Health Issues


The Dermoid Sinus is an inherited condition in Ridgebacks but it is not only confined to our breed. However, it tends to occur more in Ridgebacks than in other breeds of dogs and most are detectable at or soon after birth. There are many good sources of reference regarding the condition and I recommend you look at the Emoyeni Kennel website where you will find a detailed paper illustrating the condition. Most of the books mentioned in the "Books" section give a very good insight into the Dermoid Sinus.

Any reputable breeder knows of the condition and should be experienced in detecting a sinus. Saying that, they can be very slight or difficult to feel if lying along the line of the neck as opposed to the usual "downward" position. Most vets are not familiar with the condition and I have taught my own vets how to detect a sinus by manipulating the skin. If I have detected a sinus puppy in a litter (and it has been euthanased), I have recommended that the practice undertakes an autopsy in order that they can excise the sinus and examine it in more detail.

Several years ago I asked the breeder of a litter of puppies if they had been checked for sinus. He told me "that I needn't worry about that because the vet would do it when the pup had its vaccinations". This individual has a dog and a bitch and has just had a third litter from the two dogs, to my knowledge NONE of the puppies have been checked for Dermoid Sinus. All three litters were advertised on the Kennel Club website, Puppy Sales Register. When one of his youngsters came up for rehoming he said that "he couldn't take it back because he didn't have room for it", however, he has had room for another litter of puppies! Another case of BE WARNED.

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Over the years it has become more and more common for Ridgebacks to be hip scored under the KC/BVA scheme. The latest information I have shows that in October 1999 858 Ridgebacks had been hip scored with a range of 0-88 with the mean average being 12. For those unfamiliar with the hip scoring procedure I will explain a little about it. The dogs are sedated or anaesthetised for X-ray, the X-ray focuses on the hip joints and the plates are sent to the Kennel Club for evaluation and scoring by a panel of vets. Each hip is scored individually with a maximum score of 53 for each hip. This means that the worst possible score would be 106. The lower the score, the less evidence of hip dysplasia present. It is more important to have a similar score for each hip rather than one high and one low. The mean average of 12 would indicate hips being something like: 6:6, 8:4, 5:7, etc. I do not consider Hip Dysplasia to be a problem in the breed and many Ridgebacks have very low scoring hips. The advice of the KC/BVA is for breeders wishing to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia should choose stock with scores well below the Breed Mean Score.

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Vaccinations And Annual Boosters

For years now we have been told that our dogs need annual boosters against various canine diseases, however, I, along with many other people have not followed this regime. Some of you will remember a very interesting television programme shown several years ago regarding annual vaccinations for dogs. The programme was presented by a breeder who had lost one of her dogs after it had had its usual annual booster. The owner was mystified about the sudden decline and death of her much loved dog and when she put the idea past her vet that there may have been an adverse reaction to the annual boosters, her vet dismissed her theory. As a result of this the lady in question wrote to one of the weekly dog papers detailing what had happened to her dog and asked if any other owners had had similar experiences. She was inundated with letters from people who had lost dogs, or their dogs had become ill or had had adverse reactions, very soon after they had been vaccinated with their annual boosters. She compiled much information and based the television programme on her research. In the programme she gave a comparison of human and canine vaccinations saying that, the average human being lives for 70 years and in that time would receive about 10 vaccinations (this would not include people who travelled to extreme parts of the world necessitating vaccinations against tropical diseases etc.). On the other hand, the average dog lives for 12 years and, if boosted every year, would receive in excess of 100 vaccinations as each vaccinations comprises of a mixture of vaccines. This gives one serious cause for thought. Based on the programme, discussion with many other dog owning friends, my vets and my own experiences of human vaccinations - for example, tetanus vaccine (valid for 10 years), TB (once), smallpox (once), measles (once) etc. Why then should my dogs need vaccinating EVERY YEAR?

On 19 March 2004 a very interesting article appeared on the front page of Dog World followed by another on 29 October 2004, both articles are typed out below. They make extremely interesting reading.

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Article dated 19 March 2004


Booster may put animals at risk

A group of vets is calling on their profession to cease the policy of annual vaccination.
They say that evidence currently available shows that vaccinations given after six months may be 'good for life'.
Annual boosters for parvovirus and distemper are unnecessary, they say, and subject the animal to risk of allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders, immuno-suppression, infections and anaemia.
"Can we wonder that clients are losing faith in vaccination and researching the issues for themselves?" they write. We think they are right to do so.
"Politics, tradition or the economic wellbeing of vets and pharmaceutical companies should not be a factor in making medical decisions."
They allege that promoting annual vaccination constitutes fraud and theft and recommend that booster vaccinations are given every three years. The 31 vets writing in the Veterinary Times cite the American Veterinary Medical Association Committee's recent report which states that annual re-vaccination recommendations are based on "historical precedent, not scientific data".
They say there is no proof that yearly vaccinations are necessary, that protection may be life-long and that "re-vaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not add measurably to their disease resistance and may increase their risk of adverse post-vaccination events".
A recent report by the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Tasksforce said that: "... no vaccine is always safe, no vaccine " is always protective and no vaccine is always indicated.
"Misunderstanding, misinformation and the conservative nature of our profession have largely slowed adoption of protocols advocating decreased frequency of vaccination", the report reads.
"Immunological memory provides durations of immunity for core infectious diseases that far exceed the traditional recommendations for annual vaccination. This is supported by a growing body of veterinary information as well as well-developed epidemiological vigilance in human medicine that indicates immunity induced by vaccination is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, life-long."
It says that evidence shows the duration of immunity for rabies, canine distemper and canine parvovirus vaccines, among others is a minimum of seven years.
The vets wrote: "We fully accept that no single achievement has had greater impact on the lives and wellbeing of our patients, our clients and our ability to prevent infectious diseases than the developments in animal vaccines."
"However, we fully support the recommendations and guide-lines ... to reduce vaccine protocols for dogs and cats such that booster vaccinations are only given every three years and only for core vaccines unless otherwise scientifically justified."
"In the light of data now available showing the needless use and potential harm of annual vaccination we call on our profession to cease the policy of annual vaccination.
"It is accepted that the annual examination of a pet is advisable. We undervalue ourselves, however, if we hang this essential service on the back of vaccination and will ultimately suffer the consequences. Do we need to wait until we see actions against vets such as those launced in the state of Texas by Dr. Robert Rogers? He asserts that the present practice of marketing vaccinations for companion animals constitutes fraud by misrepresentation, fraud by silence and theft by deception.
"The oath we take as newly-qualified vets is 'to help, or at least do no harm'. We wish to maintain our position within society and be deserving of the trust placed in us as a profession. It is therefore our contention that those who continue to give annual vaccinations in the light of the new evidence may well be acting contrary to the welfare of the animals committed to their care."
The signatories are care of an address in Lodsworth, East Sussex.
The letter was welcomed by Catherine O'Driscoll, who through her group Canine Health Concern has been campaigning to end annual vaccinations for many years.
She said this week: "We and others whose dogs have suffered vaccine reactions and whose beloved friends have died and suffered unnecessarily have been pilloried and castigated for speaking the truth for long enough now.
Time to take this letter to your vet and to post it to other vets in your neighbourhood; time to show this letter to all the dog lovers you meet in the park or at classes.
"Time to get the truth out there once and for all and time to stop our animals suffering. My respect and gratitude go to the courageous vets who signed the letter."

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Article dated 29 October 2004


Annual booster vaccinations can no longer be justified, according to a senior vet.
Dr. Hal Thompson of Glasgow Veterinary School, who presented the ‘case for change' at the British Veterinary Association's (BVA) recent congress, said the profession could not wait for ‘experimental evidence' before changing vaccination intervals.
When the necessary evidence was to hand, he said, he believed it would support lengthening the intervals at which dogs and cats were vaccinated.
As fully reported in The Veterinary Record Dr. Thompson said it was difficult to obtain evidence on how long an animal's protection would last after vaccination takes place, not least because of the animal welfare implications of long-term studies. He said there was evidence to suggest that antibodies persisted in vaccinated dogs for several years.

Three-year interval

He suggested it was essential to vaccinate puppies at eight and 12 weeks and for them to receive a booster at 12 months. After that it ‘is going to be a three-year interval'.
"That's what's going to happen, whether we like it or not," he said at the London congress. "We may fight and we may scream but, mark my words, that's the way it's going to go."
Pressure on the profession to address the growing storm of debate around vaccination has increased since a group of vets called for a cessation of the annual vaccination policy back in March this year, as highlighted in DOG WORLD. The group suggested boosters should be given every three years and that promoting annual vaccination allegedly constituted fraud and theft.
Introducing the congress debate, ‘Vaccination: who are we protecting?', past-president Peter Jinman said public concern about the subject was evident and that clients at veterinary surgeries were asking questions. Vets had a duty to get the right message across the right way, he said.
Professor Quintin McKellar said that vaccines had been very successful in controlling disease but there had been occasional safety concerns about them; recent fears had focused on whether animals were being vaccinated too frequently. However, a Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) working group had found very low incidence of adverse reactions in dogs and cats.
The group had concluded that although there was evidence of a longer during of immunity than the year cited on product literature, there was insufficient information to suggest any other interval.
Dr. Bonnie Beaver, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told those present that changes had already been made to vaccination protocols in her country. After the booster at 12 months, animals were inoculated again three years later.
VPC chairman David Skilton said it was important that vets reported any problems with vaccines. Speakers agreed that more evidence regarding the prevalence of disease and the persistence of immunity was needed.


Professor McKellar drew attention to the VPC working group's recommendation that product literature should state the need for vets – in conjunction with owners – to carry out a risk assessment on each animal with regard to the necessity and frequency of boosters.

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