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Every Dog Needs a Super Hero

Kevin Kirsch has a little bit of a reputation around the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He is a champion of dachshunds and the proud, though unintentional, owner of five doxie dogs (and husband to a very understanding wife).

Kirsch loves dachshunds for their personality. They are, he says, “big characters in small bodies.” But dachshunds also have big problems with back injuries, many of which are preventable. Kirsch is on a personal mission to help as many dachshunds as he can by educating owners on how to make their homes dachshund-friendly.

A staff member at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital since 2008, Kirsch joined the hospital to oversee the conversion of radiology and cardiology imaging systems to a picture archive and communications system. He had worked in the human medical field for 28 years, first in radiology and then in IT. He now focuses on helping veterinarians use technology to enhance quality of care and expand capabilities. Working in an animal hospital eans being surrounded by people like himself who want to help animals, and who want to make a difference in the lives of their owners.

For the Love of Dachshunds

Dachshunds came into Kirsch’s life first with Lady. Itty soon joined the family, and then Teen Teen. Kirsch didn’t have dogs as a child, so he was making up for lost time. Buddy and Ivy Sue were unexpected additions, relinquishments from the hospital. Both had suffered back injuries and had owners who were unable to care for them. Buddy was seconds away from euthanasia when Kirsch was called to the rescue. He only intended to be a temporary foster "parent" to Ivy during her rehabilitation following surgery.

"With Ivy, they think she’d been injured by a horse," said Kirsch. “Her owners had provided surgery but were unable to follow up on her rehabilitation. By the time she got back to us, she wasn’t able to walk.”

With Excellent Rehabilitation, Ivy Walks Again

Kirsch volunteered to rehabilitate Ivy and foster her until her owners could care for her. Hospital staff and clients often saw Ivy at the hospital in her doggie wheelchair, getting her exercise and rehabbing at the hospital. Sasha Foster and Juliette Hart provided physical therapy, acupuncture, and physical therapy to help Ivy heal.

“Ivy received excellent care at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital,” said Kirsch. “Her rehab team took the time to work with her and with me on physical therapy exercises, and also some alternative therapies that would help her heal.” After four months, Ivy’s owners decided to relinquish her to a dachshund rescue as they were still unable to care for her. Kirsch simply couldn’t put Ivy through any more stress, and she became a permanent member of his doxie family.

“She’s doing great now, still has a little bit of a wobble here and there, but no longer needs her chair to get around,” said Kirsch. “We’ve been really lucky in that we were able to rescue Buddy and Ivy and bring them back to health, and they really are great little dogs. But it’s a little disheartening, because every week we see dachshunds with back injuries. There are a lot of dachshunds out there who suffer unnecessarily. We really want to do what we can to prevent that suffering and keep these guys happy and healthy.”

A Healthy Spine Means a Happier Life for Your Dachshund

Short legs and a long body make the dachshund prone to back injury. Many suffer from chronic or acute problems - often with discs between vertebrae in the lower back and neck. Symptoms include pain, reluctance to move, rear-leg weakness, and incontinence.

Help prevent problems with these tips:

  • No stair-climbing. It’s the leading cause of back injury in dachshunds, so don’t let your doxie regularly go up and down flights of stairs.
  • Use ramps and fences to help your dachshund navigate heights and stay on level ground.
  • No jumping on furniture, because it causes back stress. Train your dachshund to stay off chairs and sofas.
  • Maintain healthy weight. Excess weight means more back stress.
  • Check with your veterinarian, if needed, for diet and weight recommendations.


If you would like to learn more about the Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, visit their web page. If you are interested in supporting research, facilities, or equipment needs for the service, please contact the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Office of Advancement, (970) 491-7446.