Devoted to Basenjis as Pets
—by Betsy Polglase, in consultation with Dr. Steve Gonto, M.M.Sc., Ph.D., 11/13/2012
(NOTE: This supplants information on the “Primer 201X” at the request of Dr. Gonto)
First off, there is now a specific DNA test for the Fanconi gene. It costs $65, and all Basenji owners should send for the kit to do this test. (No age is too young, or even too old.) Here is the URL for obtaining a kit:
(To order a kit by credit card, click on “Order OFA DNA test” and look for “Fanconi test”)
One of three Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) testing results is possible
1. Your Basenji is CLEAR (won’t either have Fanconi or pass it along to offspring, if bred)
2. Your Basenji is a CARRIER (unlikely to develop Fanconi, but can certainly pass along genes if bred)
3. Your Basenji is AFFECTED (your dog will almost certainly develop active Fanconi during its life time.
• Get a baseline venous blood gas as soon as possible (no age is too young or too old. Dr. Gonto has identified dogs who tested “AFFECTED” who lost bicarbonate as young as nine months of age!). Note the blood gas HCO3 and “base excess” (B.E.) readings.
• A normal HCO3 reading for a healthy, NON-Fanconi dog is 24. Anything below 24, coupled with a NEGATIVE BASE EXCESS reading means that the dog is losing bicarbonate, even if not spilling glucose in the urine. Current Fanconi management goal is to get the HCO3 level on a Fanconi dog (losing bicarbonate) up to at least 20 or 21.
• When the HCO3 level on an UNTREATED dog starts to drop below 24 and is accompanied by a negative Base Excess (B.E.), immediate supplementation should be started, with as little as one ten-grain sodium bicarbonate tablet fed twice daily. This apparently can often delay further disease progression. The goal is to always keep the Bicarbonate (HCO3) level at 20 or better. (20 to 23 would be perfect. Higher than 23 or 24, measured once the dog is under treatment, would indicate too much bicarbonate, which does not happen very often.)
• Once active Fanconi occurs, where the HCO3 level has been found to be less than 24, Basenjis, Norwegian Elkhounds and Cocker Spaniels (the THREE breeds which appear to have definite “genetic”-type Fanconi) can start with TWO 10-grain sodium bicarbonate tablets twice daily, titrating up, as needed, until the HCO3 reading gets to a minimum of 20 on a repeat blood gas.
Dogs with “induced” Fanconi – (thought by some in the veterinary community to be associated with consuming Chinese-made Chicken Jerky or Chicken Breast treats): is treated the same way as genetic Fanconi:
• Smaller dogs like Yorkies, Chihuahuas and other “pocket” dogs can start with only ONE 10-grain sodium bicarbonate tablet twice daily and work up to an HCO3 reading of 20 on a repeat blood gas. Larger dogs, Basenji-size or up, can start on the TWO sodium bicarbonate tablets dose twice daily and work up from there; aiming for an HCO3 goal of 20 on a repeat Venous Blood Gas.
• Contact Fanconidogsfirstname.lastname@example.org and join a very knowledgeable and helpful e-mail support group for caretakers of Fanconi-afflicted dogs (of any breed). Anyone who has a Fanconi-afflicted dog of any breed, is fostering a Fanconi-afflicted dog, or anyone who has a Basenji termed “AFFLICTED” on the new genetic test is welcome to join.
• Dr. Gonto published a new Fanconi protocol in 2015. That document is available here.
• Dr. Gonto’s advice to the veterinary community is that a Venous Blood Gas alone can be used to diagnose and quantify the current acid/base losses of Fanconi, and combined with a general blood chemistry panel and a basic urinalysis, can provide all the information the vet may need to institute a life-saving treatment regimen. Dr. Gonto stands ready to assist any vet with interpretation of the results, and in the event that they do any additional testing or send out any additional labs, they are welcome to include the results of those tests as well.
• The HCO3 component of the venous blood gas test now appears to be the most valuable indicator in treatment.
• Questions? Have your vet e-mail Dr. Gonto at: <Outdoc@aol.com> .