Are there any medical problems Rhodesian Ridgebacks are susceptible to?

Dermoid Sinus

Dermoid Sinus (“skin hole”) is a small hole on the back of the puppy’s neck (usually on the neck, but may appear anywhere on the spine) that can travel all the way to the spinal cord. This is a problem as dirt can get in the hole and cause an infection of the spinal cord, which is fatal. Shallower holes also occur, that can also get infected. The sinus (hole) does not extend after birth, but may cause a lump if infection occurs.

Dermoid Sinus occurs in around 10% of Ridgeback puppies. If a puppy is found with a dermoid sinus (as assessed by a vet at around 7 weeks of age), surgery is a viable solution. The surgery can happen at 10 weeks of age, with two weeks recovery before the puppy can be collected by its new owners.

Dermoid Sinus is a congenital defect (an inherited medical condition that occurs at or before birth), and can be present in any Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. It’s not possible to control by breeding (that it, it cannot be “bred-out”). If several puppies in a litter suffer from Dermoid Sinus, we’d not repeat that mating, however.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. This tends to show up in older dogs, and in severe cases results in them not being able to walk. Somewhat hereditary, his dysplasia is combated by doing “hip scoring” of all breeding stock dogs, where x-rays are taken and assessed against an ideal standard. The dog must be over 12 months of age to be hip and elbow scored.

The score (lower is better) is an indication of how likely that dog is to suffer from hip dysplasia, and thus how likely they will pass on that trait to his puppies.

Hip or elbow dysplasia can be caused by lifestyle factors, even if parents, grandparents have excellent hips and elbows. Lifestyle causes includes:

  • Over-exercise under 15 months
  • Overweight, especially when growing, as there’s not enough muscle to support the growing joints
  • Bad feeding, for example, low quality dried food or mostly-meat diet (instead of 50-50 meat and bone)
  • Occasionally, a bad accident, such as falling down stairs