Chihuahua Back Problems



Chihuahuas are prone to experiencing back problems at one point in their lives. It does not necessarily mean it will happen but the odds are quite high. Chihuahua Back problems in relation to the Chihuahua dog breed are usually associated with a back condition referred to as Intervertebral Disc Disease abbreviated as IDD or IVDD.

IDD is a disease that affects the discs on the backbone, where they either bulge, or burst into the spinal cord space. The fractured discs in turn press on nerves running through the spine and in turn inflict pain and nerve damage to our furry canine friends. In the worst cases of IDD, your pet can become paralyzed.

This disorder affects mostly breeds such as Shih Tzu, Bassett Hound, and Dachshund. However, also chihuahuas can get this disease. The chihuahua can experience this disease at any age, But it is seen most often with senior dogs.

Types of IVDD/IDD

There are two different types of IVDD i.e. type I and type II IVDD. Type II is less severe than type I. Type I IVDD begins to develop when your Chihuahua is still of young age. But it rarely occurs in the Chihuahua dog breed. The second type of IVDD comes in at a much later age – around 6 to 10 years – and this is the one that affects the Chihuahua breed often. Type I basically involves the intervertebral discs developing a hardened outer layer. This damages the discs, posing a higher chance of breaking down easily in case of vigorous actions. As for type II herniation. As a result, the intervertebral discs become fibrous and hardened over a long period of time thus bulging out and pressing on the spinal cord.

Causes of IDD in Chihuahuas

  • IDD will arise if your Chihuahua has ever been involved in a car accident or has ever been brutally attacked by other bigger dog breeds. A serious fall on a hard surface while jumping through couches at home can also significantly contribute to developing IVDD.
  • As old age kicks in with your Chihuahua, it will start experiencing the degeneration of the intervertebral discs. As they harden and become fibrous over the years, it reaches a point where they burst and compress against the spinal cord, leading to back pains and nerve damage.
  • A sudden jolt of the back is the other way your Chihuahua can develop IDD. Chihuahuas are very active and will always jump from one place to the other or do tricks in the air or dash out of the house or car too fast. During these sudden movements, the toy pet may cause a disruption on the intervertebral discs which will finally result in back pain problems.

Examples of Movements that may lead to disc slipping :

  • Because of their small size, any jump from a high that is above 18 inches can cause severe injury. For this reason, never let your chihuahua jump off items that are high.
  • Jumping from an object to your arms is a loving thing but it may represent a big danger to your little chihuahua.
  • Letting your dog jump from the car seat.

Signs and symptoms of IDD

When your Chihuahua is in pain or distress, it will cry out which will trigger you to find out why the sudden cry. Different Chihuahuas will exhibit signs of back problems differently. One thing to note though is that the time frame in which Chihuahua will present signs of back problems will be dependent on how gradual the pain sets in.

The following are the basic signs and symptoms that your Chihuahua has IDD:

  • If you note that your Chihuahua doesn’t want to turn his/her head. It might be a sign that there is pain arising from the neck. Will also tend to keep their heads low on most occasions.
  • Yelping or being aggressive when touched or picked up in a certain way.
  • Reduced activity. Due to the pain, your Chihuahua will stop playing and jumping as much as it used to, prior to the back pains.
  • Arching their backs all the time.
  • Being weak and wobbly. You may also note that it is lying down too much and doesn’t want to wake up or move much.
  • Peeing on their selves as they cannot control their bladder or it has been affected.
  • Walking in a limping manner.
  • The stomach area may be sensitive to touch
  • shaking
  • Loss of harmony
  • One or both legs are paralyzed

If you observed at least 2 of the above symptoms, there is a big probability that your dog suffers from IDD.

How The vet will Diagnosis Disk Disease with your Chihuahua

First of all, it is advisable to take your chihuahua to your veterinarian. This latter may ask you to seek the advice of a veterinary neurologist to check back issues of your dog.

The veterinarian may do the following tests to diagnose the disease.

  • Proprioceptive deficits testing: The goal of this test is to know the ability of your dog to recognize the position of his limbs without seeing where they are moved.
  • Myostatin exam called also Knee jerk reflex
  • X*rays: This test is very useful because it may not only reveal possible slipped discs in the back, but may also determine other conditions like trauma, tumors, or infection in the spine.
  • Blood work: full blood count and serum biochemistry panel.
  • Complete physical: The vet will check heart rates, respiratory rates, etc
  • MRI(Magnetic Resonance Imaging): The vet may need this test to have a clear view of the dog’s spine.
  • Myelogram: the vet may inject a safe dye into your chihuahua’s body to see the outline of the spinal cord.

Treatment for back pains (IVDD)

The best treatment for a Chihuahua experiencing back pain will vary depending on how intense the pain is and the severity of IVDD.

If the pain is just mild.

Strict Crate Rest

It is very crucial to put your chihuahua inside her crate and to let her only come out to eat and use the bathroom. We use this technic to say a big NO to jumping, and other activities such as walking. It is very hard for your dog to understand why she must stay inside her crate if she didn’t receive enough crate training.

Then, your veterinarian may advise you to give some medication to cope with the pain or relax the back muscles.

Try Dog Ramp or Dog steps

chihuahua ramp

source: google images

Using a dog ramp may eliminate the possibility of jumping or any other action that can hurt the dog. A dog ramp helps your chihuahua to get on and out of the bed easily without the need to jump.

Back Brace

chihuahua back brace

source: google images

A back brace will help your chihuahua to keep her back straight and aligned, and oblige her to go slower.

If the pain is intense

source: google images

Then a surgical procedure to decompress the spinal cord may be the best solution to end the misery your pet is undergoing. Alternatively, surgery can be performed to remove one side of the vertebrae so as to reach and remove the herniated disc, then proceed to decompress the backbone.

Last word

You cannot have full control over the level of activities these small furry mammals love to engage in. They may not know the kind of impact they will have later on as they get older on their backs. But you can ensure that there is minimal of these vigorous actions. Try taking better care of it while still young. Maybe then they can also have a healthy old age with no back problems. In addition to that, make sure that your Chihuahua doesn’t overindulge during exercise. You can also try to keep your pet off specific places where it is accustomed to jumping a lot. Rather, use canine foam steps to guide your Chihuahua to bed or on the couch, to avoid jumping onboard instead.


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