Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Where can I find information about specific health problems/diseases on this site?

Q. What makes a Ridgeback "pet quality"?

Q. Is my dog a Ridgeback mix, or a ridgeless Ridgeback?

Q. What is a livernose?

Q. My Ridgeback has lighter-colored areas over his shoulders -- is that normal?

Q: My puppy’s ears are “crinkling” and not lying flat – how can I fix that?

Q. My Ridgeback hates having his nails clipped -- is there any alternative?

Q: As he grows older, my Ridgeback is developing lumps and bumps on his body. Is this normal?

Q. My Ridgeback’s toenails are falling out, and my vet is stumped. What could it be?

Q. My Ridgeback is starting to gain weight, his hair is thinning, and I notice that his skin is darkening, especially on his underside. Is something wrong?


Q. Where can I find information about specific health problems/diseases on this site?

A. The RRCUS Health & Genetics Committee constantly updates and expands our archive of health-related information. Click here to access it.

Q. What makes a Ridgeback "pet quality"?  

A: There are several cosmetic issues that automatically remove a newborn Ridgeback from consideration as a show dog, and none of them have any impact on the dog's health or lovability. First and foremost is the lack of a ridge -- ridgeless dogs cannot be shown, as the lack of a ridge is a disqualification in the AKC standard.  

Even if a newborn Ridgeback has a ridge, it might not be the "right" ridge. A "show-quality ridge" consists of two crowns, or swirls, located opposite one another in the upper one-third of the ridge. (Though the standard asks that the crowns be symmetrical, crowns that are slightly offset, or not perfectly aligned, are considered acceptable by many breeders.) Dogs that have more or less than two crowns, or crowns that are too offset (perhaps an inch or more) are pet-quality.

The presence of too much white -- for example, a white "sock" on the front leg that extends to the elbow -- is another cosmetic reason for "pet" status.

Certain health issues also preclude a puppy from being shown. Dermoid sinus, the congenital condition in which a tube opens up onto the surface of the skin, eventually becoming infected and abscessed, is present at birth. Though breeders feel, or palpate, for these abnormalities, even experienced breeders can miss them at birth if they are in a hard-to-palpate area, such as the tail, and discover them later on the growing pups. Dermoid puppies are sometimes culled (euthanized) or operated on , depending on the size and intricacy of the dermoid and the breeder's own preference.

 

Q. Is my dog a Ridgeback mix, or a ridgeless Ridgeback? 

A. If your dog has a ridge, the likelihood is that he is part Ridgeback.

Ridges do not “grow in” – a dog either has a ridge at birth, or does not. The ridge does not change at birth, except to grow proportionately along with the dog. Ridges do not “come and go,” either: If your dog has a ridge, it will be very distinct. Different color fur along the backline is not the same as a ridge. Neither is hair that rises and lies flat periodically – this is more likely the dog raising his hackles when excited or upset.

Some shelters have found that labeling a dog a “Ridgeback mix” makes him more “exotic”-sounding to prospective adopters. Many such dogs, however, are often pitbull mixes, especially if they lack a ridge.

Because of how ridge genetics work, some purebred Ridgebacks are born without the backward-growing stripe of hair that gives the breed its name. A well-bred ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback is often easy for an experienced breeder or rescue volunteer to identify. But in most cases, parentage in supposed ridgeless Ridgeback mixes is very difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain.

 

Q. What is a liver-nose? 

A. Rhodesian Ridgebacks come in two nose colors. You have probably seen the more commonly seen black nose, but there is also a  brown nose, which is also called “liver.” Both colors are equally correct according to the breed standard.

Click here to see some examples of liver-nose Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Liver-noses can vary dramatically in the intensity of their nose pigment, from a deep chocolate that almost borders on black to a light, almost pinkish color.

The liver-nose is seen less often because it is a simple recessive; both parents must pass the gene on to their progeny in order to produce this nose color. Black-nosed Ridgebacks can produce liver if they carry a copy of the liver gene along with the dominant gene for black; to produce liver-nose puppies, they must be bred to either a liver-nose or another heterozygous black-nose – that is, one that also carries the liver-nose gene. Click here for a more detailed explanation of livernose color inheritance.

Some Ridgeback fanciers say that liver-noses are more savvy and energetic than their blacknosed counterparts; others disagree.

 

Q. My Ridgeback has these lighter-colored areas over his shoulders -- it that normal? 

A. Yes. Many, if not most, Ridgebacks have lighter shading behind their shoulders, as well as on their necks and on their "britches" (the area you see from the "rear view"). Many new owners are taken aback at what they think is "weird" coloring, but it is entirely normal and visible on most every Ridgeback you will meet. You just never noticed.

 

Q: My puppy’s ears are “crinkling” and refuse to lay flat – how can I fix that?

A. At around 4 months of age, some Ridgeback puppies develop what breeders affectionately call “flying nun ears”: Instead of lying flat in neat triangles next to the head, the ears will crimp, crease, fold and generally misbehave, looking for all the world like a piece of origami. 

Some breeders believe these misbehaving ears are the result of calcium demands made on the puppy’s body while he is teething, and will often supplement with a high-calcium food such as cottage cheese or whole milk. Pharmaceutical calcium supplementation is not recommended.

For ears that do not respond to this approach, some breeders advocate taping them. Click here for step-by-step directions on how to tape puppy ears.

If the ears are not “fixed” before the puppy is six or so months old, there is a good chance they might stay that way. “Flying nun ears” have absolutely no health impact, and are only a cosmetic concern, particularly for those owners who puppies are headed for the show ring.

 

Q. My Ridgeback hates having his nails clipped -- is there any alternative? 

A. This breed can be positively phobic about having its nails touched, particular on the front feet and particularly if you are exerting concentrated pressure, as with a clipper.

Instead, try a Dremel -- those hand-held tools sold at Home Depot and other home-improvements stores. (Don't bother with the battery Dremel -- it doesn't have enough juice. Go with the plug-in and use the cylindrical sandpaper attachment, not the stone one, which can get too hot.) Many Ridgebacks respond positively to this method of nail maintenance if properly introduced.

Start with your Dremel plugged in, and a pile of cubed cheese at your side. Without turning it on, tap the Dremel gently against your dog's nail. Treat generously and repeat many times. Once your dog is more interested in the cheese than the Dremel, simply turn the Dremel on, but do not apply to the nails yet! Your Ridgeback will likely be alarmed by the sound. Turn the Dremel on in short bursts, giving treats generously after each one, until your dog is more interested in the cheese than the sound of the Dremel. 

Now begin alternating these two pieces: tap with the Dremel, turn the Dremel on for two seconds, tap, Dremel sound, tap, Dremel sound. When the dog is familiar and accustomed to both, then and only then put them together. Don't worry about accomplishing anything with the first "live" Dremeling -- just tap the toe, praise lavishly, and administered cheese. 

Generously rewarding as you go, slowly progress to more nails and more time on each nail. Do not stint on the positive food reinforcement: With enough Gouda, all things are possible. Click here for a popular Dremeling tutorial by a Doberman fancier.

Q: As he grows older, my Ridgeback is developing lumps and bumps on his body. Is this normal?

A. The Ridgeback's short, smooth coat means that you can see changes in his skin and body very easily. As Ridgebacks get older, they often develop harmless fatty deposits called lipomas. These are non-cancerous, and most veterinarians generally leave them alone, unless they are located in a place where they impede the dog's ability to get around, such as near the elbow, for example.

There is another type of skin growth that is not as benign, however. Mast cell tumors are an aggressive form of skin cancer that can sometimes look very similar to lipomas.

Some vets will choose to aspirate any unusual bumps to make sure they are nothing to worry about. A visit to your veterinarian is the best course of action whenever you notice a new growth on your Ridgeback, especially one that develops or grows at a fast rate.

Q. My Ridgeback’s toenails are falling out, and my vet is stumped. What could it be?

A. Symmetric Lupoid Onychodystrophy is an autoimmune disease of the nails that does occur in Ridgebacks. Supplementation with essential fatty acids and antibiotic treatment are often helpful in bringing this claw disorder into remission.

Click here ((please link to http://rhodesianridgebackhealth.org/resources.html#lupoid)) for some helpful resources on SLO and other lupoid diseases.

 

Q. My Ridgeback is starting to gain weight, his hair is thinning, and I notice that his skin is darkening, especially on his underside. Is something wrong?

A. The physical changes described above are the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed with a blood test. Make sure your vet performs a complete thyroid panel, including TgAA testing, instead of testing for just one value. Click here to find out how you can get discounted thyroid testing that will also contribute to important research on this disorder in the breed.

Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism can be easily treated with twice-daily medication.

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