The Dachshund and Skin Allergies – is Breeding and Genetics a Factor?

Dachshund puppy can develope skin allergies - is genetic or breeding the reason?

Around the time Penny, a dachshund bitch, became pregnant and gave birth approximately 63 days later, she developed skin problems. Three out of five puppies died. Penny’s owners think this was due to her inexperience as a mother. One puppy, in particular, suffered acute hair loss and Penny only minor. What causes skin conditions in a dachshund, and what diagnosis did Penny’s veterinary surgeon give?

Penny, a miniature dachshund, was purchased from a breeder without apparent health or breed issues. Her owners bred her once after having been advised by the breeder that it would prevent endometriosis. Penny weaned her pups successfully, but eventually, her owners noticed lots of little dry and flaky bumps on her skin. One of the pups sold but was returned to the owners two weeks later.

About the Dachshund

Did you know?

‘Dach’ translates to badger.

‘Hund’ translates to hound dog.

The Dachshund originated in Germany as far back as the 15th century and was bred for hunting, hence the breed known as the badger dog. Its body shape made the breed easy to move through tunnels to find its prey. But there is the possibility that the dachshund may date back to Ancient Egyptian times because of mummified remains and engravings.

Wherever its origin began, it is hard to imagine this breed, with its unusual body shape, stumpy short legs, and friendly personality, was once a hunting dog.

The American Kennel Club recognised the dachshund in 1885. I cannot find any details of when the dachshund appeared in the U.K. The only information I did locate was Queen Victoria importing various dachshund breeds – she reigned between 1837 and 1901.

Also, here are a couple of interesting facts:

1: The smooth Dachshund is a mix of the pinscher and miniature French pointer.

2: The all-black Dachshunds are rare.

Related articles:

What are the health problems associated with this breed?

Regarding breed specification, I have an article called Does your Dachshund have Paralysis or a Drunken Walk? (article live in Feb) Again, this is from an owner’s true experience of developing severe Intervertebral Disc Disease. So, as well as IVDD, skin allergies are a well-known health issue for the dachshund. These can occur from food allergies, genetics, or environmental factors. Signs include skin irritation, dandruff, scaly skin, flakiness, fur loss, rashes, and immune responses to certain allergens, which can cause illness. Allergens are defined as harmful substances that trigger a response. In other words, allergens begin in the immune system and cause an allergic reaction.

Let us look at a breakdown of genetic, environmental, and food allergies that can cause skin allergies.


  • There are points to consider when breeding a dog. Temperament (will the dog be a good Mum), general health condition, characteristics of the breed
  • Vets recommend a pre-breeding health check to determine any hereditary diseases (scroll down for more)
  • Purebreed may have a limited genetic pattern so that it will be a genetically more accurate match to its parents
  • Avoid crossbreeding. The health of a puppy can be affected. This is known as ‘masked recessive genes’. If the gene (alleles) differ, there will be a dominant gene (allele), whilst the other gene (allele) will be recessive and masked
  • Do not breed from a dog with any form of heritable health problems
  • For both medical and physiological purposes, never breed from a bitch below a year or over seven years of age
  • Primary seborrhea, which is a skin disorder, is often inherited. The signs are red, itchy, and flaky skin, which forms a smell. You will notice it in the back or face, the flanks or folds of skin. Secondary seborrhea occurs if a dachshund is obese, has allergies, has a poor diet or has musculoskeletal issues

Environmental factors

  • Chemicals
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Synthetic material
  • Grasses
  • Secondary seborrhea. Temperatures can cause skin disorders

Food allergies

  • Corn (the allergic reaction results in behavioural or psychological problems. Corn, believe it or not, is difficult for any dog to digest). Prepacked dog food can contain corn
  • Other foodstuffs include wheat, soya, rice, animal protein (dairy or meat)
  • Yeast – Malassezia pachydermatis, a fungal infection

Ask your vet about pre-breeding health tests

Even if you breed your dog once, a vet will recommend a pre-breeding health checkup. Treatment will be very costly when considering pups born with health issues or Mum developing problems. So investing in a pre-breeding health test may save you money in the future and poorly puppies and Mum.

So, what is involved in a pre-breeding health test? Here is a list, but I recommend you enquire at your local veterinary practice. Charges may vary too.

  • Any hereditary diseases
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia (both are abnormal)
  • Eye test
  • Heart test
  • Inner cheek swab or blood sample to perform a gene test for any breed-related issues
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

What are the considerations when buying a puppy?

Most of us have heard about puppy farming, British-bred or imported pups, and welfare and health care ignored. Selling unwell pups for monetary gain is the main purpose. You do have to be careful. I agree that these poor pups need to be saved, too, but my point is: these pups will most likely have genetic issues from crossbreeding. They indeed will not be vaccinated.

That puppy you purchased will probably become very ill and be in pain. The outcome may be euthanasia. There is heartbreak for your family. Or even if your pup recovers, you might have a huge veterinary bill and perhaps no insurance during the emergency.

But you are sensible as a breeder. You are kind, caring and considerate, and the welfare of Mum and pups are the main priority. You help your bitch by arranging a pre-breeding health check.

What is Penny’s story?

Dachshunds can develop hereditary skin disorders
Photography by Lesley Bonney

Penny is 8 years old now (2021). She is the only dog in the household and is thoroughly loved and spoilt. Penny became a Mum for the first and only time when she was about 2 years of age. The reason why the owners bred her was having been advised by the breeder it would prevent endometriosis.

Penny is purebred, as far as the owners are aware. However, they did not opt for a pre-breeding health check to determine if Penny had any hereditary diseases or other issues that her pups may inherit. No one knows, but had the health test been performed, maybe an underlying allergy would have been detected by her vet. Or did Penny suffer from genetic issues from her ancestors? Was there any form of crossbreeding from her past?

Her owners took Penny to the vet for tests. These included blood tests and skin scrapes, but the results were negative, so the owners still do not have a clear picture of what causes Penny’s skin issues. The veterinary surgeon could only suggest “some sort of allergy”. Perhaps further tests would have been the answer? Penny was prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, which controls the irritation.

The ‘flare-ups’ occur every two years now, says her owners. They have tried grain-free diets, raw meat diets and dry food only. None of the trial runs has changed anything, and they still do not understand why Penny has skin issues. Perhaps if it happens every two years, an environmental factor is the cause? Maybe Penny comes into contact with something that triggers a ‘flare-up’? Maybe the pollen count is higher?

When these ‘flare-ups’ occur, Penny is given 3.6mg Oclacitinib daily. This anti-inflammatory tablet controls atopic dermatitis and pruritus (urge to scratch because of an uncomfortable feeling) from allergic dermatitis. The medication costs around £44 per batch.

When Penny is bathed, her owners use a shampoo called MalAcetic. The product helps mild bacteria and fungal infections. The specification will balance the skin’s surface pH and deter yeast and fungal overgrowth. Have you found success with MalAcetic?

The puppies story

Dachshunds and skin problems in puppies
Two puppies survived

The female puppy did not develop any form of dermatitis. The male puppy later developed minor issues, but beforehand, friends of the owners bought him. After two weeks, he developed a severe skin disorder and lost hair, so the buyers returned him. They were given a full refund. Like Penny, the male puppy had tests. The results were negative, so the cause was unknown, so the puppy had medication and special shampoo.

You are probably wondering what became of the puppy.

A couple known to the owner lost their dachshund to old age. Knowing that the male pup had skin issues, they offered him a home. The owners purchased a batch of medication and shampoo and handed the products to the new owners. The puppy now lives happily in Wales with his human family. Hopefully, his skin condition is controlled, and maybe the new owners requested further tests.

Penny in 2020

Penny's medication for skin allergies oclacitinib
Penny at Withernsea, East Yorkshire

I have met Penny several times since the vet diagnosed her as having a form of allergy. Her coat is sleek and shines. She is happy and contented, although classed as obese. She has regular veterinary check-ups too. Unfortunately, ill health occurred again but in the form of temporary paralysis around 2018, with treatment costing £4000, and Penny was uninsured.

Update March 2023: Penny continues to improve, and with regular walks, she has lost weight and thoroughly enjoys her outdoor time.


This article does not give medical, or veterinary advice. Please consult your licensed veterinary surgeon for professional medical advice, who will advise on health tests for your pet.

Poppy’s Pets has a column in the Withernsea District & Community News


The reason I write and make YouTube videos is to help you and your pets from my experiences, and to take you through a journey of Green Living from worm composting and bokashi.

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