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Health in the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Here at RRCS we are available to help with Health Advice (not a substitute for Vet's advice), you can contact our Health Coordinator Lisa Reid via email (preferred in the first instance), or by telephone on 07484 785 904


We are interested to hear your experiences, as it helps identify trends and breed specific issues that we can share with the other UK Clubs and their owners for the betterment of the breed.


On this page you'll find information on the known health issues affecting Ridgebacks. We regularly update our members on other health aspects in our newsletters, why not join us if you're not already a member?

You can send us a message below with any RR related health information, including cause of death of your dog(s) to help us keep accurate records on the breed as a whole. Thank you in advance for your assistance. 


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Health News

RRCS's Breed Health Sub-Coordinator, Lisa Reid, was asked to write an article on Breed Health for Our Dogs Newspaper, featured in their RR special published at the end of May 2020.  

Conditions known to affect the RR...

Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy in Rhodesian Ridgebacks (JME)

JME was only recognised in 2015 after extensive research was carried out at two Universities. The University of Munich research team doing clinical examinations by a led by Professor Andrea Fischer. The University of Helsinki where Hannes Lohi and his research team were learning the inheritance patterns of JME.

Nina Lindqvist (A Rhodesian Rhodesian breeder and the Chairman of the Rhodesian Ridgeback club of Finland) has been working hard along side Prof Fischer and Prof Lohi as the JME co-ordinator getting information to a Facebook page (Myoclonic Epilepsy in Rhodesian Ridgebacks) and being on hand to answer any questions.

JME is an inherited defect only in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, It is from a recessive mode of inheritance which means an Affected dog would have inherited two copies of the mutation one from each parent.

A Carrier of JME would have inherited only one copy of the mutation, from only one parent.

A dog Clear of JME obviously does not have any copies of the mutation.

The symptoms of JME are untypical to the more common Epileptic symptoms.

Symptoms of JME are frequent twitches and myoclonic muscle jerks usually when the dog is sleeping or resting.

All affected dogs have been of a young age ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months when symptoms were first noticed. Some dogs can also develop more severe tonic-clonic seizures (Grand Mal seizures) these seizures are more typical types of seizures associated with Epilepsy in general.

Photo sensitivity has also been noticed in some affected dogs. These dogs have reacted to flashing lights.

There is now a commercial test available for all Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Here in the UK we can test at Laboklin ( It is just a simple blood sample or buccal swab carried out and verified by your vet.

The test will determine the JME status of your Rhodesian Ridgeback, either CLEAR, CARRIER or AFFECTED of JME.

There are treatments available which can reduce the symptoms of JME, some have even stopped the symptoms completely with very carefully managed medication. There are some cases which are trickier to manage. As with all medications, Anti-Epileptic Drugs can carry some nasty side effects as the body in some cases can not tolerate these drugs, for example some Rhodesian Ridgebacks have suffered with lethargy, anxiety, sedation, loss of co-ordination and more. It is important to monitor your dog when on any Anti-Epileptic Drugs. Vets in the UK are not all familiar with JME but Prof Andrea Fischer or Nina Linqvist are always available to discuss treatments with your vet or yourself.

If you have any questions about JME or have any other health related questions please do not hesitate to contact any of the following Breed Club Health Sub Co-ordinators:

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Scotland - Lisa Reid

  • Midlands and Northern Rhodesian Ridgeback Club & Breed Council overall Health co-ordinator - David Simpson

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Great Britain - Claudia Willunat

  • Southern Rhodesian Ridgeback Association - Lena Piehl

As JME is a semi-lethal condition it is highly recommended all Rhodesian Ridgebacks to be used in a breeding program are tested. Knowing the JME status of your RR's you wish to breed from will help breeders make sensible decisions.

Breeding two clear dogs can not produce any affected or carrier puppies.

Breeding a clear dog to a carrier dog can not produce any affected puppies, therefore a suitable carrier RR should not be ruled out of any breeding programmes but should never be bred to another carrier as affected puppies will almost certainly be produced.

Affected animals should never be used in breeding.

See the chart below for a better understanding of the inheritance pattern of JME, DM and some others...

EOAD - Early Onset Adult Deafness

An inherited deafness clinically documented among purebred dogs of the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. Affected dogs appear to show normal hearing early in post-natal development, but ultimately these dogs lose their hearing, often with complete loss by 1 year of age. 

Research in Dr. Neff’s lab has established that the genetic mode of transmission from parent to offspring follows a simple Mendelian autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance. This means that any sire or dam that has previously produced affected progeny must be a carrier of the causal mutation.  Fore more info please visit the following link:

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a devastating degenerative disease of the spinal cord that can progress rapidly and cause weakness in the hind limbs and eventually paraplegia among genotypically affected dogs.

There are tests available, Laboklin (link above in JME section) or:


Dermoid Sinus (DS)

Dermoid sinus is a neural tube defect that is estimated to affect around 4% of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies born globally. It is now widely accepted that DS can be operated and removed when the puppy is around 8 weeks of age by a skilled Veterinarian. The puppy should not be bred from and should be castrated/spayed at the appropriate age but otherwise will lead a normal life. If the DS is not removed it will become infected which will result in pain, swelling and possibly further complications. It should be noted that normal, unaffected parents can still produce DS affected off-spring.

Dermoid Sinus, if present. will be found along the dorsal mid-line - including the tail and the top of the hear between the ears. There can be a single or multiple, and they are viewed as a tiny opening on the skin, like a small mole to look at. On shaving the region it will become apparent that a DS is there. Puppies with DS are born with it - it's not something that will develop as the pup ages, it may get infected but it will always have been present as it is a birth defect.

Puppies should be checked by multiple breeders/owners/veterinarians who have experienced the condition as it can be difficult to spot on some. For advice on how to check please contact us.

There is still research on-going as to the cause and genetic link of DS but at this time it is unknown. There was a thought that the Ridge may be to blame, but as DS is found in many other breeds as well as Ridgeless Ridgebacks this has yet to be proven.

There is a lot of information on Dermoid Sinus on the internet, please follow the links below to read more:

A research study into inherritance:

Hip & Elbow scoring

As a Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large breed dog, they can be affected with Hip or Elbow dysplasia. All breeding stock, male and female, should be screened before breeding as part of the BVA or other certified screening.

If using the BVA scheme, your dogs results will be added to your Kennel Club record, you can check any KC registered dog by entering their Pedigree name on the link below...

DNA tests available for RR's is a Kennel Club approved Laboratory and offer a DNA bundle for RR's which is the best value and covers JME, DM, Haemophilia, Dilute and the Liver nose gene. All the above from a simple cheek swab and costs £156 at time of writing. Out of this bundle, only the JME result will appear on your dog's Kennel Club record currently, providing the dog's KC record is up to date with your details as the owner. 

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