Basenji Health Problems and Raising a Basenji Puppy to be Healthy
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The most common health problems in Basenjis:
Eye diseases are problematic in Basenjis, especially persistent pupillary membranes (which can severely impair vision in this breed), optic nerve coloboma, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and retinal dysplasia.
A severe form of colitis occurs in Basenjis. It's similar to irritable bowel syndrome in people and is referred to by various names, such as IPSID (immuno-proliferative systemic intestinal disease), malabsorption, or enteropathy. They all refer to the same serious condition.
Fanconi is a very serious inherited kidney disease in Basenjis.
Here's how the kidneys work: they filter your dog's blood, reabsorbing good nutrients (glucose, electrolytes, proteins) and channeling them back into the bloodstream to be used by the body, while pulling out bad wastes (urea, creatinine) and voiding them as urine.
In a Basenji with fanconi, a part of the kidney that does this filtering is defective. So valuable nutrients, instead of being reabsorbed, are "spilled" into the urine and flushed out of the body. The loss of these nutrients leads to electrolyte imbalances and eventually kidney failure.
Fanconi is a disease of middle age, typically appearing at 3-8 years old. As with all kidney diseases, you'll see increased drinking and increased urination. Because of the glucose (sugar) being spilled into his urine, the urinary tract becomes attractive to bacteria, so your dog may experience repeated urinary tract infections. Because valuable nutrients are being flushed out of his body, he eventually loses weight and muscle tone. As kidney failure sets in, he loses his appetite and becomes sick and depressed.
Fanconi diagnosis: sugar in the urine is the easiest thing to look for. All Basenji owners should test their dog's urine for glucose each month, starting at age three and continuing at least until age eight. Urine glucose test strips, such as those used by diabetics, are inexpensive and can be purchased at most pharmacies. In a Basenji, if a urine test strip gives a positive result (shows sugar), this suggests fanconi, but doesn't prove it. The next step is a trip to the vet for venous blood gas tests that will verify an electrolyte imbalance consistent with fanconi.
Vets sometimes misdiagnose fanconi as diabetes. But with diabetes, sugar levels in the urine AND sugar levels in the blood will both be high. With fanconi, sugar levels in the urine are high, but sugar levels in the blood are normal. Diabetes is rare in Basenjis; fanconi is NOT.
There's no cure for fanconi, but the progression of kidney disease can be slowed if caught early enough. A new program to manage fanconi has been developed by Basenji experts. When the kidneys flush out electrolytes and nutrients, an unhealthy acidic environment is created in your dog's body. The goal of the new program is to reduce acidity by adding alkaline supplements (sodium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, phosphorus, calcium). These are given daily and venous blood gas readings repeated every few months to monitor your dog's blood chemistry.
Basenjis today still die from fanconi. But many more respond to this new program than the old program of drugs and antibiotics.
Getting back to other health problems in Basenjis.....pyruvate kinase deficiency is a serious form of hemolytic anemia (not enough red blood cells). Fortunately a simple DNA test is available for PK deficiency so you can find out at any time whether your Basenji has the disease, carries the disease, or is completely clear.
Hypothyroidism is common in Basenjis. According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, up to 17% of Basenjis have low thyroid levels.
Orthopedic diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and luxating patella can occur, but are not common (each occurs at less than a 3% rate in Basenjis).
There is an inherited tendency for hernias in some lines of Basenjis.
Can you prevent health problems from happening to YOUR Basenji?
Yes, often you can.
- Some health problems are genetic, which means inherited from parents. Genetic health issues are common in Basenjis today because of unwise breeding practices. My book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, shows you how to find a Basenji puppy who is genetically healthy.
- Other health problems are environmental – caused by the way you raise your dog. My best-selling dog health book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to prevent environmental health problems by raising your Basenji puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways.
Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Basenji puppy or adult dog:
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