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Ridgeback Health

On this page you will find information on vaccinations, exercise, flea & tick remedies, safe toys, spaying and neutering, exercise, grooming, canine obesity, canine bloat, and poisonous plants.

 IMPORTANT: Updates from the EPA on topical Flea and Tick preventives!!!

Already have a Ridgeback? Please take the time to complete the Ridgeback Health survey. It is completely confidential and your information will not be shared. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the link to the survey.

Go here: Ridgeback Health Survey

Fleas, Ticks and Heartworms....

Frontline and other topical spot-on flea treatments are pesticides.  I do not recommend these for any Ridgeback. Many cases have been reported of dogs suffering skin burns from these chemicals, and in some have even caused death (read about it here). Right on the package it says to not make contact with your skin, and wash hands immediately after exposure... well what about the dog's skin? Not to mention the danger to your children who climb all over the dog, then put their hands in their mouth. A dog who is kept indoors and is clean and healthy should not have any problems with fleas. Fleas primarily prey on animals who are weakened, dirty, or kept outdoors. If you are vigilant about keeping your pets healthy and regularly check for parasites, you shouldn't have a problem.

For flea and tick prevention, I recommend the all natural spray Flee Flea! You can find a link to it on my links page. It is an all natural spray using essential oils instead of chemicals. Also adding food grade Diatomaceous Earth does an excellent job of controlling fleas as well when added to the diet. It can also be put directly on the dog, or in bedding areas, and around doorways.

I do not endorse the use of heart worm prevention any longer. Vets are scaring you into putting pesticides into your dogs, which in turn weaken the immune system. The chances of your dog actually contracting heartworm disease are pretty slim. The so called "preventions" are not preventions at all, but pesticides that kill exisiting heartworms inside your dog. I use a combination of herbal remedies coupled with natural mosquito repellent made from essential oils.

 Please read this interesting article written by a veterinarian on the subject of Heartworms and how dogs contract the disease. 


       CLICK HERE for another reason to NOT use topical flea & tick treatments


Your veterinarian should be supportive of your decision to have your new puppy on a reduced vaccine schedule. They should encourage you to feed your puppy a high quality processed or raw food that is grain free.

Not all vets are created equal. They are highly qualified individuals, BUT... they don't know everything. They are not trained in specialties unless they continue on to be trained in such a way. Think of your vet as a general practitioner. They are not overly familiar with specifics such as neurology, nutrition, or oncology. They are also not trained to specialize in breed anomalies. I encourage you to educate yourself about your dog's health and nutrition, and to consult a specialist for specific problems. Many vets are open to learning more about the Ridgeback breed, and don't know how sensitive hounds can be.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Health and Genetics committee offers a packet for vets. I suggest on your first vet visit with your new puppy, to take this with you.

Click here to print it out

Vaccinations and Vaccinosis (over vaccination)

Vaccinosis is the adverse reaction created by overvaccinating your pet. Many studies have been done to show that we are over-vaccinating our pets (not to mention our own children). This was a large concern for me. I decided to come up with a plan to keep my pets healthy, and protected.

Canine vaccines.... The reason that vets want you to get your pets vaccinated? They MAKE MONEY off of vaccines... it costs a vet about $0.16 to give a rabies vaccine... you are paying $15-$20 for the vaccine, plus the office call at around $40. It's about a 6000% profit. If suddenly the vet said... ah well you don't need to come back and get vaccines every year, they would lose 70-80-% of their entire profit margin. I do recommend a yearly wellness exam... just not for the purpose of administering vaccines.

Here are some tidbits, excerpted from veterinarians and vet schools:

"There is no hard scientific evidence to say if vaccines should be given every year or three years or five years or once in a lifetime (or at all?)... no one knows and it's not in the interest of drug companies who make billions manufacturing pet vaccines to find out." Rob Ashburner, former president of The BC Veterinary Medical Association

"According to the landmark 1992 study by veterinarians, Dr. Tom Philips and Dr. Ronald Schultz, the practice of giving animals vaccines lacks any scientific validity whatsoever. 'Almost without exception, there's no immunological requirement for annual re-vaccination' they said in their study entitled Canine and Feline Vaccines." 'Vets Say Shots May be Deadly' Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun

"...that protocol (referring to the current vaccine protocol) has been totally arbitrary. It's not based on the duration of immunity studies. The public and veterinarians have become oversold on the vaccine as a cure-all." Dr. Dennis Macy, vaccine specialist at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"Annual revaccination provides no benefit and may increase the risk for adverse reactions. The percentage of vaccinated animals (those vaccinated only as puppies) protected from clinical disease after challenge with canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus in the study was greater than 95%." Dr. Ronald Schultz is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, UW-Madison.

"Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM a veterinary hematologist and immunologist in greater Los Angeles says annual vaccines began to be prescribed in the 1950's...Back then, she says, drug companies got together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and decided without any scientific test to support their position that vaccines should be administered once a year. 'When the public found out, they were horrified' she said. 'That this was never based on any scientific fact'." 'Vets Say Shots May be Deadly' Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun.

"I have seen many chronic illnesses in dogs and cats following vaccine use. The chief problem is the vaccination routinely of those not really healthy to begin with. They do not respond well and become even more out of balance as a result. If the animal is healthy to start with and mature enough to respond appropriately, then one vaccination is sufficient for life immunity in most instances. It is far better to vaccinate for one thing at a time than combined, multiple diseases in one injection that are very unnatural and confuse the immune system." Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, Author of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

Here's a good article written by a vet:

Click on the "About Us" tab to read about the author (a 20 year veterinarian).

Another one from Whole Dog Journal:

An article written by Jean Dodds who has decades of veterinary experience and scientific research behind her:

There is a challenge fund in place for Rabies. So far it has been proven that the rabies vaccine is effective 4 years after it has been given.

On top of all that, the American Animal Hospital Association has rewritten their guidelines for canine vaccine intervals for veterinarians.

For some links on vaccinosis, and over-vaccination:

Vaccinating for Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

    More on Bordetella

Spaying and Neutering

Spaying/neutering your pet early will shorten your pets life. Many vets will recommend you spay or neuter your Ridgeback at or before 6 months of age. Remember... they are dealing with mainstream pet owners who may or may not be responsible owners. I highly recommend that Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies (and other large breed dogs) NOT be spayed or neutered early, as this can cause many complications later in life. If you spay or neuter your puppy early, this will void your health guarantee in your contract.

Early spaying and neutering has been linked to osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and early incontinence in bitches. Ridgebacks (and all medium and large dogs) really need the hormones to complete the growth processes. When spayed or neutered early they can have joint problems, and they never really fully fill out to their growth potential, leaving them lanky looking. For bitches I recommend not spaying until after the first heat cycle, and at least after 12-18 months of age. For dogs, I suggest waiting until they are at least 18-24 months of age. For more information of why I do not support early spay and neuter, see this document: Click Here.

Keep in mind that living with an intact male or female can be challenging. I expect puppy owners to be able to handle that challenge for the health of their dog, until the time comes when they will be able to have their Ridgeback spayed or neutered.

If you find your vet is non compliant with waiting, change vets. Even they know the consequences of early spaying and neutering. Explain to them you are a responsible pet owner, and once the dog reaches the appropriate age you will have them spayed or neutered. Remember it is your responsibility to keep your Ridgeback safe from other dogs, so as not to add to the pet overpopulation problem in this country. If your vet disagrees, it's time to find a new vet.

Here's another good article about why female dogs should keep their ovaries:

 Click Here


Grooming a Ridgeback, really isn't complicated. This is another reason why I chose this particular breed. Ridgebacks do not have an undercoat, or double coat like nearly all other breeds. Therefore they do not have the dander that other dogs leave behind. This in turn makes them have a nearly non-existent doggy odor, compared to other breeds. This is something that sold me on the breed as well. When I go to visit my NON-Dog loving mother, she always compliments on how the dogs don't smell at all. 

All that a Ridgeback really requires is a bath every month or so (or maybe even less). Keep in mind when you do bathe to use a gentle oatmeal shampoo with minimal ingredients. The other thing that a Ridgeback requires in the form of grooming is trimming the toenails. I cannot stress enough, how important it is for you to keep your dogs nails trimmed. The last thing you really need to do, is keep the ears clean. This is a simple task, not requiring much effort.  

My number one pet peeve (no pun intended), is a dog with long toenails. When I go to the vet's office and someone comes in with their dog clickety-clacking on the floor... it makes me cringe. Can you honestly say that you would go over a month without trimming your own nails? How do you think your dog feels? It is very difficult for a dog to walk, let alone run when it's nails are so overgrown that the nails are touching the floor. Your dog can actually break or fracture a toe from this. If you can't do it yourself, then you need to take your dog in to the vet or groomer to have it done. If you start them when they are a puppy and make it a positive experience then you will have no problems when your dog reaches 75-90+lbs.

I use a dremel/rotary sanding style tool to trim my dogs nails, and find it is much less stress on the dogs, and on me. It is easy, and painless for both parties. I use positive reinforcement (treats) to make it a pleasant experience.  To the left is a photo of what your dog's nails should look like. (yes I know it's not a Ridgeback foot).

Notice how the nail does not touch the ground surface. If you can hear your dog's nails when he is walking on hardwood flooring, tile, or concrete, it's past time to trim them. You should be trimming your dog's nails at the very least every 10 days. I do mine once a week.

If you want to get started on using a rotary/dremel tool to trim your dogs nails, here is an excellent source, with many photos to help you get started:

I have heard the myth that if you walk your dog on asphalt or concrete it will wear the nails down. Unless your dog is running on concrete several times a day for some distance, it will not wear his nails down enough. And if he is running on concrete you will have more problems than just long nails, your dog will have blown foot pads. Your daily walk is not going to cut it to keep those nails short.

In the photo to the left of the dark brown dog, it's nails are way too long. Your dogs' nails should never-ever get to this length. A good tip is, if they are pointed at the end, and you can hear them on concrete, vinyl, or hardwood floors, they are too long, and it's past time for a trim. Long nails can cause dogs to go down in the pastern, and other ailments requiring  veterinary attention.


An adult Ridgeback needs plenty of exercise. A daily walk to "do his business" isn't going to work for a Ridgeback. Letting your dog out into the yard gives them plenty of exercise is ... a MYTH. If I let the dogs out in the yard, they stand at the back door whining to come in... self exercising is a myth. Your adult Ridgeback needs at the very least one half hour per day of hard off-leash running, or on-leash jogging. If you are conditioning him for an activity such as agility, or lure coursing, he will need more.

My dogs get exercised daily. There is a very nice system of wooded trails close by for off leash running, and also a few very nice parks as well. I also do leash walking, as well as playing in the yard, with toys. The key to playing in the yard, is that they want you to be out there with them... then they put on quite a show. They surely do not get bored, and get plenty of exercise!

A WORD ON PUPPIES: Puppies should not be forced to run. They can go on short walks and run in their yard. But no forced running until they are at least 18-24 months of age. This gives time for their joints to complete the growing process, before putting extra stress on them. This also applies for lure coursing as well. They can do straight practice puppy runs, but nothing with turns. This also depends on the structure and size of the dog as well. A dog that has a large frame and is still growing should not be lure coursed. A smaller coupled dog who has completed growing, is more likely to be okay. Always ask your breeder before lure coursing for the first time. 

Obesity and Overweight

 Nearly every pet Ridgeback I have ever seen was overweight. Unfortunately veterinarians do not know what a healthy sighthound should look like. Ridgebacks are a lean dog and should have no fat or padding on their ribs, shoulders and hips. You should be able to see two ribs when the dog is standing still. And see a defined waist. Carrying around extra weight can become problematic especially in a young, growing puppy and can predisposition them to health and joint problems. The only thing a Ridgeback needs to become overweight is opportunity...

These two dogs are at the correct weight for an adult Rhodesian Ridgeback.

These two dogs are overweight for an adult Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Obesity is a growing problem in canines. The biggest problem however, is not the dog. It is the people who are feeding the dog. A Ridgeback is ALWAYS hungry. If given the opportunity, he will eat until he can no longer fit anything else into himself... seriously. A Ridgeback should never be free fed... that is, leaving a full bowl of food out all of the time. You should feed him a specified amount and that's it. If your Ridgeback is going through a transitional period (i.e. moving households, new family member, passed family member, passed family pet), and is not eating, leave his food down for 15 minutes, then put it away for the next meal. I promise within a few days he will begin eating again. If your Ridgeback goes for an extended period of time without eating (more than 3 days)... that should send up red flags. Get the dog to a vet.

Your Rhodesian Ridgeback should be lean. Learn to body condition your dog. When viewed from above he should have a defined waist. When viewed from the side you should be able to make out the last rib or two. If you run your hand across the rib cage you should easily feel his ribs (his ribs should feel like the back of your hand when closed... not your palm!). If you are limiting the amount of food your Ridgeback is eating, and he is getting adequate exercise, you should not have any problems. Visit the following link to see if your Ridgeback is fat or fit:

To the left is a canine conditioning body chart. It is an excellent tool to see if your dog is fit or fat.

Canine Bloat

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)

Many folks have never heard of gastric torsion or "Bloat". Ridgebacks are large deep chested dogs who are susceptible to bloat. Bloat happens when gasses get trapped in the stomach and are unable to escape due to torsion, or the flipping of the stomach. It can become fatal very quickly if you don't see the symptoms. Canine bloat can happen to any deep chested dog, including German Shepherds, Boxers, Labradors, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Rotweilers... and the list goes on.

Bloat is by far my own biggest fear. That is one of the reasons I switched to a raw diet. Bloating is almost unheard of when the dog is fed a biologically appropriate diet. Kibble gives dogs gas, and this is how gastric torsion starts. If you do feed kibble I suggest the kibble be fed floating in water. Before or after the dog eats he should be kept quiet and not allowed to run or exert themselves for at least an hour. No heavy exercise within 2 hours before/after eating.

 For more information on Canine Bloat Click Here

 More on GDV

Poisonous Plants

Remember that puppies will eat and taste neary anything... Before bringing your new puppy home, please scan your yard and surroundings (even indoors) for plants that may be harmful to your pup.

 Click here for a list of poisonous plants to avoid

Bones, Chews and Toys

Ridgebacks are hearty chewers. They can sometimes be destructive when young, so it is recommended they are given supervised chew time & play time with toys and appropriate chews.

Some things that are NOT Recommended include:


 Is made with chemicals (in some places arsenic based), and many times the hide comes from china. Rawhide also causes gastric upset. There is also an FDA alert out about the risk of Salmonella associated with the use of Rawhide.


Nylabones (or any plastic imitation bone)

A Ridgeback can easily chew pieces of Nylabone off, which in turn can pierce the stomach or intestine, or even cause a blockage creating a bigger problem and a need for immediate surgery.

 Rope toys

Ridgebacks can easily destroy these and the strings can get tangled in their gut, yet another cause for emergency surgery.

Be cautious of stuffed toys (supervised play only- squeakers can easily be swallowed). Greenies have been known to cause blockages and are not recommended for Ridgebacks.



Some toys and chews that are recommended  or work well for Ridgebacks include:

 Kong toys, unstuffed fuzzy toys (supervised), natural non-weight bearing uncooked bones,  are the best because they digest well, and do not splinter. Also bully sticks , natural cow and pig ears, and pig and cow noses are 100% digestible as well. In the winter we get deer bones from the butcher, freeze them, then let the dogs chew them (supervised) out in the yard.

Occasionally it may be okay to give compressed rawhide, however it is important to check where the rawhide is made. Only give compressed unbleached rawhide from the USA. Also, only give it in moderation. If you let your dog eat an entire rawhide bone, this will cause stomach upset.

Never Ever give your dog a cooked bone from your steak or other piece of meat. When bones are cooked they splinter, and can pierce the stomach or esophagus, causing irreparable damage.

Dog Beds

Do not start your puppy out with a nice new fluffy expensive bed, you will soon find it destroyed, and your money wasted. To start out young dogs, I use Kuranda beds with a fleece cover. The Kuranda is a cot stule bed that is up off the floor. I have several that made it through several Ridgeback puppies, and still look as good as the day I bought them. They are worth their weight in gold!

Get the Heavy duty/aluminum frame with 40oz vinyl fabric, as this cannot be chewed or clawed through. These beds will also fit in the Midwest brand, double door and icrates. Their 40" size will also fit in a giant Petmate Airline crate (grey or beige).

They will not fit in the grey Midwest select crates.

You can get the Kuranda beds here:  Kuranda Beds

When your dog has made it through puppyhood and is no longer interested in chewing his bed I highly recommend a Snoozer Orthopedic Waterproof bed. They are expensive but they will not wear out nearly as fast as the polyfill beds that are more commonly found. The Snoozer beds are made with 7 inches of orthopedic foam, covered in a thicker canvas material with sherpa top. It's enclosed with a nice big brass zipper. I have several of these beds and I cover them with fitted sheets to make keeping the beds clean, easier. I have had these beds for around 5 years and they have held up extremely well.

You can find them here:  Snoozer Super Orthopedic Bed