As with most of the hound group, the Basenji tends to be a very healthy breed of dog provided they are giving regular exercise, routine vet visits and fed a high quality food that meets all nutritional requirements. Breeders of this very unique type of dog have worked to prevent any genetic conditions from becoming highly problematic, but as with any breed there are a few issues that potential owners need to be aware of.
One of the most easily managed conditions that the Basenji may be prone to is becoming somewhat obese when not provided enough exercise and fed poor or incorrect types of food. Generally a moderate to high energy dog the Basenji, when walked, jogged or played with on a routine, fairly intensive basis will stay trim and in good weight range. Dogs that are encouraged to become couch potatoes or those that are kept in small spaces such as apartments may be more prone to weight gain. Avoid feeding the Basenji human foods or excessive amounts of treats. With weight gain comes increasing chances of joint and muscle problems as well as diabetes and other digestive type problems. Routine walking, playing and running is a simple way to prevent this from becoming an issue.
Occasionally a Basenji may also have mild to severe allergic reactions that cause skin problems. For most Basenjis this is caused by a reaction to flea bites, more specifically flea saliva. The Basenji is one of many breeds of dogs that can have this flea allergy sensitivity, and it is really fairly easy to treat with a routine flea treatment of the dog's living environment as well as the dog his or herself. Monthly flea medications as well as vacuuming of the home and routine treatment of the yard is all that is required to curb the infestation and eliminate any possible issues with the flea allergy.
Hot spots are the irritated patches of skin that occur due to a huge build up of a naturally occurring bacteria on the skin's surface. This bacteria causes the hot spots, more correctly known as pyotraumatic dermatitis which can actually spread to other areas of the body. Often scratching from flea allergies and other skin irritations can contribute to the development of hot spots. Treatment includes clipping the hair around the area and washing with mild antiseptics to help manage the infection. The dog should also be restricted from licking, chewing or scratching at the area but nothing should be used that closes off air circulation to the skin. Creams and lotions should be avoided as they can create the humid, moist and oxygen free environment in which the bacteria actually thrives. In severe cases corticosteroids can be used to manage the irritation for the dog and allow the skin to heal. Regular flea treatment and early treatment of hot spots in the future will be essential in preventing or minimizing future problems.
Progressive retinal atrophy or PRA is one of the most common causes of vision loss in all breeds of dogs. Basenjis are know to have the genetic factors that cause PRA, which results in decreasing vision until full blindness. Although most commonly seen in adult dogs, PRA can begin to occur even in juvenile dogs. Although the vision loss varies by dogs, it is not painful and dogs can live happy lives with decreasing vision. As there is no treatment for PRA it is essential for prospective owners to ask breeders about the diagnosis of PRA within the breeding lines.
One disease that is more common in Basenjis than other hounds or similar sized dogs is Fanconi's Syndrome. Researchers estimate that up to ten percent of the total breeding population of Basenjis have Fanconi's Syndrome or will develop the disease. In the Basenji breed it is typically a later onset disease, seen typically after the dog is three years of age and older. This means that many Basenji dogs may have produced one or more litters of puppies before the genetic condition is known unless the dogs have been tested prior to breeding.
The condition occurs when the proximal renal tubules of the kidney do not do their job but actually spill or fail to absorb nutrients and electrolytes back into the blood. This causes these nutrients and electrolytes to be eliminated from the body in the urine, resulting in gradual muscle wasting and gradual overall decrease in health will occur. If not treated early the muscle and tissue damage is irreversible and will lead to death.
Early diagnosis includes having the Basenji's urine tested for the presence of glucose. Typical symptoms of the disease are similar to that of diabetes including excessive drinking and frequent, small qualities of urine being produced. Owners can use human urine glucose test strips on a monthly basis after the dog is three years of age to detect the presence of glucose in the urine at abnormal levels. A vet can then further complete tests to determine if the condition is due to diabetes or if it is in fact Fanconi's Syndrome. While not curable, there are different drug and diet protocols that can be use to manage Fanconi's Syndrome and allow the dog to live a normal, healthy life. Any Basenji with Fanconi's Syndrome should be spayed or neutered and all siblings of the dog also removed from breeding programs.
Another relatively easily misdiagnosed condition in the Basenji is Immunoproliferative Small Intestinal Disease or more simply known as IPSID. This is a typically slow moving disease on its own that causes weight loss, chronic diarrhea and overall poor health, but will eventually cause fatal complications in the liver, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system and the skin or other organs. IPSID is generally considered to be an inherited disease in the Basenji breed however any type of stress including mental of physical stress, can also trigger the disease. Cancer and other metabolic types of disorders are often found in Basenji dogs diagnosed with IPSID.
Early diagnosis and treatment to reduce stress and increase absorption of nutrients on the small intestine is often very effective. Antibiotics and switching to a raw food or holistic type of homemade food often manages the condition without any need for additional drug therapy. As there is a risk of other animals in the house developing IPSID, it is essential to carefully follow all recommended treatments and isolation of the dog by your vet.