Basenjis are vulnerable to a hereditary, incurable kidney disease called Fanconi Syndrome. However, there is a DNA test that is publicly available through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals that can let you know if your dog is clear, a carrier, or affected by this simple recessive genetic disease. It is very easy to find out the Fanconi status of any dog, whether they are a breeding stud, dam, or a spayed or neutered pet.
We tested Bowpi back in March 2010 when only the linked marker test was available. Her results came back as probably clear. This was a great relief.
In August 2011, the specific DNA mutation for Fanconi was found and a direct test was made available, replacing the previous linked marker test. Since the Basenji Health Endowment was partially subsidizing dogs that had been previously tested, I submitted a request for a retest kit.
For $65 USD (minus $15 for subsidized tests), you get a kit mailed directly to your home, containing:
- Your order form with pre-printed mailing labels
- Detailed instructions
- Test sample card in a little manila envelope
- Sterile applicator
Dog not included. You provide your own.
The instructions are very clear. Just make sure that it’s been a couple hours since your dog has eaten. When ready, unwrap the sterile applicator…
Swab the inside of your dog’s mouth for several seconds to collect saliva and DNA.
Then press the moistened tip to the area indicated on the test card.
Reminds me of those Paint with Water kids’ activity books.
Then let the card air dry for about an hour, making sure that nothing else touches it while this happens.
When dry, the white areas will show where DNA was successfully transferred.
Then all you have to do is put the card in the little manila pocket provided, put that in another envelope (I re-wrapped the manila envelope in the weatherproof Tyvek sleeve that the OFA originally sent everything in), affix one of the pre-printed address labels and a stamp, and drop it in the mailbox!
You are e-mailed a personal link to track the status of your order. When results are processed (could take several weeks), they’ll automatically be posted at a unique public entry for each dog on the OFA website. For example, here is Bowpi’s direct link:
We have no AKC registration for her, no records of her sire or dam, and her birthdate isn’t even correct (I think I just selected one of the dates on her previous veterinary records, but even those didn’t match). You don’t need any of this information to request a test. However, Bowpi is still searchable in the database by her name and/or her breed alone.
She is spayed and just a pet, but I wanted to have the test done so that I could know what to anticipate in regards to her health. As you can see, it is a simple, inexpensive (relative to the peace of mind offered), non-invasive procedure.
This test is not provided by the vet. It is done at home. Any breeder that claims their dogs have been “vet-checked” for Fanconi is suspect. Any breeder who is in a position to say that they’ve never had a problem with Fanconi in their lines can surely afford the $65 per dog to demonstrate that this is true.
All Fanconi results are made available to the public. Owners do not have the option of keeping test results to themselves, even if they do not come out as desired. Therefore, if a breeder’s dogs are not in the database, and the breeder cannot or will not provide you the public link so you can verify testing for yourself, it is fair to assume that this Fanconi DNA test has not been done.
I can think of no good reason why any Basenji breeder would not be testing their breeding stock.
[EDIT 27 January 2012: We got Bowpi's OFA certificate in the mail this week. She's Fanconi clear!]
[EDIT 4 February 2012: OFA website currently states: "It has come to our attention that there are technical problems with the new Fanconi Syndrome test for Basenjis. The reasons for these problems are under investigation. We are temporarily suspending testing until these problems are solved." Test kits cannot be ordered at this time.]
[EDIT from e-mail received 12 February 2012: "Fanconi testing has been resumed. The problem has been identified and a change in the sequencing process implemented. Fewer than 25 dogs, all originally read as affected, will require retesting."]