Our Health Advisor – David Simpson

For those who might not know David, here is a bit about his background, in his own words.

My experience with dogs started at just 4 years old when my family had our first dog Brandy who was a liver and white Springer Spaniel.  When we got a little older my sister and I pestered my parents repeatedly for another dog of our own and after much research we decided on a Rhodesian Ridgeback bitch called Tara. Tara joined our family in 1986 when I was 11 years old and I have been blessed to have Ridgebacks as part of our family ever since. Then when I left home, I welcomed Rene as my first Ridgeback of my own (our affix Renescent is in his honour) and 18 months later we were joined by our first Dane, Napoleon.

One particular gem of wisdom I always try to remember was when Olive Davies of Oldmanor Great Danes said to me “One must always remember that one is merely a custodian of the Breed and one should always aim to leave it in a better condition than in which one found it”. This is of course important in Breed type but even more so with health and temperament as first they are part of our family as loving companions


We try to keep our members informed of any health updates we feel they might find useful. These include articles in our newsletters and any seminars that will inform and keep us up to date with any developments. Past club newsletters have included articles on Dermoid Sinus, Hereditary Skeletal Conditions of RR’s (Hip Dysplasia), False or Pseudo Pregnancy in the Bitch, OCD & Vitamin C its role in Stress Management, Bone Metabolization, Allergies, Epilepsy and Thyroidism.

Dermoid Sinus

The Dermoid Sinus is a genetic skin related disorder and is present from birth in the puppies DNA. The Dermoid Sinus is a tube of skin that joins the outer surface of the skin (not always present) to the spinal cord (not always that deep, 4 levels of depth). It may or may not contain hair follicles or be lined with hair. As the hair sheds on the outer coat of the pup, so does the hair inside this tube. The body’s natural response to dead material is to flush it out and thus the serum builds up and expels the debris. Not all of the dermoid sinuses are true tubes. Some are not hollow and the serum and debris cannot drain. In these cases an abscess forms and the resulting swelling that accompanies can rupture the skin. This results in a very painful situation for the pup. At its worst it is life threatening. The Sinus is generally found on the midline of the neck, back, and tail along the spinal column. Although rarely found in the ridge there have been several cases noted. The Sinus is a congenital condition, meaning that it is present at birth. The affected pups can be operated on to remove the Sinus which should be performed before sending them to their new homes. The affected pups are pet only and should not be considered for breeding. It is recommended that two experienced breeders examine any litter before sale.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are conditions which can occur in any breed, especially the larger breeds. It is thought to be partly hereditary but many other factors need to be considered. Hip and Elbow scoring of parents and ancestors is essential. How puppies are reared may have an impact on the state of their hips and elbows as an adult. Puppies should not be allowed too much free play, especially with mature dogs.  A good nutritious diet which doesn’t promote too rapid a growth should be fed to puppies and they should not be allowed to become overweight.


Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The Kennel Club would like to make you aware of the change to breeding advice for the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Elbow Dysplasia scheme Originally, it was recommended that breeders select dogs with an elbow grade of 0 or 1, as a grade 1 was considered relatively mild at the time. However, graded radiographs have shown that the majority of dogs with grade 1 elbows display obvious signs of unilateral and bilateral arthritis.Therefore, the revised breeding advice from the BVA is as follows: It is strongly recommended that breeders wishing to reduce the risk of elbow dysplasia should select their breeding stock (both dogs and bitches) only from animals with an overall grade of 0. Dogs with elbow grades of 2 or 3 have marked osteoarthritis likely to be due to ED, with or without a visible primary lesion. Dogs with elbow grades of 1 show mild or early osteoarthritis which is also likely to be due to ED.’

The elbow grades of Kennel Club registered dogs under the BVA/KC Elbow Dysplasia scheme can be seen via the Health Test Results Finder (an online Mate Select service). For additional scheme information, please visit the BVA website.

Canine Epilepsy

The Phyllis Croft Foundation for Canine Epilepsy
Mrs M James, Secretary PCFCE
77 Upland Road
CM12 0LD
Tel: 01277 630145
email pcfce@btopenworld.com
Web Site http://www.pcfce.org.uk/

Juvenile Myclonic Epilepsy  (JME) in Rhodesian Ridgebacks Updated 14/10/2017

JME was only recognised in 2015 after extensive research was carried out at two Universities. The University of Munich through the clinical examinations of the research team led by Professor Andrea Fischer and the University of Helsinki where Professor Hannes Lohi and his research team were learning the inheritance patterns of JME.

Nina Lindqvist (A Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder and Chairman of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Finland) has been working hard alongside Prof. Fischer and Prof. Lohi as the JME co-ordinator getting information to a Facebook page (Myoclonic Epilepsy in Rhodesian Ridgebacks) and being on hand to answer any questions.

JME is an inherited defect only in Rhodesian Ridgebacks; it is from a recessive mode of inheritance which means an Affected dog would have inherited two copies of the mutation -one from each parent. A Carrier of JME would have inherited only one copy of the mutation – from only one parent. A dog Clear of JME obviously does not have any copies of the mutation.

The symptoms of JME are untypical to the more common Epileptic symptoms.  Symptoms of JME are frequent twitches and myoclonic muscle jerks usually when the dog is sleeping or resting. All affected dogs have been of a young age ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months when symptoms were first noticed. Some dogs can also develop more severe tonic-clonic seizures (Grand Mal seizures) these seizures are more typical types of seizures associated with Epilepsy in general. Photo sensitivity has also been noticed in some affected dogs. These dogs have reacted to flashing lights.

There is now a commercial test available for all Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Here in the UK we can test at Laboklin (www.laboklin.co.uk). It is just a simple blood sample or buccal swab carried out and verified by your vet. The test will determine the JME status of your Rhodesian Ridgeback, either CLEAR, CARRIER or AFFECTED of JME.

(See the following chart to help you understand the inheritance patterns of JME.)

Images: Katka Vlackova

There are treatments available which can reduce the symptoms of JME, some have even stopped the symptoms completely with very carefully managed medication, however there are some cases which are more difficult to manage.  As with all medications, Anti-Epileptic Drugs can carry some unfortunate side effects as the body in some cases cannot tolerate these drugs.  For example, some Rhodesian Ridgebacks have suffered with lethargy, anxiety, drowsiness, loss of co-ordination and more. It is important to monitor your dog when on any Anti-Epileptic Drugs. Vets in the UK are not all familiar with JME but Prof Andrea Fischer or Nina Linqvist are always available to discuss treatments with your vet or yourself.

If you have any questions about JME or have any other health related questions please do not hesitate to contact any of the following Breed Club Health Co-ordinators; –

Midlands and Northern Rhodesian Ridgeback Club              David Simpson

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain                    Claudia Willuat

The Southern Rhodesian Ridgeback Association                   Lena Piehl

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Scotland                          Lisa Aitken.

As JME is a potentially fatal condition, it is highly recommended all Rhodesian Ridgebacks to be used in a breeding program are tested. Knowing the JME status of your RR’s you wish to breed from will help breeders to make sensible decisions and fully inform potential puppy owners.

Breeding two clear dogs can not produce any affected or carrier puppies. 

Breeding a clear dog to a carrier dog can not produce any affected puppies. 

Therefore, a suitable carrier RR should not be ruled out of any breeding programmes.

Alison Pearce 2017 ©

Author: Nina Lindqvist, in co-operation with Mrs. Andrea Fischer Date: 1.8.2016

This group is established to share knowledge of the juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) in rhodesian ridgebacks. The founder of the group, Nina Lindqvist, is a RR enthusiast and a breeder from Finland, who also is the chairman of The Ridgeback club of Finland. The role in JME research is to help the research group by coordinating and informing. This group is meant to explain the defect in a way that is understandable without any understanding of veterinary science or genetics. JME is only one type of epilepsy. A dog clear of JME can still get any other type of epilepsy.

There are 2 Universities working with the studies related to JME. The first one is Munich University, where Andrea Fischer’s group is doing clinical examinations and for example video EEG. The other is Helsinki University, where the Hannes Lohi’s group Koirangeenit has a study about the inheritance of JME.

In 2015 Andrea Fischer noticed that there are quite a few ridgebacks coming to the clinic with similar symptoms, which were deviant compared to “classical” epileptic symptoms. They started a study and observed a breed-specific syndrome characterized by frequent myoclonic muscle jerks or twitches. The dogs showed myoclonic jerks and twitches when they were sleeping or resting. They learned that all dogs with these common symptoms were pretty young. The jerks had begun in the age of 6 weeks – 18 months. Most of the affected dogs are also showing photo sensitivity. The nature of JME is that after jerks and twitches most dogs develop also more severe generalized and tonic clonic seizures. JME seems to be quite tricky to medicate. Currently Andrea Fischer`s research group is investigating response to specific antiepileptic drugs and life-time prognosis.

As the myoclonic epilepsy was identified in Munich, blood samples from a large Rhodesian Ridgeback family from Germany were transferred to Hannes Lohi for gene identification in Helsinki. In October 2015 the research group announced that they have made a breakthrough and found out that all affected dogs shared a common mutation in their genes. At the same time random samples were tested. During the winter and spring 2016 more samples were called in. In July 2016 they have tested 538 samples. The current carrier rate is 15%. There are 4% of affected dogs, but this is overrated, as affected dogs have been taken in the research by purpose. The mutation is recessive. This means, that a dog must inherit the mutation from both parents to get sick. Affected dogs can be avoided by not using affected dogs at all and not combining 2 carriers. All dogs that are tested affected, are also clinically sick. Currently the research group is extending testing to other types of epilepsy and tremor. Up to now the test appears very specific

JME seems to run in many different lines. Therefore it is assumed that the mutation has already been in the breed for a very, very long time. To get to the roots will take hours after hours of pedigree research.

At the moment it is not possible to send in samples of dogs that are not affected. If you have an affected dog or you have by accident combined 2 carriers please contact group admin Nina Lindqvist (nina @ lumottu.net) for further instructions. Both studies (Munich and Helsinki) are soon sent out for the peer-reviewing. After scientific publications the commercial gene test will be available. Hopefully the test will be available at some point in 2017. Until then it is advised not to combine a carrier to a dog which has an unknown JME status.

Author: Nina Lindqvist, in co-operation with Mrs. Andrea Fischer Date: 1.8.2016

Breeders and dog owners are encouraged to publish their dog’s JME status. Openness and honesty will help all other breeders and dog owners to make better decisions and avoid breeding affected dogs. Among the gene test result breeders still need to do their research properly before breeding. The gene test is only one more tool to the breeder’s toolbox. There is no reason to close the carriers out of breeding. The test is to include a dog in breeding, not to exclude! The image displays the assumed distribution between clear, carrier and affected in different combinations. The Mother Nature has a mind on her own and variance occurs. The Ridgeback Club of Finland is publishing a list of test results in August 2016 on their website. If you wish your dog’s result on that list please send the result to geenitesti (@) ridgeback.fi. Nina Lindqvist is collecting test results and pedigrees of affected and carrier dogs. All data sent is 100% confidential.

© Nina Lindqvist 2016          Images: Katka Vlackova

Bloat/Gastric Dilation

This is a serious emergency condition that Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be susceptible to, and it is a killer. It is worth taking the time and trouble to educate yourself, and if nothing else learn how to recognise the symptoms so should the situation arise you can get your dog prompt veterinary treatment and hopefully avoid a disaster.
For more information on the condition:-

What are the signs your dog has Bloat? As a deep chested Breed, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a potential risk of GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) often referred to as Bloat. The following information is not meant to frighten but give a brief and easy guide of what to look for and how to react if your Ridgeback does show symptoms of GDV. Remember the quicker you react the much better the prognosis.



Canine Herpes Virus (CHV)

Canine Herpes Virus (CHV) can cause fading puppy syndrome, upper respiratory disease (kennel cough) and abortion and stillbirths in dogs. There is a vaccine available which cannot prevent infection but if given during pregnancy can significantly improve fertility rates and reduce puppy death. Even bitches that already have the virus can be successfully vaccinated
More information at

Canine Leishmaniasis

This is a serious condition spread from dog to dog by sand fly bites during the warmer summer months. The disease is prevalent in the Mediterranean but the problem is now spreading to the UK.
For more information:-

Xylitol  Poisoning (Chewing Gum)

Xylitol (Perfect Sweet) is a sugar alternative present in sugar free chewing gum, some sweets especially mints, and some baked goods. Although a healthy option for human consumption it is extremely toxic to dogs and if ingested can be fatal.
For more information:-

Grape And Raisin Poisoning

Not many owners are aware that grapes and raisins are harmful to their dog. Most dogs adore grapes but they are in fact toxic to them and should never be offered, or left in a bowl where a dog can help itself to them.
For more information:-

Canine Lungworm

There has been a recent rise in the number of cases of canine lungworm. It is one of the many types of worms that can be easily prevented. Not all worming preparations successfully treat lungworm infection so seek advice from your veterinary surgeon to ensure you use an effective product.
For more information:-

Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland)

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormone. The main function of the thyroid gland is to regulate the body’s metabolism. When the gland is under active many of the body’s functions slow down.
For more information:-

Chocolate And Cocoa Bean Mulch Poisoning

Chocolate contains theobromine which can be extremely toxic to dogs. Toxic doses vary according to the size of the dog and the cocoa solid content of the chocolate.

Cocoa bean mulch, a by-product of chocolate manufacture, is made from cocoa beans shells. It is a favourite with gardeners but just like chocolate it contains theobromine. Dogs are attracted to it’s sweet chocolate smell but if ingested it can be fatal.
For more information on chocolate poisoning

Poisonous Plants

Many plants are poisonous to dogs, and puppies are especially inquisitive and want to “taste” everything they can get in their mouths so are particularly vulnerable.
For more information on poisonous plants:-