About Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is a disorder in which the proximal renal tubules of the kidney do not properly reabsorb electrolytes and nutrients into the body, but "spill" them instead into the urine. Symptoms include excessive drinking (polydipsia), excessive urination (polyuria), and glucose in the urine (glucosuria). Untreated Fanconi syndrome results in muscle wasting, acidosis, poor condition, and eventually death.

The onset of Fanconi syndrome is typically between four and eight years of age, although onset has occurred as early as two years and as late as twelve years. The earlier the disease is detected, the less damage is done to tissues and organs.

DNA Testing for Fanconi Syndrome

Shown above is the FTA DNA test card you will receive from the OFA. Also in the kit will be instructions and a return shipping label.

Beginning in June 2015 all purebred Basenjis in our care and under 10 years old will be DNA tested for Fanconi syndrome unless the dog has already been found to be symptomatic and diagnosed by abnormal venous blood gases accompanied by sugar in urine and normal blood sugar. (Dogs over 10 will continue to be strip tested.)

If you own a Basenji under the age of 10 we strongly encourage you to order the DNA test from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and administer the test at home. Anyone can order this easy-to-use test; you do not need a prescription from a veterinarian. The fee for each test is $65 and includes the test kit, instructions, a return shipping label to the University of Missouri (where the test is performed). All test results are reported by email.

The results of the test will be clear/normal, carrier, or affected. Read more about what these test results mean at the Basenji Club of America's page on DNA testing. If your dog's test results are "affected" it is important to read and understand how to care for this dog.

If you do not wish to DNA test your Basenji and prefer to continue to strip test for glucose in the urine read below; testing in this manner remains the same.

Testing Your Basenji’s Urine for Glucose

It is generally recommended that strip-testing for glucose begin at age three, but you may want to begin earlier just to get used to the routine. If caught early and put on the Gonto Treatment Protocol, affected Basenjis can do very well and live a normal life. Early detection and treatment is vital to your dog's health and well being.

If you adopt a Basenji from BRAT under 10 years old, he or she has been DNA tested. If the dog is over 10 we have strip tested him or her prior to adoption and you should continue the practice monthly until the dog is at least 12. (Some owners continue testing their dogs beyond 12.) Fanconi syndrome is life threatening so it's important to test monthly. Designate a "Strip Test Day". Maybe on the same day you give heartworm each month.

The strips you'll want to use are Bayer Diastix Glucose Reagent Strips for Urinalysis (not blood). The colored end of the strip should be placed in the Basenji's urine stream as he urinates. If it is not possible to place the strip directly into the urine stream, the owner may catch the urine in a clean pie pan or ladle.

The Diastix bottle shows results of a urine test as a color scale. The far left color is labeled Negative, the same color as the test strip. After the strip is wet with urine, compare the stick to the colors on the bottle for exactly 30 seconds. ANY color change from the Negative color is significant.

The Diastix strips should be read 30 seconds after being exposed to the dog’s urine. Any test strips purchased in the future should be used according to the instructions on the box or bottle.  NOTE: Any color change is significant. A positive result (glucose present) suggests only the possibility of Fanconi syndrome; it is not sufficient for definitive diagnosis, but indicates a need for further testing, to include a blood glucose level and possibly venous blood gas studies.

Again, strip testing indicates only the presence or absence of glucose in the urine at the time of testing. It does not definitively diagnose Fanconi syndrome, and it cannot predict whether or not a dog will later develop the disorder. A dog that strip-tests normal now may develop Fanconi syndrome in the future.

The Fanconi Syndrome Treatment Protocol

In 1989, Steve Gonto, MD of Georgia developed a treatment protocol for dogs, later adapted to treat Fanconi syndrome in humans. Dr. Gonto was given lifetime membership in the Basenji Club of America in recognition of the importance of his work. He was the honored guest speaker at the 2007 BRAT convention in Orlando, Florida, at which time he was presented with a plaque for his contributions to Basenji health. He made a second presentation at the 2015 BRAT convention in Columbia, South Carolina where he presented a revised protocol.

The Protocol involves acid neutralization, replacing lost electrolytes and nutrients with sodium bicarbonate and other supplements in specified doses, to re-establish the body's acid/base balance and keep electrolytes at appropriate levels.

The Gonto Protocol has been very successful in improving both quality and length of life for Fanconi-affected Basenjis. The disorder can be controlled by the protocol, but it cannot be cured. Because elevated urine glucose is also found in diabetes, Basenjis with Fanconi syndrome are sometimes misdiagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes will show high blood glucose along with urine glucose. In Basenjis, a combination of urine glucose and normal or low blood glucose strongly suggests Fanconi syndrome. Venous blood gas studies can verify an electrolyte imbalance consistent with Fanconi syndrome.

Because it is relatively uncommon in other breeds many vets are unfamiliar with heritable Fanconi syndrome. If your Basenji’s urine tests positive for glucose, or if your dog's DNA test results are "affected", review all the following documents and information:

Dr. Gonto is available for consultation with your veterinarian at no charge by calling (912) 598-5067 or e-mailing Dr. Gonto to get advice and a veterinary protocol treatment card. (The 912 area code serves the southeastern portion of the state of Georgia.)

Shown is the 50-strip box, #2806. There is also a 100-strip box available, #2803.

Where to Buy Glucose Test Strips

Diabetic test strips for urine testing can be tricky to find in pharmacies. They are usually behind the counter and you have to ask for them. But they're easy to find at Amazon. Search on Diastix Reagent Strips. They come in boxes of 50 and 100. A box of 50 should run you about $15-$20.

Drugstore chains such as Wal-Mart, Walgreen, CVS, Target, and many supermarket pharmacies may have these strips. The strips are usually located behind the pharmacy counter, so you may have to ask. If your drugstore does not carry them, ask your pharmacist if he can order them for you.

Either way, be sure to buy glucose test strips, NOT ketone test strips.

Testing Expired Test Strips

At some point you may wish to make sure your test strips are functional. This can be done by dissolving one drop of plain honey in one tablespoon of water, or one drop of Karo syrup in one teaspoon of water, and then testing the solution. Both of these products will change the strip color if the strips are still reactive. Do not use table sugar; it is a different molecule and will not change the strip.

Take This Information To Your Vet!

Because it is relatively uncommon in other breeds, many vets are unfamiliar with heritable Fanconi syndrome. If your Basenji’s urine tests positive for glucose, be sure to take this information sheet to your vet, along with a copy of the Gonto Fanconi Protocol. Dr. Gonto is available for consultation with your veterinarian at no charge by calling (912) 598-5067 or e-mailing Dr. Gonto to get advice and a veterinary protocol treatment card. If your vet is unwilling to use the Gonto Protocol, please find another vet!

REMEMBER: The DNA test is best; second best is to strip your dog EVERY month – your Basenji’s life may depend on it!

If you have any questions about Fanconi syndrome and your Basenji, write to us.

Revised and links checked 06/08/2015 DK