Basenji Companions

Devoted to Basenjis as Pets

About Fanconi Syndrome

Betsy Polglase, Massachusetts
updated 2015

Based on interviews with Dr. Steve Gonto of Savannah, Georgia, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine (human) and the developer and author of the “Fanconi Management Protocol for Veterinarians.”

Description of Fanconi Syndrome and its Control

In this condition, the renal tubules of the kidney begin to fail to do their proper job of resorbing nutrients into the dog’s system. Without testing and subsequent oral supplementation, the dog’s internal organs begin to falter, the dog looses condition, and will ultimately die. With current supplementation techniques, a Fanconi-afflicted dog can often be expected to live a reasonably normal, healthy life-span.

A dog with Fanconi Syndrome may, however, acquire any other health problems that dogs may get, as well as potentially being at higher risk for some disorders such as GME, a multi-site brain cancer. Not all Fanconi dogs do develop other problems, though, and the link to other disorders such as GME is still unknown.

To use a far-oversimplified analogy, Fanconi is as if the renal tubules of the kidneys had become “leaky sieves,” and the dog loses buffers, protein, glucose, amino acids, water-soluble vitamins and other things necessary for good health into the urine instead of passing them into the body for proper utilization. Left untreated, the dog’s acid/base blood balance will go off and begin to compromise internal organs, the dog will lose condition and musculature, and the dog will slowly die.

The “control” is to feed the missing nutrients back to into the dog in the form of inexpensive supplements according to instructions in the Fanconi Protocol for Veterinarians.

The supplements used include: buffers (sodium bicarbonate tablets), protein (high-protein diet), glucose (more frequent feedings), amino acids (Amino Fuel), vitamins and minerals (Pet-Tabs Plus and Centrum vitamins), calcium/phosphorus (dicalcium phosphate powder or Pet-Tabs Calcium Formula), potassium (Tumul-K, Uricit-C or potassium Gluconate). Some of these supplements will stay in the body and keep the dog stable and healthy during its nearly full lifetime.


Fanconi can be acquired by any mammal (including all breeds of dogs, cats, horses and people) via either genetics or pharmacological induction.

Mode of Acquisition

The mode of acquisition of Fanconi Syndrome is thought to be genetic in Basenjis, and the exact mode of genetic inheritance is still under active study. Fanconi can also be induced in mammals via a number of routes such as ingestion of zinc, outdated antibiotic use, or very recently, chicken “chews” originating in China and sweet potato “chews.”


In Basenjis, the usual age of Fanconi discovery is four to eight years of age, but has been found as early as age 1-1/2 and as late as age sixteen.


Glucose (sugar), and other nutrients and buffers spill into the dog’s urine from the faltering renal tubule system of the kidneys; however, the dog will be found to have a normal to low BLOOD glucose. This condition may be mistaken for diabetes and disastrously mistreated. (Blood glucose would be HIGH in diabetes.)

Basenjis: Get a genetic test for Fanconi (about $65) from:

(To order a kit by credit card, click on “order OFA DNA test” and look for “Fanconi test.” This is an easy “cheek swab” test.)

Three results are possible:

  1. Your Basenji is CLEAR (won’t either have Fanconi or pass it along to offspring, if bred.)
  2. Your Basenji is CARRIER (Unlikely to develop Fanconi, but can certainly pass along genes if bred.)
  3. Your Basenji is AFFECTED (your dog will almost certainly develop Fanconi during its life time.

** Note: It is now recommended that ALL Basenjis designated “afflicted” on the new genetic Fanconi test get a baseline venous blood gas as soon as possible – and especially note the HCO3 and base excess (BE)readings. Fanconi can be treated before glucose starts to spill in the urine, resulting in even less internal damage.

(See our recent article, “Guidelines for ‘Affected’ Basenjis From New Genetic Fanconi Test.” on genetic testing for further information on genetic testing baseline venous blood gas readings.)

If you have not had a Genetic Fanconi Test, but your dog seems to be urinating and drinking a great deal, losing weight and condition, the dog’s urine can easily and inexpensively be checked for glucose with glucose test strips found at any drugstore in the diabetic supplies section. Overt symptoms are: frequent urination, excessive water-drinking, and loss of weight and condition. Early detection means easier treatment and less permanent damage.

If the dog is already spilling glucose in the urine on a diabetic test strip, and the blood glucose test reading is normal to low, a presumptive diagnosis of Fanconi Syndrome may be made. A subsequent venous blood gas analysis should confirm this diagnosis and tell you the status of the disease process.


The outlook is exceptionally good, especially with early detection and treatment. This condition can now be controlled but not cured.


Approximately every six to eight months, a multivalent blood workup, a urinalysis, and a venous blood gas test need to be done on a Fanconi-afflicted dog by your veterinarian. Based on the dog’s individual tests, appropriate, individually-tailored, and easily-obtainable nutrients are included with the dog’s daily meals. These oral supplements resupply the nutrients which the tests identify as being lost in the urine.

Fanconi Management Protocol for Veterinarians

Be sure to print out a copy of the Fanconi Protocol for your veterinarian. The Protocol is self explanatory. A PDF copy can be obtained from our web site by clicking the link below:

Fanconi Protocol 2015

If, however, you or your veterinarian, are not on-line, you can obtain a copy of the protocol by writing

Dr. Steve Gonto,
1 Savy Lane,
Savannah, Georgia 31411

or calling Dr. Gonto at (912) 598-5067.

It is not necessary to send your dog’s individual test results to Dr. Gonto, but he is available for consultation by veterinarians via e-mail (most preferred) at, by telephone or U.S. mail, if problems should arise.

Support Group

If your dog is designated “afflicted” on the Genetic test or becomes actively Fanconi-afflicted, you might benefit from joining the e-mail support group for owners and caretakers of Fanconi-afflicted dogs. We support each other and help with the day-to-day, “nuts and bolts” ways of dealing with Fanconi Syndrome. To join the list, write to:

Ongoing Fanconi Syndrome Research

Dr. Steve Gonto
1 Savy Lane
Savannah, Georgia 31411
phone: (912) 598-5067

Article copyright © 2015 by Betsy Polglase.
All rights reserved

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