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Dachshund Health and OFA Testing


We do health test our dogs and register the results with Embark and the OFA. We test for Eyes, Cardio, Patella Luxation Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Degenerative Myelopathy, Mucopolysaccharidosis, Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis Type 1 and 2, Narcolepsy, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, and Lafora Seizures (Wirehairs)


All dogs must have excellent temperaments and pass these tests in order to be used in our breeding program.


As a breed, Dachshunds can rightfully be described as sturdy, healthy little dogs, able to withstand the rigors of outdoor life as well as enjoying the comfort of apartment life. They are easy keepers, requiring no special diet other than good commercial dog food, and they can take their exercise chasing a tennis ball around the back yard or apartment.




Inherited Eye Defects


Hereditary eye defects are widespread among the canine population. It is a personal feeling that no breed is completely free of eye problems, and a breed that claims to have no eye problems is probably just not checking for them. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) which has now been taken over by the OFA, presents a very clear picture of the incidence of eye problems in a breed. Any dog that is examined by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist has the results of his examination sent to CERF/OFA. These results remain confidential with CERF, but their information is used for statistical evaluation of certain eye conditions.


The only conditions discovered prior to the age of one year were persistent pupillary membranes, distichiasis (inwardly growing eyelashes), and entropion, (inwardly rolled eyelids)


It is obvious the most common eye defect is cataracts. This was formerly called juvenile cataracts to distinguish it from the cloudiness occurring at old age and is normal in most dogs. "Juvenile" cataracts most commonly occur around two years of age and are potentially blinding. This condition is potentially blinding and no dog with cataracts should be used for breeding. Diagnosis of eye defects are usually definitive, and accurate. The statistics are alarming enough to warrant examination of all breeding Shiba.


Juvenile Cataracts:


The term “cataract” refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts, and some breeds are especially at risk. Cataracts are more common in older animals but can be present at birth or develop very early in life. Cataracts affect a dog’s vision and can be progressive, in some cases leading to blindness.


Causes of Cataracts in Dogs.


In dogs, cataracts typically have a strong hereditary component. Other contributing causes include nutritional deficiencies, low blood calcium levels, exposure to toxins, diabetes mellitus, radiation, electric shock and blunt or penetrating trauma. Cataracts can occur spontaneously for no known reason. The actual biological cause of cataracts is a change in the protein composition or arrangement of the fibers of the lens of the affected eye.


While cataracts always affect a dog’s vision, they do not affect its health. Most dogs adjust to their vision deficiencies extremely well. Surgical treatment for cataracts is highly successful, and the prognosis for dogs with cataracts is excellent if the condition is identified and treated early. Owners should know that not all cataracts are progressive, and not all affected dogs need surgical correction.


Testing does not show dogs who are carriers of the recessive gene for Juvenile Cataracts. If a carrier dog is bred with another carrier dog, they will produce a certain number of pups who will get cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. There is no way to tell if your dog is a carrier.


A variety of other health problems have been reported in the breed, but not on a widespread basis. Kidney failure, liver disease, color alopecia, thyroid disease and other autoimmune disorders. The outlook for the Dachshund is not grim, but the breeds genetic makeup contains many of the problems common to other breeds. After all, they are dogs.


The best remedy for the public is to deal with reputable, recognized breeders, and ask informed questions of these breeders regarding health issues to insure a happy and healthy pet.



Progressive Retinal Atrophy:


Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a term for retinal degenerations occurring in many breeds of dog. Many forms of PRA exist, each form being confined to one or a few breeds only. The disease results in a degeneration of the light sensitive membrane at the back of the eye - the retina - resulting in loss of vision, and often leading to blindness. There is currently no treatment for the disease. Breeding stock are checked by DNA.


Breeders will be sent results identifying their dog as belonging to one of three categories:


This dog is CLEAR of the cord1 mutation:


This dog has 2 copies of the normal gene and will neither develop PRA caused by the cord1 mutation, nor pass this mutation to its offspring.


This dog is a CARRIER of the cord1 mutation


This dog has one copy of the normal gene and one copy of the cord1 mutation. It will not develop PRA but will, if bred from, pass on the cord1 mutation to 50% of its offspring, on average.


This dog has TWO COPIES of the cord1 mutation


This dog has 2 copies of the cord1 mutation. It will probably develop PRA but will, if bred from, pass on the cord1 mutation to 100% of its offspring, on average.



Because of the very high frequency of the cord1 mutation, we would advise breeders to take a gradual approach to eliminating the mutation from their stock to avoid restricting the gene pool available. Both carriers and affected dogs can be used to breed - but only when crossed with DNA tested clear dogs. For carrier x clear crosses, half the offspring (on average) will be clear and half will be carriers. Litters from these crosses should be DNA tested to distinguish clears from carriers. Genetically-affected x clear crosses will only produce carriers; there is therefore no need to DNA test these litters.


Other Conditions Mistaken for PRA


Not all vision loss in Huskies are caused by PRA. There are reports of acquired (not inherited) retinal changes that have been mistakenly diagnosed as PRA. Since the DNA test for PRA is completely accurate and specific, it can be used to differentiate the inherited form of PRA from the acquired retinal abnormality. A dog clinically diagnosed with an acquired retinal abnormality that is similar to PRA will not test affected for PRA.



Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) IIIA

Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) IIIA (dachshund type) is an inherited Lysosomal Storage Disorder affecting dogs. Affected dogs have insufficient activity of the Enzyme heparan N-sulfatase which is responsible for breaking down heparan sulfate. Heparan sulfate is an important component of tissues throughout the body.


Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis Type 1 & 2

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis affected Dachshunds start to exhibit first symptoms around 9 months of age, such as kyphosis, stiffness of gait, lack of muscle coordination and difficulties in balancing and jumping.




an inherited disorder affecting dachshunds. Dogs with the inherited form of narcolepsy typically present between one to six months of age with an inability to stay awake for extended periods of time and episodes of collapse and sleep following positive stimulation such as play or food.


Osteogenesis imperfecta


an inherited disease which causes defective collagen, leading to extremely fragile bones and teeth. In Dachshunds the disease is caused by a mutation in SERPINH1, a gene that promotes correct folding of the collagen I triple helix.


Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy


most often affects the voluntary muscles of the shoulders and hips. Dogs with this condition have weakened and atrophied muscles of the shoulders and hips from the time they are puppies.


Degenerative Myelopathy:


Degenerative Myelopathy is a devastating disease-causing progressive paralysis in a large number of dog breeds. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak, and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease.




Congenital heart disease in dogs is a malformation of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. The most common congenital cardiovascular defects can be grouped into several anatomic categories.


These anatomic diagnoses include:


•Malformation of the atrioventricular valves

•Malformation of the ventricular outflow leading to obstruction of blood flow

•Defects of the cardiac septa (shunts)

•Abnormal develop of the great vessels or other vascular structures

•Complex, multiple, or other congenital disorders of the heart, pericardium, or blood vessels




Patella Luxation


Of the serious conditions common to the breed, patella luxation is the most prevalent and potentially devastating. "Luxating" is a fancy word for dislocating. Patella is your dog's "knee", the joint on the front of her/his hind leg. So a luxating patella is a dislocating knee or as some have nick named it; trick knee, a knee that keeps slipping out of its socket. This can happen in Boston Terriers and certain toy breeds with weak ligaments, tendons, and/or muscles. It can also happen other breeds in pups whose kneecap groove is too narrow or shallow. The knee usually slips inwardly, toward the body, and locks so that your dog can't bend her/his leg.


Does My Dog Have a Luxating Patella?

You might suspect a luxating patella if your Shiba Inu sometimes lifts one hind leg while running, or if she/he often moves both rear legs at the same time, like a hopping bunny. Sometimes the knee slips only for a few moments and then slides back into place. Sometimes the knee slips out and stays out, and your Shiba will hold her/his leg off the ground and limp, perhaps tucking the thigh into her/his body.


Is luxation serious?

There are four degrees (grades) of luxation:


Grade I. The knee only slips out when the vet manipulates it.


Grade II. The knee luxates occasionally when the dog is walking or running. He/she may not seem to mind much, or they may shriek, but it usually slides back by itself as they continues moving. Or you can slip it back manually (ask the vet to show you how).


Grade III. The knee luxates frequently and causes chronic lameness. Even when you put it back manually, it doesn't seem to last long.


Grade IV. The knee luxates, stays that way, and you can't put it back into its socket. This grade is very rare but happens.


How is luxation treated?


•The first treatment should be to crate or keep the dog in a small area for a week or two and supervise all activity - no jumping or running.


• Most veterinarians will prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory . However, these will only hide the symptoms and may reduce some of the inflammation, but do absolutely nothing to strengthen or correct the condition.


• Some veterinarians will prescribe Steroidal anti-inflammatory. These have proven to be extremely damaging to the immune system, have awful side effects (short and long term), and in my opinion, should never be used.


•Surgery is seldom the answer and if needed, should only be done by an orthopedic surgeon as regular vets usually lack the skill needed to repair a slipping patella properly and again only if the dog is in chronic pain.


If you decide on surgery, please call the American College of Veterinary Surgeons at (301) 718-6504 and ask for a referral to an orthopedic specialist or college of veterinary medicine in your state.


If surgery is your choice, be aware that the dog may very likely have problems down the road with arthritis from the surgery. In the opinion of most veterinarians, surgery is overkill for Grade I or II luxating patella. I personally would only go with surgery on a Grade IV luxation, or on a Grade III that did not respond to natural treatment and the dog was in constant pain. Surgery costs around a thousand dollars per patella, it is uncomfortable for your dog, and there is a 50% chance that some degree of luxation will return at some point in time.


What causes Luxating patella in the first place?


Occasionally it's caused by an injury, but in the absence of such proof, it is almost always weak tendons and/or a shallow kneecap groove. Luxating patella(s) is considered hereditary.


Never, Ever, breed a dog with any degree of luxation, whether it has been repaired or not. Fixing the knee doesn't fix the genes that caused the problem.




Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs


Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Breeds of dog that are predisposed to IVDD include the Dachshund, Beagle, Basset Hound, and Shih Tzu.


Symptoms and Types of IVDD in Dogs


Made up of a gelatinous substance surrounded by a thick outer layer, intervertebral discs are basically the shock absorbers of the spine. There are two types of disc herniation seen in dogs: Type I and Type II, of which Type II generally has less severe signs and symptoms.


Symptoms of IVDD in dogs may include:


•Unwillingness to jump

•Pain and weakness in rear legs (lameness)

•Crying out in pain

•Anxious behavior

•Muscle spasms over back or neck

•Hunched back or neck with tense muscles

•Reduced appetite and activity level

•Loss of bladder and/or bowel control (urinary and fecal incontinence, respectively)


Causes of IVDD in Dogs


In Type I, common in the neck region of smaller breeds, discs develop a hardening (or calcification) of the outer layer. This damages the disc, allowing it to break down easier. Any forceful impact such as jumping and landing can cause one or more disc(s) to burst and the inner material to press on the spinal cord. With Type II herniation, the discs become hardened and fibrous over a long period of time and eventually break down, bulge out, and compress the spinal cord.


When the nerves of the spinal cord are compressed, the nerve impulses are not able to transmit their signals to the final destination in the limbs, bladder, etc. If the damage is severe enough, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control can occur. Depending on the location of the disc that is bulging, signs occur anywhere in the body from the neck to the rear legs.



OFA Certification


The Orthopedic Foundation of America will issue registration numbers to dogs whose testing have been examined by a veterinarian, forwarded to the OFA, and found to be normal. Each test has its own # and certificate.


Posted with permission of the author,  Dr. Jeannie (Jeanette) Thomason

Copyright 2006 - 2016  Dr. Jeannie Thomason,, thewholistiicdog.  All rights reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author/Publisher

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