What are Rhodesian Ridgebacks?
The Rhodesian Ridgeback breed originates from South Africa, where they were used as a protection from lions and as guard dogs. While you won’t see them chasing lions anymore, Rhodesian Ridgebacks still need regular and intense exercise, far more than the average dog.
This need for high levels of activity is especially true for young Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies who’s energy will seem to be endless no matter how many times you take them for a walk or to play in the yard.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very powerful and athletic dog breed, which is why they were regarded as the perfect guardians when they first rose to popularity. Adult males can weigh in between eighty and ninety pounds, and females are only slightly behind males when it comes to size coming in at sixty-five to seventy-five pounds. Rhodesian Ridgeback’s weight and size make them a comfortable member of the large breed club.
One of the unique characteristics of the breed is the Ridge on their backs, which runs through their spine. This Ridge is probably the most obvious way to recognize a Ridgeback as it is not common in other dog breeds. The Ridge is formed by a hair which grows in the opposing direction to the rest of the dog’s hair.
The ancestry and origins of the Rhodesian Ridgeback are reasonably well understood. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were first bred from a combination of various breeds, including Grayhounds, French Mastiffs, the German Dogue, and Bloodhounds. This combination of genetics has provided them with a strong natural scent instinct, which allows them to explore and track with relative ease.
The American Kennel Club has more information on the breed if you are curious.
Rhodesian Ridgeback – Nutrition and Diet
Since every dog is unique, it is essential to get to know your Rhodesian Ridgeback and to organize and plan its diet based on its specific needs and requirements. Due to their large size and the high volumes of activity they partake in, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a very hungry breed and love to eat. The downside of this insatiable appetite is that they will eat almost anything you put in front of them, whether it is good for them or not.
As we just mentioned, Rhodesian Ridgebacks require a significant calorie intake due to a very active lifestyle and a larger build. However, these calories shouldn’t be provided from a large or majority proportion of carbohydrates, as is commonplace in lower-quality dog food. Common examples of ingredients dense in carbohydrates include grains like Corn or starches like Potatoes.
Instead, high-quality meat and fish ingredients should be at the core of their diet. Meat and fish ingredients will provide Ridgebacks with adequate levels of protein for growth, repair, and development. Fat is also especially important so that it can be utilized as a concentrated source of energy, which is crucial for Ridgebacks. Minerals and vitamins are also essential to help maintain healthy bones, skin, and coat.
An example of a core nutrient beyond protein and fat could be the Omega Fatty Acids, which can improve a dog’s skin and coat health. Other benefits like improved cognitive function and cardiovascular health can be provided by these fatty acids. Another example of a mineral that could be beneficial is Zinc, which is important for healthy bones and teeth.
Common Health Problems for Rhodesian Rideback’s
Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are the most common health problem for Ridgebacks. Dysplasia is a Greek word that means abnormal. This roughly translates to mean that a dog suffering from Dysplasia has an abnormal hip or elbow joint. There are several causes of Dysplasia, including genetics, environmental causes, and inadequate nutrition. The most important of these factors is genetics. The breeding of dogs without hip and joint problems is by far the most effective way to prevent Dysplasia.
While not as important as genetic factors, nutrition is still a critical factor, especially during the growth period, when the dog is a puppy. Nutrition is especially important for any dog with a genetic background for Dysplasia.
The best and most effective way to prevent or reduce Dysplasia is to avoid high-calorie intake and to follow strict portions and feeding guidelines. This approach can help slow or reduce rapid growth, which is a common factor in Dysplasia. A low-calorie diet can also make the disease less severe or prevent it altogether. However, the effect of a low-calorie diet is disputed by some who suggest that it is an ineffective solution.
Another important note is that Dysplasia can most commonly be seen in two distinct groups of dogs. Puppies between the ages of 4 and 12 months and senior dogs with chronic joint diseases. Growth isn’t the only factor in younger dogs getting Dysplasia as they can also experience it due to partial dislocation of the hips, small fractures, or joint injuries from over-enthusiastic play fighting and activity.
Older dogs, on the other hand, get Dysplasia because of arthritis. The consequences of Dysplasia can be difficulty running or walking, or in extreme cases, difficulty or pain with all basic movements. Usually, severe cases of this health problem require surgery, which can hopefully reduce its severity and improve the dog’s health and quality of life, but for some dogs, this is unsuccessful.
A detailed breakdown of Dysplasia can be found in this article by pets.webmd.com on Joint Health, Pain, Osteoarthritis, and Other Joint Problems.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks can also suffer from a condition known as Osteochondrosis. This disease is defined by abnormal cartilage growth in the affected area. Once again, it is more common in large breed dogs such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks but can happen to small and medium breeds dogs infrequently. The cause of Osteochondrosis is similar to Dysplasia and is strongly related to rapid growth in the early stages of a dog’s life.
There are many other reasons why this disease can occur, including genetics and a mineral imbalance, such as an excessive intake of Calcium. There are preventative measures you can take to avoid the development of Osteochondrosis, including decreasing exercise, regulating diet, and, when necessary, the removal of the excess cartilage by surgical means. However, unless you know that your dog is susceptible or predisposed to suffer from Osteochondrosis, you do not need to enact all of these drastic measures as many of them will have knock-on effects.
Sadly, Rhodesian Ridgeback’s are among a number of breeds that commonly experiences and develop heart disease. While this might sound scary to many, the risk of heart disease can be massively reduced with a carefully chosen diet.
The two most important nutrients to watch out for when you have a dog with heart disease are the Omega Fatty Acids and Salt.
You want to, ideally, limit your dog’s intake of salt to an acceptable level or low level. Reducing your dog’s intake of salt isn’t a simple task as many commercial dog foods do not list or detail their salt content. You may have to contact the manufacturer of a particular brand or formula directly to get an estimate of the salt levels in their recipes. However, avoiding food that contains significant levels of added salt or naturally salty ingredients is a good start to keep salt intake low.
Secondly, you want to seek out foods high in the Omega Fatty Acids, especially Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These fatty acids are crucial to keeping a dog’s heart healthy and are most commonly found in high levels in fish ingredients. However, the Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also present in other ingredients like Flaxseed.
While it is not required to list the level of the Omega Fatty Acids on the Guaranteed Analysis of a dog food formula, many brands do so which makes the challenge of finding a suitable formula with a high level of these fatty acids a more manageable endeavor for knowledgable and patient dog owners.
Rhodesian Ridgeback’s are a deep-chested breed, and as a consequence of this are more at risk to Bloat than other dog breeds. Bloat is when a dog’s stomach becomes distended and rotates on its axis. This can often be caused by a mix of swallowed excessive amounts of air, fluid, and food.
One of the most effective approaches to prevent Bloat is to ensure your dog isn’t consuming fermentable carbohydrates such as grains. Ingredients such as these can cause excess gas in your dog’s digestive system, which can then cause Bloat. Another common preventative measure is to feed your Ridgeback two or three smaller meals a day rather than one large meal. This spread out approach allows your dog’s food to pass through their digestive system at a smoother pace, which helps prevent potentially problematic build-ups.
For more information on Bloat, we suggest you read the Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV; “Bloat”) page.
A Dermoid Sinus is an abnormality present from birth. It is a hollow indentation of skin that penetrates to deeper tissue. The primary concern with a Dermoid Sinus is that these indentations are especially prone to infection. Their severity differs vastly, and the most severe cases are those that reach the spinal cord, which can cause severe damage to delicate nerves to present there. Less severe cases of a Dermoid Sinus might cause mild discomfort or pain, which shouldn’t be downplayed.
The most effective treatment for a Dermoid Sinus is surgery. However, because it is a genetic defect, the best prevention is to breed from dogs that do not suffer such symptoms, which is similar to the most effective approach to prevent Dysplasia. Unfortunately, Dermoid Sinuses are one of the negative consequences of a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s distinctive Ridge on their spine.
While all of the above conditions might seem overwhelming and scary, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are considered a healthy dog breed. As genetics plays a major factor in the overall health of a Ridgeback, it is imperative to pick a dog with a consistent and proven genetic heritage.
However, as you will have hopefully learned, nutrition is, without a doubt, the second most important factor in a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s health after genetic factors. The importance of nutrition is precisely why you need to feed your Ridgeback, a dog food formula that contains high-quality ingredients that can provide appropriate and satisfactory nutrition.
Best Dog Food’s for an Adult Rhodesian Ridgeback
Nature’s Variety Instinct is one of our favorite players in the premium pet food market. They are probably best known for their raw and semi-raw products, one of which we will discuss later in this article. Instinct is found in a variety of pet food stores, including some of the retail giants like PetSmart.
While not as well known as their raw products, their Original dry dog food range uses high-quality ingredients to provide top-notch nutrition, all while remaining at an affordable price. There is quite a wide range of formulas, including Rabbit, Salmon, Beef, and Chicken. This variety means there is almost certainly a formula that would appeal to even the pickiest of dogs.
However, of all the original formulas, we believe the Salmon Formula would be the most advantageous to large breed dogs like a Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Salmon Formula is very high in the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which discussed earlier in this article, are crucial to maintaining healthy skin and coat as well as preventing heart disease.
The formula also includes some other minor fish ingredients such as Menhaden Fish Meal and Herring. Menhaden Fish are small oily fish from the Atlantic ocean and common in dog food due to their low cost and high nutritional value. Find out more about this in Menhaden Fish Meal In Dog Food.
These fish ingredients are combined with Peas and Tapioca, which provide carbohydrates and Fiber. Tapioca is not well known and is a root vegetable popular in South America. Find out more about Tapioca in our article Tapioca In Dog Food.
Many dog owners will be familiar with Merrick, and it is another brand that produces many highly rated recipes. One of Merrick’s greatest advantages is the sheer size of their product range with many of their competitor’s paling in comparison.
While not revolutionary, their Grain Free range focuses on a core meat or fish ingredient and a mix of Sweet Potatoes, Legumes, and small amounts of other vegetables. These ingredients form a reliable template. Merrick’s Chicken formula is by far the most nutritious of this grain-free range and contains a very satisfactory proportion of both protein and fat.
The formula doesn’t just include Chicken and also contains smaller amounts of Turkey and Salmon, which are equally satisfactory. While Real Chicken + Sweet Potato might not have a high level of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, it does contain an extremely high level of the Omega 6 Fatty Acids, which still provide substantial health benefits, which should not be ignored.
Earthborn Holistic produces many different types of dog food, including Limited Ingredient dog food, wet dog food, and grain-free dog food. While we have given some of their recipes mixed reviews, their Primitive Natural formula is by far the best they offer.
The formula contains a considerable proportion of meat and fish ingredients, which provide high levels of protein and fat, which are vital for the diet of all dog breeds. Some of these ingredients include Chicken, Turkey, and Whitefish. Potatoes and Peas, which are the most common vegetables in grain-free dog food recipes, are the other core ingredients and provide a small proportion of carbohydrates and Fiber.
The formula is entirely free of any grains, gluten, or by-products and has a surprisingly high level of the Omega 3 Fatty Acid for a formula that doesn’t focus heavily on fish. This could be caused by the Whitefish present in the formula being particularly fish in those fatty acids.
Canidae is a widely available high-quality dog food brand, and they have a very large selection of products spread among a number of ranges. Their Grain Free Pure range is one that we have analyzed in fine detail, and we have rated a number of its formulas very highly.
The Elements formula is one of the ranges best. It contains a number of meat and fish ingredients, including Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, and Menhaden Fish, all of which are high-quality and natural sources of protein and fat for an active Ridgeback.
The formula also includes Chickpeas, Peas, and Sweet Potatoes. These three vegetable ingredients are considered high-quality and suitable for a dog’s diet. Sweet Potatoes, in particular, are considered to be more advantageous to traditional white Potatoes as they offer a wider range of vitamins and minerals.
The formula doesn’t have quite the impressive levels of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids that some of its competitors do, but it is completely free of any by-products or less preferred carbohydrate ingredients such as Grains.
Best Dog Food’s for Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies
Orijen formulas feature a large number of high-quality meat and fish ingredients that can’t be matched by any other dog food brand. Their formulas contain up to 10 different meat or fish ingredients, which, when combined, form at least 85% of the total quantity of ingredients used.
Luckily, Orijen produces a formula specifically designed for large breed puppies such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Puppy Large features a range of poultry and fish ingredients such as Chicken, Turkey, Flounder, Mackerel, and others. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide an appropriate proportion of carbohydrates and Fiber as well as a range of vitamins and minerals.
This is similar to their Original Formula, which may make transitioning them in the future easier.
Finally, Puppy Large is calorie limited to help prevent disorders such as Osteochondrosis and Dysplasia, which can be aggravated by high-calorie diets and quick growth.
The primary focus of Farmina’s N&D Chicken & Pomegranate Puppy formula is on two core meat and fish ingredients: Chicken and Herring. Both of these ingredients are ideal for a puppy’s diet and provide a plentiful supply of protein and fat. The Herring, in particular, supplies a very satisfactory level of the Omega Fatty Acids, which can help improve the health of your puppy’s skin and coat.
In addition to Chicken and Herring, the formulas include Potatoes and a select number of fruit and vegetable ingredients. While we don’t believe Potatoes are the ideal source of carbohydrates, the portion of them in these formulas is low enough, which is not of significant concern. Some examples of other fruits and vegetables present in small quantities are Pomegranate, Apples, Carrots, and Spinach.
While this formula may be more calorie-dense than the above mentioned Orijen formula, it is still not a high-calorie recipe and, in fact, contains more calories from protein than fat. Protein is known to be more filling and will, therefore, hopefully, help your young Ridgeback self-regulate their intake of food. If that isn’t sufficient, Farmina provides very detailed feeding instructions to ensure a healthy and steady growth rate.
Nature’s Variety Instinct is the only brand to feature in this article twice and for a good reason. Their combination of ingredient quality, nutritional proportions, and price makes them one of our favorites. However, the above-suggested formula breaks the mold from the dry food recipes we usually suggest from Instinct as it is one of their raw or semi-raw formulas, which are what Instinct is probably best known for.
While the idea of raw ingredients may scare many dog owners, especially those with new puppies, it is not something to be deeply afraid of and can be advantageous. Advantages include cleaner teeth, more energy, and improved skin and coat. Also, Instinct Raw Boost with Real Chicken For Large Breed Dogs is only a semi-raw formula and still contains a significant portion of pre-cooked ingredients.
The formula contains Chicken, Turkey, and Herring, which are all high-quality meat and fish ingredients that can provide a plentiful supply of protein and fat. Also, the formula contains the ever staple Peas and Chickpeas for carbohydrates and Fiber. Finally, the formula also includes Flaxseed to help boost the level of the Omega Fatty Acids.