Health Problems in Basenjis

The basenji breed unfortunately is plagued with a number of health problems. You, as someone looking for a reputable breeder, need to educate yourself about these problems. Only then can you ask intelligent questions, and make educated decisions.

Having only been owned by basenjis for 8 years, I am still learning. The following is what I have found in my research, and how I understand it. However, information is constantly changing, and I urge you to seek other sources also. Arm yourself with as much info as you can find.

Fanconi Syndrome: a kidney disease that affects the normal processing of sugars and proteins. Most dogs with this disease are diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 7, however it does show up in older and younger dogs. Responsible breeders think very carefully about breeding male basenjis younger than 4, and bitches younger than 3. Years ago, it was fatal, a short time after being diagnosed. However, Dr Steve Gonto has developed a protocol that has done wonders for increasing the life expectancy of Fanconi sufferers. But my research has found that Fanconi is an ugly disease, often heartbreaking, and though the afflicted dogs can be managed, it is expensive, time consuming, and not always successful.

It is not known how Fanconi is inherited, but there is evidence it is found more in some lines than others. But Fanconi has also popped up in pedigrees of dogs with no known Fanconi sufferers in their past. Right now, there is no test to determine if a basenji pup will develop Fanconi. This means that breeders can not guarantee that a puppy will not become afflicted. Reputable breeders will tell you which dogs in their pedigrees have Fanconi, produced Fanconi, have littermates with Fanconi, or have grandparents or parents with Fanconi. Armed with that information, you will be better able to make a decision regarding the puppy you purchase.

IPSID: (immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease) To be honest, I am still researching this disease. I have not been able to find much info, but what I have found says that it is inherited, it is fatal (but dogs can be treated and maintained for quite some time), and that afflicted dogs have chronic diarrhea and anorexia.

Hemolytic Anemia: A type of anemia that cannot be cured, and afflicted pups die early. It is a simple recessive, and we have a test to determine which dogs are clear or carriers. Reputable breeders will know their dogs' HA status before breeding. Because of the test, there is absolutely no reason for basenjis with HA to be born.

Hypothyroidism: This seems to be quite common in basenjis, and very easily and inexpensively treated.

Persistent Pupillary Membrane: (PPM) After a puppy's eyes open, the pupillary membrane is dissolved. Sometimes it doesn't dissolve completely, leaving behind strands, known as PPM. If a dog has a few strands, their sight is not affected. But it seems just a few years ago, there were litters born who were blind because of so much PPM. Fortunately, that degree of PPM is very rare in well bred litters. It is a condition common in basenjis, and good breeders are very careful when breeding to lesson the chances of heavy PPM in their litter's eyes.

Coloboma: this is a hole in some part of the eye's structure. It seems to be hereditary. The severity of the effects is determined by what part of the eye is affected. Dogs with this condition should not be bred.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: PRA is a major concern in basenjis, and from what I've read, seems to be increasing. The retina is slowly and continually damaged, and results in blindness. It is very frustrating, as it's onset is later, usually after a dog has been used for breeding. It also seems to have a hereditary factor. Like Fanconi, it is very important to know exactly what is in a dog's pedigree, so as to decrease the chances of this disease developing in your pup as much as possible. But like Fanconi, there can be no guarantee.

Umbilical Hernia: Many basenjis have umbilical hernias, and though not cause for alarm, are easily fixed when the dog is spayed or neutered. Ideally breeders would love to not have to deal with this, but our gene pool is so small, we cannot afford to eliminate dogs from the gene pool who have umbilical hernias.

Hip Dysplasia: In this disease, the ball and socket of the hip joint are not formed correctly. Many people are surprised to learn that some basenjis, despite their small size, develop this disease. But I personally know of dogs who have had to have their hips replaced. Not only a painful condition, but an expensive surgery to correct. As in other breeds, it has a hereditary factor, so it is important for breeders to test all their breeding stock, and only breed those animals clear of the disease.

Dog's hip test results are only published on the OFA website if the dog is over 2 years old. They can be evaluated at a younger age, 'prelimmed' but the results are not posted. The owner is sent a copy of the report.

 Hip test results can be verified at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website:
All you need is part of the basenji's registered name to verify results at that site.
If you have trouble with the site, contact me, and I'll be happy to help:

When looking for a basenji, be sure to ask the breeder about these health problems. Most will supply you with much more information than I have offered here. Be sure to ask to see written documentation of tests done. Unfortunately, as with anything in life, there are those who are not honest. If a breeders says these tests are unnecessary, or there are no problems in their lines, be very leery. If health tests aren't being performed, it can't be known what is there. In my opinion, there is no reason for dogs to be bred that have not been tested. It is up to you to determine how important the health tests are, a decision you can only make wisely if you educate yourself.

The above information was collected from various sources: books, magazine articles, web sites, and personal conversations. Please, if there is something that you know to be incorrect, let me know. I do not claim to have a medical background, and will always and forever be willing to learn new things, and accept correction. My only goal is to help those researching the breed to find the information they need to make educated decisions when choosing a breeder and buying a basenji.

Please feel free to contact me:
Vickie Perrine
Rugosa Basenjis Home Page (take time to visit my dogs, see how we live, visit the quilt gallery, and maybe tour the garden too!)

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