Over recent years the Basenji has become a popular breed to own as a pet outside of their native Africa which is hardly surprising because they boast really sweet, kind natures. In general, the breed is known to be pretty healthy, although they are prone to suffer from a condition that affects their eyes known as Coloboma.
Coloboma is a genetic health disorder that affects a dog's eyes and in particular the iris, lenses, retinas, optic nerves and eyelids which do not develop as they should. Puppies inherit the condition from their parents although just how they inherit the disorder is not yet fully understood. The Basenji is more prone to develop the condition although the good news is that it if they do, the condition does not get any worse as dogs get older.
Vets recommend that Basenji puppies have their eyes assessed when they are 9 weeks old to establish whether or not they have inherited the condition from their parents. However, it can prove quite challenging for vets to make a correct diagnosis because of the unique shape of a Basenji's eye. All too often test results come back as false positive which can confuse the issue. As such if a vet suspects a dog does have Coloboma, they would recommend having a second examination carried out by a veterinary ophthalmologist who is familiar with the shape of a Basenji’s eyes and the condition.
When a Coloboma develops on a dog's eyelid, it looks very much a notch has been taken out of the lid. This results in a dog's eye twitching and very often they water a lot.
Colobomas when they develop on a dog's iris on the other hand, result in the iris being a strange shape and this tends to make dogs very sensitive to any sort of bright light although it does not generally affect their vision in any way at all.
Basenjis and herding dogs like the Australian Sheepdog and Collie are more prone to suffer from the condition than other breeds, although as previously mentioned it is not understood why this is. Luckily, it's a pretty rare eye disorder but should the condition be more severe and located in a more delicate area of the eye, it can lead to dogs developing other eye issues which includes the following:
Puppies as young as 14 days old may have a little bit of tissue missing from their eyelid which is the more obvious sign they have inherited the disorder. However, when the iris is affected, it looks very much like a keyhole has been placed in the puppy's pupil. In very severe cases, a dog's eye might be a lot smaller because of the condition. The result is that dogs often have to squint in sunlight because the iris cannot contract as it normally should to prevent too much light from entering into their eyes.
Other signs to watch out for include the following:
If you have set your heart on getting a Basenji puppy, you need to contact reputable breeders who do their best to use healthy dogs to breed from. Although there is never any sort of guarantee that puppies won't develop genetic disorders at some point in their lives, making sure parent dogs don't carry any does reduce the risk of this happening and this applies to Coloboma too.
The Basenji is an extraordinary dog and one that has a lot to boast about. They are known for their very kind and loyal natures although they do tend to bond with one person more than several. However, this trait makes these dogs all the more endearing. Like many other breeds, the Basenji does suffer from a few hereditary health issues although on the whole, they are quite robust dogs. One condition that affects their eyes and which can be genetically inherited is Coloboma and if you are thinking about getting a Basenji puppy, it's really important that you contact a reputable breeder who only uses healthy dogs to breed from. With this said, vets still recommend you have your new puppy checked out when they are around 9 weeks old.