All About Intervertebral Disc Disease
By: MVZ. MSc. Andres Renato Ordoñez
What is Intervertebral Disc Disease?
IVDD is Intervertebral Disc Disease.
All dogs’ discs degenerate with age; they lose water, become more fibrous and sometimes mineralized. VDD is a relatively common degenerative condition affecting all types of dogs, although small breeds and long-backed breeds (such as Dachsunds, Corgis, and Poodles) are more commonly affected. German Shepherds and Dobermans are also predisposed to IVDD
Degeneration of a Dachshund’s discs happens at a much younger age than in dogs with normal length legs. Read more about calcified discs. The two main types of disc disease are known as Hansen Type 1 and Type 2.
In 2013, Rowena Packer and colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College published a paper “How long and low can you get?” which suggested that the longer a dog’s body and the shorter its legs, the more likely it is to suffer from back problems. She also found that dogs that were overweight were more likely to have back problems.
Why Dachshunds have short legs
Man and dog have been working together for a very long time. Archaeologists have found bones that appear to be from domestic dogs dating from 15,000 years ago, but genetic research suggests that the split between the dog and the grey wolf started about 40,000 years ago.
There were about five separate times when the wolf came into the dog’s family tree, but by about 14,000 years ago the dog was probably very much a domestic animal, although they may still have looked a lot like wolves. Indeed, there are some dog breeds around that still look very wolf-like, even today.
About 10,000 years ago a mutation occurred in one puppy that fundamentally changed the shape of this animal and its descendants. This puppy was the ancestor of all the short leg dog breeds to be seen in the world today. This puppy had a duplicate, but somewhat abnormal, copy of a gene that codes for a growth-promoting protein called Fibroblast Growth Factor 4 (also known as FGF4). This growth factor is important in determining when bones stop growing.
The mutation caused a form of dwarfing with short legs but a normal head, chest and body.
If it had been in the wild, the disadvantages of the short legs – smaller, lack of reach and maybe speed – might have proved the end of the dog with the original mutation, although it might just have been lucky. Whatever the situation, it was a parent of at least one litter, and the mutation survived and has been passed down to us.
Dogs had been domesticated for at least 5,000 years when the dwarfing mutation happened, although we don’t, of course, know if the dog with the mutation actually lived with humans. It survived with this abnormality, though (obviously), which may have been due to it being in a ‘domestic’ environment. From the human point of view, dogs with short legs would be useful in getting through dense undergrowth or for chasing game down holes, so there would have been advantages in retaining these dogs for hunting.
Thus, it can be seen that Dachshunds actually haven’t got long backs, they have short legs. They are described as a Chondrodystrophic or Achondroplastic breed.
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