Our standard dachshund Sunny had successful surgery for IVDD in 2021, and we were all fortunate that he made a good recovery.  Three years on, our house is still adapted to support both his spinal health and that of our younger dachshund Pixel. Read on to find out what our experiences have been...

Sunny is a beautiful black and tan standard dachshund, who we got from a wonderful registered breeder in the UK. Before his IVDD diagnosis he had been in great physical shape, happy to accompany us for long walks, and routinely clocked 15,000 human steps every day.  He jumped on and off our sofa, and on and off our low bed.  And of course he barked for Britain. 

Sunny’s paralysis happened when he was five years old,  within 24 hours of us noticing some problems he was having climbing stairs, and jumping onto his favourite chair.  We all woke up the next morning to find he couldn't move his back legs.  We were outside our vet’s office by 9 o'clock that morning, and had been referred to and seen a specialist veterinary neurosurgeon in Barcelona by lunchtime.  In the middle of movement restrictions during the pandemic, we drove outside our permitted zone to seek help without even thinking about the necessary paperwork.  I won't describe the shock and despair we felt at this moment, and for weeks afterwards, seeing our beloved Sunny in such a desperate state.  It’s too upsetting, and this is a blog about practical things.


Recovery and post-treatment

The UK experts at Dachshund Health UK are clear that ¨dogs that have been diagnosed with disc degeneration and/or suffered an IVDD incident will be at higher risk of further injury if they are allowed to jump off furniture.¨   https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk/lifestyle-advice/jumping-stairs/     

After Sunny had his spinal surgery we were allowed to collect him a couple of days later.  The joy at seeing him standing and slowly walking towards us in the corridor was overwhelming.  I held him in the car all the way home (this time with the correct papers for travel). He had some wobbly weeks as he slowly built up his distances again with quiet local walks for ten, then fifteen, then twenty minutes, without Pixel to distract him.  He was lucky, and we were so fortunate.  He had surgery quickly after paralysis, from an expert neurologist, and he made a full recovery with just a small neurological deficit in one of his rear legs. Aged eight he’s still happy to walk long distances, and along with his beautiful greying muzzle he has what may be the start of some arthritis in his front feet.  

Post-surgery adaptations to our house: ramps and leads

During Sunny’s recovery from IVDD surgery, we blocked access to sofas and chairs in our living area and the whole family moved onto the floor, padded with camping quilts,  for two months to watch TV in the evening.  We couldn't trust Sunny not to jump off the sofa at top speed if a bird landed on our terrace, or if another dog barked outside.  

Like many people with dogs, and no matter that experts disapprove of this practice, our dachshunds have always slept on our bed, apart from our first year with Sunny when we tried in vain to get him to sleep in our office at home.  When we got back from the veterinary hospital with Sunny after his IVDD surgery, and tried to put him in a cage next to the bed, he howled for hours even though we were inches away.  The best solution was to keep him in a collar and attach him at the head of the bed with a longish lead, so he could move about but not get off the bed, and certainly not jump off the bed.  We lifted him on and off each time, and he seemed quite comfortable with the arrangement, though it looked rather odd.

Our philosophy is that we want Sunny to live a proper dog’s life, as active and healthy as possible, but we will do what we can to reduce any jumping to a minimum.  Yes, of course, that means ramps!  When we moved back onto sofas and chairs post-rehabilitation, we built a ramp up to one part of our sofa, and a small lightweight screen (similar to a young child’s safety barrier on a bed) for the other part.  The ramp is wide and solid, with rubber Norament matting for a good grip. Three years on, the ramp is still there, only removed when we have visitors, and both dogs use it.  We have a second ramp, which we have just put outside, so both dogs can get onto our garden furniture.


Always new challenges

We recently bought a new mattress 10cm higher than our original mattress, at a stroke making our bed too high for the dogs to safely jump onto and off.  Unfortunately we didn't think of that when we placed the order.  Now we have shut the door to our bedroom during the day, and we lift both dogs on and off the bed at night.  Sunny is back in his bedtime lead attached to the head of the bed. He has learned to wait to be lifted off, and the only test of this arrangement will be during warmer weather when he hears another dog barking outside through the open door.

So three years on, we still use ramps, to try to eliminate jumping entirely, for both dachshunds.  We supplement this with a long lead for Sunny in our bed, to stop him jumping off where a ramp would be ineffective.  We anticipate using both measures for Sunny and Pixel for the rest of their lives. Other than this, we walk them both a lot, and allow them to run up and down stairs, so they are fit and strong, and at the bottom end of the recommended weight range for the breed. On other issues and advice on post-IVDD support for your dog we suggest you check in with experts.


Listen to the experts

For high quality information on dachshund health we highly recommend the Dachshund Health UK [ https://www.dachshundhealth.org.uk/ ]    website, and their IVDD-specific site [  https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk/] too.  The information is written by breed experts, and is based on the latest veterinary and scientific information.