Health Problems in Basenjis


Fanconi syndrome is a late-onset kidney problem that, at the time of discovery of the DNA test, was determined to occur in approximately 7% of all Basenjis. The incidence since then appears to be dropping rapidly. Untreated, the problem is fatal; with treatment, which consists of bicarbonate and other supplements, dogs with the disorder have a nearly normal lifespan.
A DNA test, which looks at multiple markers, has been developed, and is being used extensively. While the test is not infallible, dogs with at least one parent tested "Probable Clear" of Fanconi appear to be very unlikely to develop the disease.

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Hypothyroidism is known to occur in Basenjis. The most common symptoms include weight gain, poor coat, reduced activity level, and irritability. Other symptoms, i.e., weight loss have been described. Hypothyroidism is easily treated with an inexpensive thyroid supplement; the dose may need periodic adjustment, and this should only be done with veterinary supervision. Pet owners may want to have their vet periodically check their dogs, especially if they show any symptoms that suggest hypothyroidism.
Thyroid panels test only for current thyroid status. They cannot predict future changes, and they do not indicate if a dog can produce offspring with hypothyroidism. 

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 Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition in which the hip socket is badly formed, often leading to lameness and arthritis.  It is believed to be polygenic, with multiple genes involved in its expression. Approximately 3—3.5% of Basenji x-rays submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) are dysplastic.
When purchasing a puppy, the parents should have been tested for hip dysplasia, and the x-rays should have been read by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA.)

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Some Basenjis have been reported with patellar luxation — at the time of this writing, approximately 1.5% of those checked have been reported affected by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Patellar luxation can be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

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IPSID stands for Immuno-Proliferative Small Intestinal Disease, but it is a disease of many names. It is also called basenji enteropathy, immunoproliferative lymphoplasmacytic enteritis, basenji diarrheal syndrome, and malabsorption. IPSID is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which results in the dog not being able to utilize and absorb nutrients correctly from food.
A predisposition to IPSID is inherited, but inheritance appears to be only one of the factors involved. A dog genetically predisposed to IPSID and its resultant immunological impairment might present with usual IBD and eventually progress to IPSID. Physical and/or emotional stresses may be aggravating factors.

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Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM) is a condition where the fetal membrane of the eye does not completely reabsorb. It is a minor and normally benign disorder that is extremely common in Basenjis. Based on CERF statistics through 2006, about 77% of all Basenjis have some PPM as puppies, with about 70.5% having the mildest form – a form that is permitted in dogs certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and is generally agreed to have no affect on quality of life or vision. Of the remaining 6.5%, about 1.8% have sheets as puppies, the more severe form that can cause visual blurring.
PPM does not progress, and in fact often puppies with mild PPM have it reabsorb and disappear completely as they age. For this reason PPM can get better, and it does not get worse. Most PPM has no effect on a dog’s life.  PPM severe enough to cause visual problems is normally visible to a non-specialist vet, but PPM that severe is extremely uncommon.

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Basenji retinopathy, or progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an eye condition in which the retina begins to deteriorate later in life, causing night blindness and, if the dog lives long enough, causing deterioration of day vision that can lead to blindness. Onset as diagnosed by specialist eye exam varies, typically between ages 4 and 10, although some cases have been reported between as early as age 3 and as late as 13. Based on Canine Eye Registration Foundation Statistics through 2006, approximately 25% of Basenjis age 8 and older showed signs of retinal changes, although most changes were characterized as PRA suspicious rather than PRA affected. Not all of those dogs have hereditary eye disease, as retinal changes may be acquired or may be due to other disorders. It is not currently known if Basenji PRA is one disease or more than one. Mode of inheritance is presently unknown.
Basenjis can also have some unusual, but benign, forms of retinal pigmentation that can easily be confused with PRA or retinal degeneration. Both false positives and false negatives are common with Basenji PRA.
Most Basenjis diagnosed with retinopathy show little change in behavior until very late in life. Reduced vision in low light tends to occur first, typically in mid to late life for affected dogs. Daytime visual deficits do not tend to occur until late in life for most affected dogs. There are rare exceptions that go blind in mid-life. Blindness before mid-life is extremely rare. This is primarily a disease of older dogs, and one in most cases with very subtle symptoms until very late in life.

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Coloboma is the absence, complete or partial, of a portion of the eye. The mode of inheritance of coloboma is not yet understood. Basenjis with colobomas typically have optic nerve colobomas. Colobomas are not common in Basenjis – about 1.6% of Basenjis have them (2006 CERF statistics.)
A Basenji with a coloboma may or may not have visual deficits, depending on the location and type of coloboma. Colobomas are generally not progressive. Basenjis with colobomas generally lead a normal life.

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Umbilical hernias are very common in Basenjis, with most being minor hernias that do not normally cause problems for the dog.
Umbilical hernias can be repaired at any time; the surgery is often done when a pet is spayed or neutered or during any other procedure requiring anesthesia. Small closed hernias generally do not cause problems; large or open hernias can cause problems if a loop of intestine gets caught in the hernia. Some breeders routinely repair even small closed hernias. Dogs which have had umbilical hernias repaired are still eligible for participation in AKC conformation events.

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