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Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Start your Rhodesian Ridgeback off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.


Jump down to this list of
Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Problems


Or check out my advice 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... [read more]

numeral 33 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food
You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your Rhodesian Ridgeback are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Ridgeback will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

NomNomNow homemade dog food service Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but don't have the time to make it? I have a solution for you... [read more]

Pet insurance Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet health insurance. The best pet insurance company I've found is... [read more]

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

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Rhodesian Ridgeback be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Rhodesian Ridgeback? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Ridgeback suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

Rhodesian Ridgeback

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. 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, which can kill a dog within hours.

Young Ridgebacks are vulnerable to demodectic mange.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are prone to tearing the cruciate ligament in their rear legs. This can be tricky to repair, the recovery time is long, and the surgery expensive.

The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 12,500 Ridgebacks and found 5% to have hip dysplasia. That's a good rate for this size dog. Of 6800 elbow X-rays, 6% were dysplastic. This could be a bit better.

The most worrisome eye disease in the breed 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 pup's neck or back) and extends downward toward the spinal cord.

Think of an open channel filled with hair, dead skin cells, and waxy sebum oil. If this channel between skin and spinal cord becomes infected, a painful abscess may form and the infection can cause serious neurological diseases like meningitis, encephalitis, or myelitis.

A shallow tract can be surgically removed by an experienced surgeon, but many tracts extend too deep to be removable.

Because of the complications of this disease, many breeders immediately put puppies with a dermoid sinus to sleep. It's estimated that about half of all Ridgeback puppies born with a 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 severe dermoid sinus that can't be removed.

But there's another practice that goes on within the Rhodesian Ridgeback community – a very controversial practice – and that is the decision of some breeders to euthanize 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 homes who want a healthy happy puppy and who don't care about the lack of ridge.

Unfortunately, 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 know what I think.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your dog.

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 in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.