A Healthy Ridgeback, Guaranteed?

A healthy Ridgeback, guaranteed.

Naturally, that's what every puppy owner wants: the assurance that their wriggly puppy will go on to live a long, vigorous life free of pain or disease. 

The problem is, no breeder, no matter how reputable, can absolutely guarantee that this will be the case. That's because genetic disease is a fact of life. Whether you are a human or a dog, there is a chance that you might inherit a disease, or a predisposition for one, from your parents. Whether it's diabetes or near-sightedness in people, or hypothyroidism or hip dysplasia in dogs, the reality is that there is always a risk.

Purebred dogs are particularly challenging in this regard because they are closed gene pools: The reason dogs of a given breed look and act a certain way is because breeders select for these traits, to the exclusion of others. But in the process, they also inadvertently consolidate other, less desirable genes that can give rise to disease. 

Some purebred dog breeds are prone to more genetic disease than others. This not to say that all purebred dogs are unhealthy -- hardly. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a relatively healthy breed, with an average lifespan of 12 years.

There are many things that reputable breeders can do to minimize the risk of producing dogs with genetic disease: They can vigorously screen their breeding stock for health problems, continually expand their pedigree knowledge, and participate in genetic research to help develop tests that will definitively identify carriers.

The best defense is a good offense: Ask a breeder what kind of health screening he or she is doing. Inquire about health concerns in the line. A breeder who says, "I have no problems" either hasn't been breeding very long -- or is not being totally forthright.

Even the most honest and reputable breeder will at some point inadvertently produce a dog with a genetic disease. How the breeder responds to this new knowledge is what matters. He or she will likely want to incorporate it into future breeding decisions, stay in touch with you to offer support and advice, and encourage you to enter your dog in the Comprehensive Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Survey.

The goal of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States Health & Genetics Committee is threefold: to give Ridgeback owners as much information as possible on any disease that could conceivably affect a Ridgeback, no matter how infrequent or rare; to collect data on each and every Rhodesian Ridgeback via the health survey so we know the overall health status of the breed; and to spur on research and DNA collection that will develop tools for breeders to use to reduce the incidence of genetic disease in the breed.

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