Fanconi syndrome is a disorder in which the proximal renal tubules of the kidney do not properly reabsorb electrolytes and nutrients back into the body, but instead “spill” them in the urine. Symptoms include excessive drinking (polydipsia), excessive urination (polyuria), and glucose in the urine (glucosuria.) If Fanconi is left untreated, muscle wasting, acidosis, and poor condition will also occur.
Untreated, a Basenji with Fanconi syndrome will generally die from the disorder. If caught early and put on the treatment protocol, affected Basenjis can do well.
The earlier the disease is detected, the less damage is done to tissues and organs. Basenjis with Fanconi syndrome typically “spill” glucose into their urine. It is generally recommended that Basenji owners test their dog’s urine for glucose every month, starting at 28 months. Urine glucose test strips (not blood test strips), such as those used by diabetics, are inexpensive and can be purchased at most pharmacies.
The strip should be placed in the Basenji’s urine stream and then read as specified in the strip instructions. If it is not possible to place the strip in the urine stream, then the owner may need to catch the urine in a clean container. (Some breeders use a pie pan, ladle, or serving spoon.) A positive result (glucose present) suggests the possibility of Fanconi, but is not sufficient for definitive diagnosis. Owners should then go to their vet for further testing, including a blood glucose level.
Strip testing indicates only the presence or absence of glucose in the urine at the time of testing. It does not definitively diagnose Fanconi, and it cannot predict whether or not a dog will later develop Fanconi. A dog that test strips normal now may later develop Fanconi. Additionally, the fact that a dog test strips normal and does not have Fanconi does not mean it cannot produce offspring with Fanconi. Presently, there is no test that indicates whether or not a dog has genes for Fanconi syndrome.
Fanconi typically onsets between four and eight years of age, although onsets as early as three years and as late as ten years have occurred. The mode of inheritance is not clearly understood, but it is generally agreed to be an inherited problem in Basenjis. There presently is no test that indicates whether or not a dog can produce Fanconi.
In 1990 a treatment protocol was developed by Dr. Steve Gonto of Georgia, based on the treatments human Fanconi patients receive. The protocol involves acid neutralization, replacing the lost electrolytes and nutrients with bicarbonate and other supplements in specified doses, to re-establish the body’s acid-base balance and keep electrolytes at appropriate levels. Dr. Gonto was given lifetime membership in the Basenji Club of America in recognition of the importance of his work.
The protocol has been very successful in improving both quality and length of life for Fanconi-affected Basenjis. The disorder can be controlled by the protocol, but it cannot be cured.
Because elevated urine glucose is also found in diabetes, Basenjis with Fanconi are often misdiagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes will show high blood glucose along with urine glucose. In Basenjis, a combination of urine glucose and normal or low blood glucose strongly suggests Fanconi syndrome. Venous blood gas studies can verify an electrolyte imbalance consistent with Fanconi syndrome.
Download the Fanconi Treatment Protocol
Hip dysplasia is a 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. The actual rate of hip dysplasia may well be higher, as dogs that are obviously dysplastic may not be submitted by the veterinarian and owner.
Breeding stock should be x-rayed for hip dysplasia. The OFA has a web site that permits downloads and searches of dogs that have passed with a grade of Fair, Good, or Excellent. In addition, the OFA has recently added the option of having results placed in an open health registry, so that Borderline and Dysplastic ratings can be made public. Good and Excellent are the preferred grades for breeding stock, although Fair is not considered dysplastic.
Dogs can be OFA screened for hip dysplasia at 2 years of age or older. Screening tests, studying and considering the hip scores of progeny, and breeding from tested stock are the recommended methods of controlling hip dysplasia.
OFA status at 24 months of age is generally considered definitive of that dog’s hip status. However, there is a small chance a dog can go dysplastic later in life.
(Immunoproliferative small intestinal disease, malabsorption, etc.)
Malabsorption is a chronic intestinal problem with symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and, if unchecked, potentially death. Its frequency and mode of inheritance are unknown. Age of onset varies widely. It is an autoimmune problem, associated with the proliferation of lymphocytes and plasmocytes in the intestine. The mode of inheritance is not yet clearly understood, but it appears to be a hereditary problem.
There are many, many disorders and problems that cause similar symptoms, including disease, parasite infections, food allergies, and pancreatitis. For that reason, proper diagnosis by a veterinarian is very important. Not all appetite or intestinal problems in Basenjis are hereditary, and many are not serious if treated promptly.
IPSID is one of several different types of inflammatory bowel disease, which result in the dog not being able to utilize and absorb nutrients correctly from food. The human equivalent is Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Disorder.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an eye condition in which the retina begins to deteriorate, causing visual loss and generally leading to blindness. A form of late onset progressive retinal deterioration is known to occur in Basenjis. Onset is typically late to very late, with typical onsets between ages 4 and 10, with some onsets reported between ages 3 and 13.
Basenjis can also have some unusual, but benign, forms of retinal pigmentation that can easily be confused with PRA or retinal degeneration.
It is not currently known if Basenji PRA is one disease or more than one. Mode of inheritance is presently unknown, although most forms of PRA are recessive.
Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) exams by an American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) certified veterinary ophthalmologist include examinations for PRA, as well as the other eye anomalies noted below. CERF exams are recommended annually for breeding stock. Dogs that test normal can receive a certificate for an additional cost.
A CERF exam indicates only the present state of a dog’s eyes. Since PRA onsets later in life, a CERF exam cannot predict whether or not a dog will develop PRA in the future.