Preventive Health Maintenance – Our Experiences

Whether you get your dog from a breeder, rescue or shelter, we advise that you take him to your vet for his first wellness visit. This is important for two reasons: first, to get him acquainted with the vet at a non-emergency time; and second, to establish baseline information about your new besty. Also see if you can get a health history from his previous home. Provide this to your vet because it will have a record of vaccines your dog has received.  This is important to prevent over-vaccination, which can have significant adverse health or behavioral consequences for our sensitive Basenjis.

As part of this first vet checkup:

  • Have a complete blood profile done so that baseline values are established for comparison as your dog ages or when your dog is preparing for a procedure that requires anesthesia.
  • Have your vet check a stool sample for parasites even if your dog was offered a dewormer by the breeder, shelter or rescue. Common medications can miss some parasites or your Basenji may have refused to take medication in a shelter environment.
  • Your vet should also check your dog’s joints and teeth. Bad teeth are painful. The bacteria and other nasty stuff that grows in a dog’s mouth can lead to illness such as heart disease. If your vet recommends a cleaning, have it done but forgo flouride treatment.  Flouride can be toxic. Once his teeth are cleaned, brush his choppers daily using a toothpaste formulated for dogs. If you want to use a spray or gel instead of brushing, verify the substance contains no harmful ingredients.

Anesthesia can be dangerous for Basenjis.  You should be sure that your vet understands the anesthesia protocols for greyhounds and follows them for your B. If he says the protocol isn’t necessary, find another vet. (At least for the dental or any procedure requiring anesthesia.)

  • Anesthesia poses additional risks for senior dogs; consider forgoing teeth cleaning of your older dog.

Daily exercise is important for the physical and mental well-being of your Basenji. Basenjis are generally curious and high energy dogs. Even a daily walk will help work off the energy and the smells will keep him mentally engaged. A significant part of the walk should be at a brisk pace to provide exercise benefits. Agility, lure coursing, obedience and rally are all activities that can be beneficial for the health of Basenjis.  Some Bs do better at one than another, so if he doesn’t like the first he attempts, keep trying.

Nails need clipping every 2-4 weeks depending upon how much your dog walks on pavement and whether he has dew claws.  Permitting nails to grow long can be painful for your dog and even cause him to change his posture–which can lead to further discomfort.

  • If your dog doesn’t want his feet handled, you can work to desensitize him.  Start slowly by lightly touching his foot and then withdrawing your hand. As he becomes accustomed to your light touch, increase the amount of contact time. When he is comfortable with contact, lightly take hold of his paw and then let go.  Increase the amount of time you hold his paw until he becomes comfortable with your hold.
  • Then introduce him to the nail trimmer by letting him see and smell it. Start by clipping only one nail at a time until he gets accustomed to the process. We have found that some Basenjis will allow their nails to be clipped if their feet remain on the ground. (Apparently some dogs find it less threatening than paw holding.) Allow them to stand while clipping the nails, making sure to avoid the quick. Scissor-type clippers work best when clipping nails with paws on the ground. Again, you may want to do just one nail at a time, giving the dog time between clips to realize that it’s no big deal.
  • Many people use a Dremel-like tool to trim their dogs nails. Patience is required to desensitize many Basenjis to the sound and feel of this type of tool. Be careful not to sand too much at once or your Basenji may get a burning sensation. Quick, light touches get the job done.

High quality nutritious food is important to the health of our Basenjis. It also will help control future vet bills.  See the section of this site on food.

Keep your dog’s ears clean. Dirty ears often have an odor that may signal infection. The best way to clean Basenji ears is with an ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball. Keep in mind that if your dog has ear infections, he may have a yeast problem caused by his food.

If you dog scoots on the carpet or couch, have his anal glands examined. Some dogs need to have their anal glands expressed regularly. But other dogs show no symptoms of anal sac issues until a sac is about to rupture. If your besty is having problems, have your vet show you how to check his anal sacs between vet visits so that you can schedule any needed expressions before a problem becomes critical.

Protect your besty against heartworm. Heartworm larvae enter the dog’s bloodstream by way of a mosquito bite. If nothing kills all the larvae, they migrate to the heart where they grow. Heartworm is a condition that frequently goes undetected until symptoms occur or a vet conducts a blood test.

Heartworm can be prevented through the consistent use of a preventive medication. Heartworm medication should be given once a month on a strict schedule in order to keep the preventive present in the dog’s system.  In areas where there is not a winter freeze to kill mosquitoes, heartworm prevention should be given 12 months of the year. In northern climates, dosages are unnecessary during winter months but should resume a month prior to the weather warming. If there is a warm spell in winter months during which mosquitoes emerge, prevention should be given within a month.

In recent years, heartworms, primarily in the Mississippi Valley, have been detected that have developed resistance to heartworm prevention medication. For this reason, all dogs should be tested for heartworms annually. And previous guidance that heartworm medication can be given every 6 weeks rather than every 4 is now obsolete because of confirmation of medication resistance.

Brands that we have used with no observed side effects are:  Heartgard (Plus), Iverhart (Max), Tri-heart (Plus), and Interceptor. Trifexis is a newer drug that prevents fleas, parasites and heartworm. There have been several hundred complaints of the drug causing death of dogs. While no direct link has been established between the drug and cause of death, we judge it prudent to treat fleas, parasites and heartworm with different medications.

Use flea control as needed. Basenji owners can use chemical or natural flea control methods.  Some Basenjis are very sensitive to flea bites and will be more comfortable with a product that will repel as well as kill. We find that Advantix II is very effective and it also works against ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies. Comfortis is another chemical product that works only on fleas. Holistic vets recommend various combinations of essential oils or sprays containing natural ingredients for flea control. Find links to essential oils and other natural products in the Additional resources section.

Additional Resources on Preventive Health Maintenance