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Skeletal Structure of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback Skeletal Structure

After the usual diseases that form part of the routine annual innoculations ( Leptospirosis, Rabies, Parvovirus, Kennel Cough, Distemper, Hepatitis, Coronavirus, Worm control and Parainfluenza) the following are the most common health issues that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is prone to:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common condition found in purebred dogs. When a dog has hip dysplasia its hind leg has an incorrectly formed hip joint. With use it becomes more loose. This condition can only be confirmed with an x-ray but certain symptoms may indicate a problem.

- hops instead of running smoothly
- uses hind legs in unison
- has trouble getting getting up
- sits with both legs together on one side of its body

A dog can adapt to life with a bad hip but usually arthritis develops and many dogs become crippled. Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease and is only confirmed when the dog is between 18 months and 2 years. Following a special diet can help but the usual treatment is the removal of the pectineus muscle and the head of the femur. The pelvis then has to be reconstructed and the hip replaced with an artificial one. The degrees of hip dysplasia depends on the depth of the socket and the roundness of the femur head. Surgical hip replacements are not only costly but very painful for the dog - It is far better to obtain your puppy from a reputable breeder whose animals have been screened and are totally free of this dreadful condition!

When comparing dogs born 1980 and earlier with those born in 1991 and later, the frequency of hip dysplasia in Rhodesian Ridgebacks has decreased considerably, so the stringent control measures in place have shown an improvement.

Rhodesian Ridgeback (RR) puppies cannot be registered unless both parent dogs are registered with KUSA and certified Hip Dysplasia-free (i.e. HD00 or the more recent grading, A1, A2 & B1). This has been LAW for RRs since January 1974 and observance thereof has resulted in the virtual eradication of congenital hip-dysplasia amongst registered Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a hereditory, degenerative joint disease of the elbows which is very similar to hip dysplasia. The condition causes lameness and oestearthritis if not treated with surgery.

The same statement applies to this condition as above - It is far better to obtain your puppy from a reputable breeder whose animals have been screened and are totally free of this dreadful condition!

Currently, for registration, it is not compulsory to have Elbow-Dysplasia-free (ED00) certificates for both parent dogs, but considering that a dog carries 75% of its weight on the front legs and a RR is a medium to large, heavy breed, some Rhodesian Ridgeback breeders have voluntarily been x-raying elbows simultaneously with hips and submitting the plates to the panel of scrutinisers for grading before using their dogs for breeding.

Dermoid Sinus

This is an incomplete separation of the central nervous sytem from the layer that will become the skin (ectoderm). This occurs in the embryo state and a microscopic tubule forms so that the spinal cord is open to the outside. This is detected at birth by raising the skin of the neck along the middle and running your fingers down both sides of the fold. The tiny thread can be felt attaching the skin to the spinal column. This may also occur in the midline at the base of the tail. It becomes infected at a later stage and has to be surgically removed. Vets hate performing this operation because they have to go right down into the spinal column to get it all out and this is very risky.

Dermoid sinuses are an inherited disorder and although it occurs in other breeds the incidence in Rhodesian Ridgebacks is the greatest. A breeding bitches diet should be high in folic acid as this reduces the severity of the condition and the number of dermoid pups produced.

Bloat or Torsion

This is a very serious condition which can be fatal. It is the abnormal positioning of the stomach caused by the stomach twisting about its axis. The stomach becomes filled with gas, food, liquid or a combination thereof, and becomes enlarged. When the dog plays the stomach swings itself around the point where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm, causing a twist.

Treatment consists of draining the stomach through a tube and surgery to relieve the torsion and gain circulation back to the small intestine and stomach. The stomach can then be "fastened" into place to help prevent this from occuring again. Prevention is better than cure in this instance and you can prevent this from happening by feeding your dog smaller meals more often thoughout the day (stay away from one big meal a day) and wet the dry kibble with water. Keep the dog quiet for about two hours after a meal and restrict its access to water straight after eating.


This is a hormonal condition caused by a deficiency of the thyroid hormone which usually occurs when the thyroid gland is destroyed. This could be because of a congenital condition, an inflamed thyroid or cancer. Blood tests are done to ascertain the level of the hormone present. Symptoms of hypothyroidsm usually show between four to ten years and the dog becomes lethargic; both mentally and physically; gains weight without an increased appetite, has a dull coat, loses hair, has a dry skin with dark pigmentation. Treatment of this condition is usually with thyroid tablets where a remarkable improvement in all above areas is seen.

Eye Problems

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are susceptable to cataracts and entropion.

Cataracts, where the lens becomes cloudy, usually occur at an early age and are inherited.
Operations can restore vision to almost normal.

Entropion is a congenital condition where the eye lid rolls inward causing the lashes and hairs to rub the cornea. This can also be corrected with surgery.

Neospora Caninum

The symptoms usually manifest in puppies and dogs under a year of age but not all littermates are affected. Most severe infections are in young pups, which typically develop an ascending paralysis of the limbs, particularly the hindlimbs. The paralysis is often progressive and results in rigid contracture of the muscles of affected limbs. In some dogs, only neural signs are seen. The syndrome of polyradiculoneuromyositis appears typical of neosporosis. Ulcerative dermatitis, hepatitis, pneumonia, and encephalitis may also occur. Toxoplasmosis can create a similar picture and that makes sense since the organisms responsible are very much alike.

There are two possibilies by which Neospora Caninum can be transmitted - the transmission from the mother to the fetus is the most likely way. Neospora caninum can be transmitted repeatedly through successive litters and litters of their progeny. This should be considered when planning the breeding of Neospora-infected bitches. The second way is very rare and goes via food, i.e. if a dog eats infected, raw beef. Therefore, feeding the BARF diet is not recommend unless raw beef is excluded from the menu for the future.

There is no vaccine to combat neosporosis. No drugs are known to prevent transplacental transmission. Breeders should consider testing their bitches for Neospora Caninum before using them in a breeding program. This can be done at your vet by drawing blood and sending it to Onderstepoort.

http://www.rhodesianridgebacksa.org/breedstandard.htm for more information on the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed standard
"If your dog is fat,
you aren't getting enough exercise ."

- Unknown -

" To err is human,
To forgive, canine"

- Anonymous -