The Dachshund Dog Breed, The Sausage Dog!
The dog in the left in the photo is a Standard Dachshund, the one on the right is a Miniature.
Everybody loves this comical breed, you cannot help but smile when you see one moving along in their characteristic style … The Sausage Dog. They are of course one of the group of dogs which have German origins, this is borne out in the two words in the name dachs hund which literally means “badger dog” in German. Now you would be forgiven in wondering how the average Dachshund you see in the street could possibly tackle a badger it would seem much more likely that the badger would chase away the Dachshund! The answer of course is that most Dachshunds you see are Miniature Dachshunds and there is a standard variety which is very much larger and could well take on a badger and win.
Now some more about this popular breed. There are in fact three varieties of Dachshunds, The Standard, The miniature,and The Kaninchen, this word means rabbit by the way. The kaninchen is not recognised as a breed standard in all parts of the world and I have rarely seen one. The difference between these variations is only size, a Standard Dachshund weighs around 28 lb, a Miniature less than 11 lb and the Kaninchen weighs 8 lb.
It comes as no surprise given the name that this breed was purpose bred to hunt badgers, they originated from Europe and their ancestry though now unclear includes a mixture of German, French and English hounds and terriers. The Miniature breed has been used to hunt rabbits and the the Kaninchen has been used to hunt prairie dogs in America, though nowadays it would be rare to find a working Dachshund, they are happily mainly pets and companion animals.
As there are three sizes of Dachshund there are also three coat varieties, smooth coated, long coated and wire haired. However,whatever type of coat your Dachshund has it is not difficult to look after, just a brushing through now and again will be fine. Their coats come in a variety of colours, including red, merle and black and tan.
We all know their amusing looks, but are they temperament wise the right dog for you? Well many Dachshunds can be good and loyal pets to their owners but some can have a strong headed streak in them and can sometimes be difficult to train. For a small breed they make excellent watch dogs and will soon let you know if a stranger is about, given the chance they will spend endless time chasing other animals such as cats, birds, and squirrels. Another habit they have which gives away their origins is that they take great delight in digging holes in the garden. In short they are great characters and in my experience this breed often attract owners who are great characters as well!
I could go on for long enough about this exceptional breed but sadly they are in my opinion another breed which should not be bred from in it’s present form, why? Well the answer is three words - intervertebral disk disease. All small animal vets will have seen Dachshunds which are either fully or partially paralysed as the result of a slipped disk type injury, while this may be due to some minor trauma such as jumping up it can also happen spontaneously. The basic problem is their elongated backs which can bow in the middle and cause pressure on the vertebrae in the dog’s spine. This situation is not rare and is a distressing and painful disease for the individual dogs and stressful and expensive for the owners as they seek a cure. Sometimes this situation will slowly resolve with rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, others need extensive surgery on their backs which is not always successful and other dogs end up with a poor quality of life and it may be best to reluctantly put them to sleep.
There are measures you can take to protect your Dachshunds back, use your common sense and try and avoid them jumping up or avoid any obvious situation which will stress their back. You should also try and keep their weight towards the low end of the normal weight range, feeding the likes of Husse Light Optimal dog food can help in this regard and regular moderate exercise would be a good thing as well. However as I said before in another article about Dalamatiansand Deafness the breeders should put their house in order and start to breed dogs with a more healthy conformation.
From a vet’s point of view the back problems are the most serious disease in the breed but they also suffer to a much lesser extent to other medical conditions. This is in fact not too much of a worry to potential owners as each dog breed has a list of medical conditions associated with it. These would include epilepsy, slipping patellas, cherry eye and patent ductus arteriosus amongst others.
So there we have it, the Dachshund a comical breed who often suffers from far from comical back problems.
Scott Nimmo BVMS, MRCVS
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