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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Basenjis Breed-FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:09 GMT
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 20 May 2002
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
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without express or implied warranty.
Ch Karosel's Voyuz Ti BB-Gunn, JC, photo by T. Shadbolt
Contact: Troy J. Shadbolt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Update: April 22, 2002
This FAQ originally compiled by Elizabeth Adams, Ann Potter, Troy
Shadbolt, and Fred Sienko. Major revision input from Lisa Auerbach,
Rosemary Brown, and Karla Schreiber. This FAQ may not be redistributed
Thanks to Cindy Tittle Moore, keeper of FAQs.
* What do they look like?
* Why don't they bark?
* What do/did they do?
* What are they like?
* Basenjis don't shed, do they?
* How much grooming do they need?
* Are Basenjis hyper?
* Are Basenjis destructive? Do they have a tendency to chew things?
* I'm interested in coursing (obedience/showing). How do I find the
right Basenjis for me?
* Do they make good guard/watch dogs?
* How are they with children?
* Do Basenjis like to swim?
* What colors are there?
* So what's the deal with these recent imports from Africa? Are they
* Do they jump fences? What kind of escape artists are they?
* Since they don't bark, I don't have to worry about neighbors
complaining about noise, right?
* Will a male or female Basenji make a better pet?
* Where should I get my dog?
* How do I choose a puppy?
* What health problems are Basenjis prone to?
* Is this FAQ applicable for the whole world?
* What organizations recognize Basenjis?
The Basenji is a hunter but it is neither a classic sight or scent
hound. The Basenji, a hound of central Africa, is one of the oldest
breeds still in existence. Dogs of the Basenji type are found in
ancient Egyptian art. The modern history of the breed traces to the
early twentieth century, when specimens found in Zaire (then the
Belgian Congo) were imported to England and later to North America.
What people know about the Basenji, if they know anything, is that it
does not bark. The Basenji is not mute, however. Basenjis make some
"normal" dog sounds like whining and growling. Any Basenji owner will
rhapsodize over that special Basenji noise, the yodel. The yodel is
often described as being a chortling sound. Basenjis usually only make
this noise when they are happy and it can range from a soft meow to an
air-raid siren quality noise.
What do they look like?
Characteristics: The Basenji should not bark, but is not mute. The
wrinkled forehead and the swift, tireless gait are typical of the
General Appearance: The Basenji is a small, lightly built, short
backed dog, giving the impression of being high on the leg compared to
Head and Skull: The skull is flat, well chiseled and of medium width.
The muzzle shouldn't be coarse or snipey. Wrinkles should appear on
the forehead and cheeks.
Nose and Eyes: The nose should be black. The eyes should be almond
shaped and dark brown in color.
Ears: Small, pointed and erect, of fine texture, set well forward and
on top of head.
Neck, Forequarters, Hindquarters, and Body: The neck is of good
length, well crested. The body should be short and the back level. The
ribs well sprung, with plenty of heart room...ending in a definite
waist. The chest should be deep and of medium width. The legs straight
with clean fine bone, long forearm, and well-defined sinews.
Hindquarters should be strong and muscular, with hocks well let down,
with long second thighs.
Feet: Should be small, narrow and compact, with well-arched toes.
Tail: Should be set on top and curled tightly over to either side. The
Basenji has the classic ring-tail; some basenjis have as many as two
Coat and color: The coat should be short and silky with pliant skin.
There are four standard colors for Basenjis--chestnut red, black,
black and tan, and brindle. All colors must have white feet, chest,
and tail tip. White legs, white blaze, and white collar optional.
Size: Females (ideal) 16" at the shoulder 22lbs: Males 17" at the
Why don't they bark?
There are two theories. One details a physiological difference between
Basenjis and other dogs. Another explanation is that Basenjis were
domesticated prior to humans thinking that barking was a desirable
trait in dogs. Basenjis (and wolves) are capable of barking, but they
do not. The real answer to this question, though, is that we simply do
not know why they don't bark.
As to the sounds a Basenji makes (similar to the Nordic breeds) the
larynx of a Basenji (on dissection) is not located in the same place
as it is for other breeds, which causes the sounds made to be
different. Yes, they do growl--but it doesn't sound like another dog's
growl, yes they can bark-- but they usually bark once rather than
repeatedly. Also, the bark doesn't sound like another dog's bark--the
scream is god-awful; rather like a child/lion cross screaming. And
yes, some Basenjis are so noisy as to have been de-barked!"
What do/did they do?
In Africa, Basenjis were and are used as all-around hunters; they are
used to flush small animals and birds into the waiting nets of the
Pygmy hunters; as well as ridding the village of the large (and
annoying) river rats which come to visit from nearby rivers.
A Basenji is neither a classic sighthound nor a scenthound, basenjis
can participate in lure coursing. Sponsored by two organizations, ASFA
(The American Sighthound Field Association) and the AKC (The American
Kennel Club), lure coursing is a sighthound trial in which dogs can
win a variety of titles from AKC's basic JC (junior courser) to ASFA's
LCM (lure courser of merit).
Lure coursing is a field test in which the hound chases a lure, or
white plastic garbage bag, meant to be a rabbit, attached to a
elaborate pulley system. The dogs are evaluated in the following
categories by a panel of judges: enthusiasm; follow; speed; agility
Some hunters find Basenjis excellent field dogs, using both their
sight and scent.
Basenjis can participate in conformation, obedience, tracking,
coursing and agility.
What are they like?
Basenjis are mischievous. They love to play. They are very
intelligent. Your Basenji will know all the commands you teach
him/her. But he/she will usually think before obeying you. Basenjis
tend to be dominant dogs. It is necessary for Basenji owners to
understand dominance and dog behaviors if they want to get along with
their dog. If you are ready for a winsome and challenging companion,
please consider the Basenji.
Basenjis don't shed, do they?
Yes they do. Basenjis keep themselves very clean with their own
grooming methods. But most dogs shed and Basenjis are no exception.
Their coats are so short, though, with some vacuuming, you'll hardly
How much grooming do they need?
Generally you won't notice much dog odor from Basenjis. Baths are
needed only infrequently (every few months). Basenjis do tend to have
sensitive skin. Be careful when using harsher flea shampoos. Rub a
little on the dog's belly beforehand. If the area appears red or raw,
don't use that shampoo. For showing, many believe in little to no
grooming for a Basenji. Most breeders will trim the dog's tail for the
show ring. Some Basenjis have bushy tails which hide the curl in to
tail. Some suggest cutting off the very profuse whiskers that many
dogs have. Talk to your breeder and see what he or she recommends.
Are Basenjis hyper?
Basenjis are hunters. They require a fairly high amount of activity to
keep them out of trouble. An adult may need to run full out for an
hour to be happy, while some may require nothing more than a nice
But this is a deceptive question. Most Basenjis are active -- but do
not "bounce" like other active dogs and when most folks meet them,
they appear quite calm.
Are Basenjis destructive? Do they have a tendency to chew things?
Basenjis like to chew; in fact, they like to chew on everything and
anything-- shoes, socks, newspaper, chairs, sofas, rocks, metal
fences, mini-blinds, trees, and especially you. Puppy proofing is very
important, as is keeping things out of their reach. So is exercise! A
tired Basenji won't chew. Two good recipes for "No-Chew" are:
1 Spray Bottle (3 cup size)
Filled 5/6 full with Rubbing Alcohol
2 tbs Alum Powder (pickling powder)
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Top off with liquid lemon extract.
1 Spray Bottle
Fill half-full with Rubbing Alcohol
Fill rest with Apple Cider Vinegar
It is also a very good idea to put a light layer of mentholated jelly
(like Vicks Vapor Rub) on any surface that you cannot remove from chew
level such as: electrical cords, door stops, the handles on your
recliners, remote control devices. I have used Wal-Mart's generic
version of Vapor Rub, and have had luck; but if your dog really likes
the taste; try Mentholatum, it has a more pungent kick. If your
basenji is particularly "chew" oriented, you may wish to try a product
available from Veterinarians called "CHEW GUARD" by Summit Hill Labs;
this is a vegetable-based product with some antiseptic qualities. Very
few basenjis (or people for that matter) can stand the smell of it.
Warning! This is not an inexpensive product!
Most Basenji breeders advocate crating your Basenji to keep him/her
out of trouble. They know what they are talking about. An exercised
and crated Basenji will save you replacing many things (and no, we
can't be more specific than "things").
I'm interested in coursing (obedience/showing). How do I find the right
Basenjis for me?
Kibushi Brave New World, LCM2, photo by K. Schreiber
Almost any basenji will course to some extent. The natural prey drive
of basenjis is to chase down game with the minimum effort. But this is
not to say that all basenjis will blindly follow a lure for any length
of time. The common term of "Field Cheater" and "Lure Cheater of
Merit" are quite often applied to basenjis that have figured out the
entire game. Coursing isn't something you can breed for; the pups must
be evaluated for coursing ability and trained from an early age to
maximize their potential. Contact ASFA or AKC to get a schedule of
local coursing events. Watch the basenjis run and talk with the people
Obedience is not something most basenjis excel at. In their native
land, the basenji must be intelligent enough to survive hazards, and
cunning enough to fend for themselves. This is not a breed bred to
follow blindly. As many people have heard, a book published in recent
years listed the basenji second only to the Afghan as least trainable.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules, and with the new
positive training methods of today more basenjis are excelling in
obedience. A basenji was the first hound to receive the new AKC
Utility Dog Excellent title, due to the devotion of the owner-trainer
and the particularly willing personality of the basenji. Most breeders
are not well versed in obedience, so your best bet is to talk to
people who have done obedience with basenjis, and maybe they can help
you evaluate a puppy for obedience work.
Conformation, also known as the Dog Show game. For people interested
in getting their feet wet in dog shows, the basenji is an ideal
choice. Being a short coated breed; there isn't much in the way of
grooming to learn. Also, the basenji ring is still a place where a
novice-owner-handler can finish a dog's Championship. A spectacular
basenji will finish quickly, a nice basenji will finish a little
later. Many basenjis complete their AKC or CKC championships before
reaching a year of age, but there is nothing wrong with the
owner-handler that finishes their very first dog between 2 and 3 years
old. There are many styles of basenjis and just as many judges that
like them. Talk to the breeder if they think a dog has "what it takes"
and you like the dog- go for it. Few things are as addictive as dog
Do they make good guard/watch dogs?
It depends on what you are after. If you want a large intimidating
dog, look elsewhere. If you want a dog that will protect its den and
turf to the bitter end; then a basenji is for you. Many basenji people
will speak of the attempted break-ins that their basenjis have
thwarted. In my own experience, My three basenjis stood, hackles up,
and spewing profanity at the individual who decided to come in through
my second story window. Basenjis are not a visual deterrent; they are
a physical one.
How are they with children?
Basenjis, in general, tend to tolerate children well, if not being
overly enthused by their presence. As is often the case, early
socialization with children will make a basenji more tolerant of
children. Once basenji puppy and human puppy decide they like each
other, they will spend many hours tiring each other out!
Do Basenjis like to swim?
In a word, no. Basenjis are very finicky about their appearance. They
groom themselves regularly and most Basenjis never acquire that doggy
smell. Part of this concern is their dislike of the water. Basenjis
will avoid water if they can. If you try to walk them in the rain, be
prepared for some accusatory stares, as if the rain is your fault.
There are always exceptions - many people have commented on the
close-african descent basenjis tending to enjoy a soothing cool-off
during the hottest part of the day.
What colors are there?
Like the American standard says, there are four accepted Basenji
colors-- black, red, brindle, and tri (black and tan). All four colors
have white feet, tail tip and chest. Most Basenjis have more white
than that. There were other reported colors before the recent African
imports--creams, blue and whites (tri marked dogs with cream instead
of tan), saddle marked tris (like beagles) and tricolors without some
of the standard tan markings (often called "Fula" tris). These colors
have been bred away from and don't usually show up in today's U.S.
breeding stock. With the addition of the African Imports of 1987 and
1988, the tiger-striped brindle color (in reality, a pattern) was
added to the AKC standard as an accepted color. While brindle had been
seen and actually brought into England in 1959, the color was frowned
upon, and lost to the Western world until now. As with the original
basenji imports of the 1930's, the unusual colors have returned, and
are again being bred away from due to the preference of breeders. The
only "new" variation that appeared with the new African imports is the
brindle-pointed tricolor; this is a classic tricolor with black
stripes in the fields of tan.
Ch Bushbabies' Avatar of Voyuz, photo by Cook PhoDOGraphy
As it is with many things, the color of basenjis is mostly due to the
preference and whim of the breeders. The most common color for
basenjis is red and white; and most you will see are, in fact, red and
white. Blacks and Tricolors tend to be seen less frequently; but they
too can be found if that is what you are looking for. The current
"fad" color is brindle, with more and more being bred shown, and sold.
There should be no difference in purchase price based on color. People
that charge more just because of the coat color are doing so to make a
quick buck and should be avoided.
There are many dogs whose coat color varies from the four recognized
colors; but that should not sway you from a decision if you are
looking for a companion to love. The coat color of a basenji has no
effect on its ability to wriggle its way under the bed covers; or beg
for food at the kitchen table. Let your own preference be your guide.
All Basenjis should have dark brown eyes and deep liver to black
pigment. A basenji with lighter-colored eyes (such as yellow or gold)
would have difficulty seeing in the bright equatorial sun of Zaire and
would suffer sunburns from pale pigment.
So what's the deal with these recent imports from Africa? Are they real
Yes, they are real Basenjis! Dedicated basenji breeders went to Africa
in 1987 and 1988. The dogs they brought back were decidedly Basenjis!
Many breeders are excited about these recent imports. There is little
or no difference between the recent imports and the stock imported in
the 1930's and 1940's except that the recent imports have retained
more feral qualities that allow them to survive in Africa and tend to
have more tractable personalities than the earlier imports. Also, the
newer imports came from within 40 miles of the original dogs--given
the nomadic character of the peoples of the area, the genetic
background is the same. The "new" colors and markings have always been
a part of the breed if you read documentation of people who have spent
time living in and traveling around Africa. Also, note that several
"breeds" around the world appear to be Basenjis with some regional
differences--the New Guinea singing dog, the Telomian of Southeast
Asia, even the Canaan Dog of Israel show similarities. Strip the coat
off of a Shiba Inu--what do you have? The Basenji is truly a pariah
breed with all feral type intact.
Do they jump fences? What kind of escape artists are they?
Don't leave your Basenji alone in a yard. Many Basenjis are
accomplished escape artists. Tree climbing is a specialty, and
six-foot fences are nothing to clear. Perhaps inquire about the number
of Basenjis bitches that were bred by one little African import who
decided to visit each lovely lady in her kennel run in a single day!
Crate your Basenji. Exercise your Basenji when you're around. Leave
your Basenji unattended and you may come home to find no Basenji!
Many people ask about the new "electronic frontier" style fences;
which are transmission wires that set off a control collar worn by the
dog; the simple answer is do not use these with basenjis. Any basenji
worth it's curled tail will simply run through the minor annoyance. In
regards to regular fences, we recommend at least 6 foot tall wood
fences with the runners on the opposite side from the dog area. Now
there are basenjis out there who will simply "pop" right up to the top
of these fences; but most will at least touch once. You might consider
installing an electric "cattle" fence wire along the bottom and top of
the wood fence; just to remind your basenji that they are supposed to
stay off that fence! Most basenjis learn very quickly to honor the
electric fence. And chain-link fencing? Forget it. It's nothing more
than a ladder for basenjis.
Since they don't bark, I don't have to worry about neighbors complaining about
No. Basenjis, especially when left alone can make very loud disturbing
noises. There are many stories of basenji owners coming home to find
police officers or paramedics trying to get into the house, thinking
there was a person dying in the house. Nope, merely an upset basenji
making it's presence known!
Will a male or female Basenji make a better pet?
Both make good pets. Basenji bitches tend to be, well, a little bitchy
to other bitches. Males tend to be aggressive to other males. If you
want more than one, either get them both as pups or mix your sexes.
Females do tend to be dominant as far as other dogs and people are
concerned. Our recommendation for a solo basenji home is a neutered
male. The owner with other dogs (not other Basenji females, though)
might consider a female. Basenji males range in weight from 20 to 30
pounds and females from 15 to 25 pounds. There are, of course,
exceptions to every generalization, and as long as the basenji appears
to be in healthy weight; the actual size isn't important.
Where should I get my dog?
If you do not have young children, please consider getting a rescue
Basenji. There are people involved in breed rescue all over the
country. If you want a puppy, please go to a reputable breeder-either
a member of the Basenji Club of America or a multi-breed club. A
reputable breeder will always sell companions on spay-neuter
contracts; and there will be a written contract. Also contact breeders
about yearlings and/or just finished champions. Puppies are cute but a
lot of work. A good breeder will know a lot more about a dog she or he
has had for a year than an eight-week old pup. Go to shows and ask
around. Please see the rec.pets.dogs FAQs for more information about
how to choose a good breeder.
How do I choose a puppy?
Basenji pups should be friendly. If this is your first basenji, it is
best to steer away from the most dominant or most docile puppy in a
litter. A good breeder can help you pick the right puppy for you.
Many people advocate that you need to meet both parents; but in the
real world; this usually will not happen. Most breeders don't usually
house the sire of the litter in their home. If the sire and dam are
both in the house, you might want to ask about the reasons for the
breeding. The best way to learn about the personality of a puppy is to
watch the puppy interact with its litter mates, its mother, and other
dogs. The emotionally stable puppy will defer to older dogs, but not
cower away- it will also not lunge and attack everything that passes
What health problems are Basenjis prone to?
Before beginning this section; it is important to point out that no
other breed can boast that every major medical problem is currently
being researched. Fanconi, PRA, and Hip Displaysia are all being
researched by major Universities. The Basenji Club of America has
taken the lead by creating The Basenji Health Endowment, a
not-for-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization for funding these
projects. Medical research is not cheap, and every penny helps.
Contributions are tax-deductible in the United States.
Fanconi Syndrome is a disease that affects the processing of sugars
and proteins. Fanconi can be a deadly disease, particularly without
early detection, and is a is a major health concern in Basenjis today.
Fanconi typically appears in Basenjis between the ages of 4-7 years,
but can and does manifest itself in younger and older dogs. Because of
this, many responsible breeders are beginning to think carefully about
breeding dogs (and sometimes bitches) under the age of 4 years.
The classic symptoms of Fanconi are excessive water drinking,
excessive urination, and elevated urine glucose. Often, sugar in the
urine is the first detectable symptom of the disease. The easiest way
to detect Fanconi is with a simple glucose test to check for sugar in
the urine. Test stripes and sticks are available in most drug stores,
in the Diabetic Supplies section. If glucose is found in the urine, a
Basenji is said to be "spilling sugar". Fanconi is characterized by
glucose in the urine, in conjunction with normal blood glucose levels.
A dog who has sugar in its urine as well as elevated blood sugar
levels is likely to be Diabetic, rather than Fanconi afflicted
(Diabetes is relatively rare in Basenjis). This distinction is very
important because treating Fanconi is very different than treating
Diabetes or other canine kidney disorders. If you suspect that your
Basenji has Fanconi, do not place your dog on a "kidney" diet -- which
is usually low in protein. Protein is what a Fanconi-afflicted Basenji
needs! Fanconi afflicted dogs are literally urinating away vital
proteins and amino acids that their bodies require in order to live.
Dr. Steven Gonto of Georgia has developed a protocol [consisting of
dietary supplements, plus blood tests] for Veterinarians that are
treating Fanconi afflicted Basenjis. You can access the protocol at:
www.voyuz.net/fanconi.html. Time and effort are required to maintain a
Fanconi afflicted Basenji on the treatment protocol. Venous blood gas
readings must be re-done every few months, or more frequently in some
cases, to ensure that the Basenji is receiving the proper supplements.
While most of the supplements are not expensive [phosphorous tablets,
calcium tablets, etc.] some Basenjis must take 30 or more pills per
day in order to maintain condition. The treatment protocol has helped
many Fanconi-afflicted Basenjis live normal, or nearly normal
lifespans. However, some Basenjis do not respond well to the protocol
for a variety of reasons. Basenjis still die of Fanconi today --
Fanconi is not a "curable disease." Thankfully, Dr. Gonto's treatment
protocol has successfully maintained many Basenjis who would otherwise
have died from Fanconi Syndrome.
It is wise to ask the breeder of any Basenji puppy you are considering
about the incidence of Fanconi Syndrome in their breeding stock. If
the breeder says that their "line" is clear of Fanconi, tries to
explain how Fanconi is only the fault of one parent, or insists that
Fanconi is caused solely by "environmental" factors (such as food
additives, vaccinations, etc.), consider purchasing a Basenji from a
different breeder. The mode of inheritance of Fanconi Syndrome is not
known, but there is ample evidence that the disease occurs more
frequently in particular lines or "families." The age of a pup's sire
and dam is an important consideration. If the sire and/or dam are
older than the average age of onset for Fanconi, you have at least
established that one (or both) of your prospective pup's parents is
not afflicted! To date, Basenji breeders do not have a predictive test
to tell them which pups will grow up to be afflicted adults. For that
reason, breeders cannot guarantee that one of their Basenjis will
never develop Fanconi. Honest breeders, however, can and will tell you
which dogs in their pedigrees were Fanconi afflicted, Fanconi
producers, or had Fanconi afflicted parents, grandparents or siblings.
You will then be in a better position to evaluate the potential risks
for yourself and your future companion.
IPSID (immunoproliferative systemic intestinal disease) formerly known
as Malabsorption. Similar to Irritable Bowel Disease in humans, IPSID
is best described as a permenant allergic reaction to the food passing
through the bowels, hence the Basenji voids the food prior to
absorbing needed nutrients. IPSID dogs tend to have a life-long case
of the loose stools and poor weight gain. IPSID is believed to have an
inherited component, and in some cases, an environmental trigger. With
careful planning on the part of the owner, and Veterinarian, IPSID
afflicted basenjis can leave decent lives, usually involving minimized
stress, changing of diet often, and use of certain drugs to decrease
histamine reactions (benadryl, prednisone, etc.) IPSID was once very
common in the breed, but thankfully, has become far less common.
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (Hemolytic Anemia)
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency, formerly knowns as Hemoyltic Anemia, was a
major problem in the breed during the 1970's. This genetic defect is a
simple recessive, an affected basenji has two defective genes for the
production of pyruvate kinase, an enzyme required to maintain healthy
red blood cells. The afflicted basenji will have red blood cells with
a shortened lifespan, and the dog will have chronic anemia (low red
blood cell counts) and a very shortened lifespan (the oldest known
afflicted basenji lived to be three years old.) Testing is very
simple, requiring only a cheek swab which can then be checked for
clear (no defective PK genes) carrier (one defective PK gene) or
afflicted (two defective genes). Genesearch offers this test at an
very reasonable price in comparison to other testing facilities.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels in the blood stream) is perceived
to be a major issue basenjis. Low thyroid levels commonly lead to
weight gain, poor skin and coat condition, and lethargy. Uncommon
symptoms include low fertility in females, neuromuscular problems,
changes in vision, cretinsim (dwarf-like qualities in developing
puppies) and myxedema (dry swelling of the skin, slowed speech and
mental awareness, deepened voice, intolerance to cold, fatigue and
weakness, and nonspecific degeneration of the heart). It is unclear as
to the association of the following conditions: male infertility,
clotting disorders, cardiovascular changes, behavioral changes,
Many people and Veterinarians place basenjis on Thyroid based solely
on the simple thyroid tests availble to them (total T4); however, the
most accurate tests for diagnosis are: Free T4 by dialysis (FT4D)
which measures only the T4 in the blood stream which can actually act
upon the metabolism and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) assay which
will be inversly proportional to the FT4D results. TgAA (Thyroglobulin
Autoantibody) confirms if inherited thyroid disease is the cause of
low FT4D/High TSH.
These tests must be performed under controlled laboratory conditions,
and a list of qualified labs supplied from the Orthepedic Foundation
of America. Research into Hypothyroidism performed by by clinical
laboratories and submitted to peer-reviewed publications is ongoing.
The diagnosis of hypothyroidism by non-OFA approved labs, employing
techniques and assumptions that have not been subjected to the rigors
of veterinary peer-review, should be looked upon dubiously.
Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM)
PPM is the artifact of a fine sheet of veins that feed the eye of a
developing puppy. Shortly before the eyes open, a protein is secreted
which dissolves this membrane. If it doesn't completely dissolve,
small artifacts will be left behind. Most PPM strands look like fine
cobwebs but the worst cases can give the eyes an unearthly blue hue.
PPM is prevalent in basenjis, and a good breeder will try to avoid
breeding heavy PPM dogs to other heavy PPM dogs. A basenji with a CERF
rating has been found clear (by the examining optometrist) of
hereditary eye defects such as PPM on the date of the exam.
Coloboma is the common name given to describe a gap or hole in the eye
structure. This gap can occur in the eyelid, iris, lens, choroid (the
fine web of blood vessels which feed the retina) or optic disc (the
area at the rear of the eyeball from which the optic fibers exit to
carry information to the brain). The gap is usually at the bottom of
the eye. Although no specific pattern has been identified there
appears to be a strong hereditary factor to the disorder. The effects
of the condition can be mild or severe and this will depend upon the
extent and location of the gap, or incomplete closure. A lens
coloboma, if large, may also include flaws in the iris and choroid and
slightly increase risk of retinal tearing. In severe cases, the eye
may be reduced in size, this condition is called Microphthalmous.
Coloboma of the iris may sometimes give the appearance of a keyhole in
the pupil. Most veterinary optometrists can detect Coloboma with the
use of a simple split beam apperatus. Along with PPM, Coloboma is why
most responsible breeders have the eyes checked of all puppies before
placing them in new homes. Spaying/neutering of affected puppies is
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA used to be a minor problem in basenjis limited to easy to trace
family lines. Unfortunately, over the past few years PRA has become a
major concern, with many (later found) afflicted basenjis and carriers
being bred. PRA is the slow but continuous damage of the retina. As
scar tissue replaces the retina, vision is lost until such time when
the dog is completely blind. PRA is a simple recessive, and a test is
currently under development. As with Fanconi Syndrome,a breeder that
claims no ties, or doesn't mention PRA is not the breeder for you. PRA
is currently a major research project at Cornell University, the lead
researcher is Dr. Gustavo Aguirre.
The belly button issue: a large percentage of Basenjis have umbilical
hernias, i.e. an "outty" belly button. This is not cause for alarm,
and should only be worried about if it becomes violently red, which is
cause for veterinary surgery. If you are spaying your Basenji bitch,
go ahead and have the hernia repaired. The is no need to risk
additional surgery. Most vets charge little to nothing for the removal
of an umbilical hernia during a spay operation.
Hip Displaysia is when the ball and socket of the hip joint is
malformed. Depending on the severity of the malformation; a dog may be
unable to walk, or may limp often. In severe cases, displastic animals
require full joint replacement, while other can be maintained via
controlled diets and monitored exercise. While Hip Displaysia is not
as profuse in basenjis as it is in say German Shepherds; there is
still an alarmingly higher incidence rate in recent years. All
breeding stock should be over two years of age, and carry a hip rating
from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA). Some people will tell
you that hip displaysia is purely an environmental outcome; but they
are deluding themselves. OFA ratings suitable for breeding are
Excellent, Good, and Fair. Unacceptable are Borderline, Moderate 1-4.
The Canine Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) is currently funding
research in the mode of inheritance of Hip Displaysia in Basenjis. The
lead researcher is Dr. Gary Johnston at the University of Missouri.
You should mention all of these health problems before you buy a
puppy! Most breeders will supply you with ten times more information
than we have offered up; many will give you photocopies of eye
reports, OFA certificates, printout of blood test- enough information
to keep your head reeling for days. This is a breeder that cares about
their dogs. Some breeders will try to "snow" you into thinking that
these tests aren't needed; or the problem isn't in their dogs. Most of
the time, these people have never tested; and cannot know for sure.
See the certificates; it's in your best interest. There is no reason
for anybody to be breeding dogs that have not been tested.
Is this FAQ applicable for the whole world?
This FAQ was originated by four people in the United States; and has
been updated by people in the United States. Since there is easy
travel between the United States and Canada we can safely say that
this FAQ is applicable to North America. Many individuals in other
countries have voiced the opinion that all the medical problems found
in American Basenjis aren't found in their country of origin. To this,
I have only one thing to say. Every Basenji not running wild in Africa
can trace its lineage back to a group of only 13-20 dogs; how can dogs
from the exact same foundation stock not be affected by the same
problems? Ignorance is not bliss.
What organizations recognize Basenjis?
Every breed registry in the civilized world recognizes the Basenji as
a definitive breed. Depending on the country; they may be considered
Hounds, Spitz-type dogs, or Primitive breeds. Most lure coursing
Associations recognize the basenji to run in coursing competition.
The Basenji Club of America, Inc.
Available from the Basenji Club of America Website..
Rescue Contacts (North America)
The Basenji Club of America Rescue Committee
Linda Ehlers, chair email@example.com
Charlie Denslow firstname.lastname@example.org
Janine Peters email@example.com
Basenji Education and Rescue (BEAR)
Basenji Rescue and Transport, Inc.
Contact: Troy J. Shadbolt, firstname.lastname@example.org
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