Basenji Health Information

Please note:  Every breed of dogs has its' own unique group of health issues.  Below is a brief list of some medical problems (with descriptions) found in Basenjis.  This list is only intended as an informational tool. It in no way is intended to replace the use or professional opinion of a veterinarian.

 

Eye Anomalies:

Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM) results when the puppy's fetal membrane of the eye does not completely reabsorb by the time of birth.  Often, minor PPM will dissipate as the puppy ages.  A puppy who presents with PPM at a few months of age may show no signs of such later in life.  Minor PPM is quite common in Basenjis.  Dogs who have severe PPM may have a blue tint to their eye.  Breeders should have their puppies eyes examined by an eye doctor certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists Diplomates (ACVO).  The eye exam, of course, cannot predict the dog's ability to produce dogs who will have or be clear of PPM. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a simple recessive hereditary disease, is the gradual, progressive deterioration of the dog's retina.  Eventually, blindness occurs, most often between the ages of four and ten. 

Dogs who test normal at the time of the exam by an ACVO ophthalmologist, are eligible to receive a certificate with the  Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).  Thanks to the progress by breeders to decrease the occurrence and severity of PPM, Basenjis with minor PPM now qualify for a CERF certificate.

 

Fanconi Syndrome:

A renal (kidney) disorder resulting in the loss of important solutes (glucose, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, uric acid, bicarbonate, & amino acids) through the urine.  Despite the excessive loss of these solutes, the dog's blood glucose (sugar) concentration is normal.  In the early stages of the disease, serum electrolytes are normal.  As the disease progresses, hypokalemia (low potassium), hypophosphatemia (low phosphate) and metabolic acidosis develop (which can be life threatening).

Dogs affected with Fanconi Syndrome will exhibit polydipsia (excessive drinking), polyuria (excessive urination), weight loss, and muscle wasting.  Basenjis will generally "spill" sugar in their urine before showing these symptoms which reminds us of the importance of routine monthly urine strip testing beginning at the age of three.  The earlier the disease is discovered and treated (see Dr. Gonto's Protocol), the less damage occurs to the dog's body, improving its' overall quality of life.

Urine glucose test strips are inexpensive and can be purchased at most drug stores.  To check the dog's urine for sugar, place the test strip in the dog's urine stream.  Read the test strip per package instructions.

Urine strip testing is not a diagnostic tool for Fanconi Syndrome.  Positive results (sugar present in urine) only indicate that sugar is present in the urine at that moment.  A complete physical exam by a veterinarian, including additional tests such as a urinalysis, serum (blood) glucose and venous blood gas are necessary to rule out other diseases such as Diabetes or Cushing's Syndrome.

The onset of Fanconi Syndrome is typically discovered between four and eight years of age.  Without treatment, Fanconi afflicted Basenjis will die prematurely. Thanks to routine bloodwork, administering medications, and a quality high protein diet, most afflicted Basenjis respond to treatment and can live longer, happier lives. 

**Thanks to Dr. Johnson and his colleagues at the University of Missouri a DNA linked marker test for Fanconi Syndrome was released on July 14, 2007!  While this test doesn't pinpoint the exact gene that causes Fanconi, it is pretty darn close and breeders no longer have to take blind stabs in the dark regarding Fanconi when making breeding decisions.  Currently, dogs are reported as:  Probable Clear/Normal, Probable Carrier, Indeterminate (between clear or carrier), and Probable Afflicted.  The development of this test can result in the eradication of Fanconi and we hope to some day remove it from our list of current Basenji health issues.  While Dr. Johnson continues to search for the exact Fanconi gene, breeders will be using the linked marker test and all results are made public on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) website.

For more questions about Fanconi Research and the Linked Marker DNA Fanconi Test, please visit: http://www.basenjihealth.org/linkage-faq.html.

Hemolytic Anemia:

Prior to the 1960's, some Basenjis between the ages of two and four, died from an unknown form of an incurable anemia.  We now know this disease to be pyruvate-kinase deficient hemolytic anemia (HA).  A carrier test was discovered in 1972.

Thanks to a concerted effort among Basenji breeders to only breed dogs who have tested clear (or their descendents), hemolytic anemia has almost been eradicated.  A few carriers do still remain in the Basenji gene pool.  The HA gene is simple recessive.  Currently, a cheek swab DNA test is available to identify dog's status (clear, carrier, or affected).

HA afflicted dogs will exhibit pale gums & mucous membranes, fainting, shortness of breath, lack of energy, and light stools which may appear golden in color.

 

Hernias:

Umbilical hernias appear as a protruding belly button, and are very common in Basenjis.  These hernias are rarely problematic.  Often, while spaying or neutering, the veterinarian will repair the hernia.  Large, open hernias, however, can be problematic if part of the dog's intestine falls down into the hernia.  An intact (not spayed or neutered) Basenji who has had his/her hernia repaired is still eligible to compete in AKC conformation events.

Inguinal hernias (near the groin) are less common in Basenjis, and usually require surgical repair.  A dog with a repaired inguinal hernia is not eligible to participate in AKC conformation events.

 

Hip Dysplasia:

Hip Dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint is not developed properly.  Contrary to common belief, hip dysplasia does not only occur in large breed dogs.  Approximately 3-3.5% of Basenji x-rays submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) are dysplastic.

It is believed that hip dysplasia is polygenic (multiple genes necessary to bring forth its' expression).

All breeding stock should be x-rayed for hip dysplasia.  This x-ray is generally taken and submitted to the OFA after the dog's second birthday.  While an OFA rating of "Fair" is not dysplastic, it is preferred that dogs receiving a "Good" or "Excellent" rating are bred.

Signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia may vary.  Severity of lameness and pain may be mild, moderate, or severe, and is more evident after exercise.  A "bunny-hopping" gait is sometimes noted.

 

Hypothyroidism:

Basenjis tend to have a rather common incidence of hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis.  Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:  aggressive behavior, dry, brittle coat, lack of energy, and weight gain. It is recommended that owners routinely have their Basenji's blood tested with a complete thyroid panel (not simply a T3 & T4) whether or not their dogs appear symptomatic.  Any veterinarian should be able to perform venipuncture to obtain the blood specimen.  However, only a few laboratories in the country are equipped to analyze the blood. Your veterinarian will need to send the blood sample to another facility for processing. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has a list of laboratories it has certified to analyze thyroid panels.

Thyroid supplementation is necessary for hypothyroid dogs.  The medication is relatively inexpensive and is recommended on twice a day dosing.  Routine bloodwork is required to monitor that the dog is receiving an appropriate dose of medication.

 

Malabsorption:

Immunoproliferative Enteropathy and Immunoproliferative Small Intestinal Disease (IPSID) appear to be hereditary problems, but their exact mode of inheritance is not known.  Signs and symptoms include diarrhea, decreased appetite, decreased urination secondary to dehydration, and weight loss. Left untreated, these symptoms can eventually progress to death.

These symptoms can also present themselves in a variety of other disorders such as food allergies, parasitic infestations, and pancreatitis, to name a few.  Dogs exhibiting the above listed symptoms should receive a complete examination by a veterinarian.  Prompt treatment may alleviate a serious problem.

 

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