6 shelving with a bit of carpet or grip tape glued onto it works just fine too.

If you are going to allow your pup on the couch (good luck stopping them) you may want to consider a ramp or a set of stairs. My dogs (and kids) use these stairs more for stadium seating than stairs. The reason I like them over normal staircase-looking sets is that the landing on each stair is longer so they are not forced to absorb as much shock and stop for repositioning. You can use some old couch cushions just as easily. Anything firm but soft to absorb the shock without causing their back to bend even more.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (Type I)

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Chondrodystrophy and Intervertebral Disc Disease, CDDY/IVDD, Type I IVDD

DNA sequences that are close together on a chromosome tend to be inherited together. Because of this, we can use genetic variation surrounding a specific variant (i.e. “linked” to it) to infer the presence or absence of a variant that is associated with a health condition or trait.

Linkage tests are not as predictive of your dog’s true genotype as direct assays, which we use on most other genetic conditions we test for.

FGF4 retrogene on chromosome 12. In some breeds such as Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Dachshunds (among others) this variant is found in nearly all dogs. While those breeds are known to have an elevated risk of IVDD, many dogs in those breeds never develop IVDD. For mixed breed dogs and purebreds of other breeds where this variant is not as common, risk for Type I IVDD is greater for individuals with this variant than for similar dogs.

What is Type I IVDD ?

Type I Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a back/spine issue that refers to a health condition affecting the discs that act as cushions between vertebrae. With Type I IVDD, affected dogs can have a disc event where it ruptures or herniates towards the spinal cord. This pressure on the spinal cord causes neurologic signs which can range from a wobbly gait to impairment of movement. Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) refers to the relative proportion between a dog’s legs and body, wherein the legs are shorter and the body longer. There are multiple different variants that can cause a markedly chondrodystrophic appearance as observed in Dachshunds and Corgis. However, this particular variant is the only one known to also increase the risk for IVDD.

About Type I IVDD

When signs & symptoms develop in affected dogs

Signs of CDDY are recognized in puppies as it affects body shape. IVDD is usually first recognized in adult dogs, with breed-specific differences in age of onset.

Signs & symptoms

Research indicates that dogs with one or two copies of this variant have a similar risk of developing IVDD. However, there are some breeds (e.g. Beagles and Cocker Spaniels, among others) where this variant has been passed down to nearly all dogs of the breed and most do not show overt clinical signs of the disorder. This suggests that there are other genetic and environmental factors (such as weight, mobility, and family history) that contribute to an individual dog’s risk of developing clinical IVDD. Signs of IVDD include neck or back pain, a change in your dog’s walking pattern (including dragging of the hind limbs), and paralysis. These signs can be mild to severe, and if your dog starts exhibiting these signs, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a diagnosis.

How vets diagnose this condition

For CDDY, dogs with one copy of this variant may have mild proportional differences in their leg length. Dogs with two copies of this variant will often have visually longer bodies and shorter legs. For IVDD, a neurological exam will be performed on any dog showing suspicious signs. Based on the result of this exam, radiographs to detect the presence of calcified discs or advanced imaging (MRI/CT) to detect a disc rupture may be recommended.

How this condition is treated

IVDD is treated differently based on the severity of the disease. Mild cases often respond to medical management which includes cage rest and pain management, while severe cases are often treated with surgical intervention. Both conservative and surgical treatment should be followed up with rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Actions to take if your dog is affected

  • Follow veterinary advice for diet, weight management, and daily exercise. Overweight dogs and those with insufficient exercise are thought to be at higher risk of developing clinical disease.
  • Ramps up to furniture, avoiding flights of stairs, and using a harness on walks will also help minimize some of the risk of an IVDD event by reducing stress on the back.
  • In breeds where this variant is extremely common, this genetic health result should not be a deciding factor when evaluating a dog for breeding or adoption purposes.

More information

Please note that this variant is extremely common in many small and chondrodystrophic dog breeds. In these breeds, this variant may not be the strongest predictor of IVDD risk compared to other genetic or environmental factors.

Gene name

FGF4 – chr12

Inheritance type



Brown et al 2017 Batcher et al 2019

A genetic test is not a diagnosis