Most common health problems in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, plus health care and feeding.


My Complete Health Care Program for your Rhodesian Ridgeback

If you want to AVOID health problems in your Rhodesian Ridgeback, you'll find my health care program very valuable.

It's called "11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy."

Raise your dog the RIGHT way, feed him the RIGHT food, give him the RIGHT vaccinations, avoid unnecessary veterinary expenses, and help him live a longer, happier, and more comfortable life.

If your Ridgeback already HAS a health problem, I'm sorry to hear that. You should immediately begin my health care program, and you may be able to restore his good health – or at least make him much more comfortable. Let me help!

My best-selling dog health book


Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2017


Quick list of Rhodesian Ridgeback health problems

The most common (serious) eye disease is cataracts. Up to 21% of Rhodesian Ridgebacks have thyroid disease.

Joint diseases like hip and elbow dysplasia are less common in Ridgebacks than in many other large breeds. But they certainly occur, causing pain and lameness that may require expensive surgery.

Other concerns in Rhodesian Ridgebacks are heart disease and a serious neurological disease called degenerative myelopathy, which causes paralysis.

Ridgebacks are at higher-than-average risk for an emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat.

The most serious disease in Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies (with about a 5% incidence) is an inherited deformity called dermoid sinus, which is sometimes correctible but more often ends with the puppy being euthanized. Dermoid sinus is usually detected by the breeder before a puppy is sold, so normally it isn't something that pet owners need to worry about.

(See more health problems below.)


Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Rhodesian Ridgeback have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hereditary eye diseases, thyroid disease, and hip and elbow dysplasia, your Rhodesian Ridgeback has less risk of developing those conditions.

Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog. If you're serious about doing everything you can for your Rhodesian Ridgeback, my best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to raise your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!


Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Rhodesian Ridgeback lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.


Pet insurance Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance, and the best pet insurance company I've found.


Real homemade dog food The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Rhodesian Ridgeback
Food is the #1 foundation for good health. The best diet for feeding your dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, fish....these are not just "people foods" and I'll tell you why.


Natural dog foods for your Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Rhodesian Ridgeback
If you can't feed homemade dog food, here are your next-best choices.


Information on booster shots for your Rhodesian Ridgeback. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy really need? Does your adult Rhodesian Ridgeback need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you.


Information on spaying your Rhodesian Ridgeback. Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female dog.


Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.


Information on choosing the best vet for your Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Type of Veterinarian I Recommend
Is your veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Learn about the differences between vets who practice conventional, holistic, and alternative veterinary medicine.


Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review: How I Helped Treat Inflammation and Pain
Does your dog suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis, a skin wound? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to help reduce inflammation and pain.


Complete list of Rhodesian Ridgeback health problems

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club conducted a health survey that included over 1700 Ridgebacks. Here are some of the results. Cancer affects about 10% of the Ridgeback population and 35% of the tumors were mast cell tumors. Other reported cancers were lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.

Heart disease (subaortic stenosis) is becoming a serious concern in Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have the 15th highest rate of hypothyroidism of 140 breeds, with up to 21% of Ridgebacks estimated to have low thyroid levels.

As with all deep-chested breeds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are at higher-than-normal risk for the emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat.

Skin diseases include allergies (which cause itchy skin and can lead to pyoderma) and demodectic mange.

Orthopedic diseases in Rhodesian Ridgebacks include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, and cruciate ligament rupture. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 12,500 Ridgebacks and found 5% dysplastic, which is a good rate for this size dog. Of 6800 elbow X-rays, 6% were dysplastic. Not too bad.

The most worrisome eye disease is cataracts. Also reported are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), entropion, and persistent pupillary membranes.

Neurological and nervous system diseases include epilepsy, wobbler's syndrome, degenerative spinal myelopathy, and cerebellar ataxia.

Other health issues in Ridgebacks include deafness (inherited deafness), megaesophagus, and pancreatitis.

Let's talk about dermoid sinus in Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies.

The most serious disease in Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies (with about a 5% incidence) is a severe inherited skin deformity called dermoid sinus.

First of all, what it is? A dermoid sinus is a tube-shaped channel that starts on the surface of an affected puppy's skin (usually along the midline of the neck or back) and extends downward toward the spinal canal. It's like an open tract filled with hair, dead skin cells, and sebum (waxy oil). If this channel becomes infected, a painful abscess may form, and if the sinus extends all the way into the spinal canal, infection can cause serious neurological diseases like meningitis, encephalitis, or myelitis.

"Simple" tracts can be surgically removed by an experienced surgeon, but many tracts extend too deeply to be removable. Because of the many complications of this disease, many breeders immediately put puppies with a dermoid sinus to sleep (the estimate is that about half of all puppies with dermoid sinus are euthanized).

There is a theory that folic acid given to breeding bitches (both before and during pregnancy) may help prevent this horrible disease.

Now, speaking of euthanizing puppies....let's talk about "ridgeless" puppies.

It's one thing to euthanize a puppy with a really severe dermoid sinus that can't be removed. But there's another practice that goes on within the Rhodesian Ridgeback community, and that is the practice of euthanizing healthy puppies who are born without the typical ridge of hair along their back.

About 10% of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are born without a ridge. There's nothing else wrong with them. They just didn't inherit the genes for a ridge.

You'd think it would be easy to neuter them so they can't be bred, then place them in wonderful pet homes who want a healthy happy puppy and who don't care about the lack of ridge.

But quite a number of Rhodesian Ridgeback clubs and breeders recommend euthanizing those puppies. Now I don't know what you think about killing perfectly healthy puppies because they don't fit a desired appearance. I certainly know what I think.


To help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.