While tainted foods and other factors can cause this condition in any breed, Fanconi syndrome may be inherited by Basenji due to a genetic mutation. Fanconi syndrome reduces kidney function—the kidneys no longer process proteins properly, and instead necessary proteins are expelled in urine. Fanconi syndrome symptoms—including excessive drinking and urination and glucose detected in the urine—usually show in Basenji between four and eight years old. Symptoms of Fanconi syndrome may be mistaken for diabetes. It is the glucose in urine with a lack of elevated blood glucose levels that aids in the distinction between Fanconi Syndrome and diabetes.
A DNA test is now available to determine whether Basenjis have genetic markers that may predispose them to Fanconi syndrome. The test results show: probably clear, probably carrier, probably equivocal, and probably affected—allowing veterinarians to determine the likelihood of the dog presenting Fanconi syndrome in the future, and for breeders to determine which dogs should not be bred. If owners choose to forego the DNA test, they are advised to use a urine test strip monthly to observe for elevated urine glucose levels. If treated—the protocol includes providing many supplements and electrolyte replacements on a daily basis—dogs with Fanconi syndrome may be able to live a comfortable life. Untreated, the condition is fatal. Breeders should not continue to breed dogs who have produced litters with Fanconi syndrome dogs.
The Basenji's larynx has a unique placement and shape, which prevents a typical bark. This trait was likely bred for by selecting dogs who didn't bark to develop a 'barkless' breed. A quieter dog wouldn't give away the village's location, and therefore it was more desirable. Though Basenjis don't bark, they do yodel and growl—and they can scream. Because they were so quiet, hunters would outfit Basenji with bells so they could locate their prized dogs while hunting.