Caring for your dog: Health and grooming

Information was compiled from e-mail postings by PBGV-L members, including veterinarians Kasmin Bittle and Cathy Lustgarden, and from the PBGV Club of America.

The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen has fewer hereditary health concerns than many breeds. One of the prime functions of PBGV-L is to discuss and exchange information about health problems in the breed as they arise.

The two most common eye problems in PBGVs are Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM) and retinal dysplasia (retinal folds), neither of which commonly affect vision. To properly screen for these problems, the pups must be examined by a board-certified veterinary opthalmologist around 7 weeks old, as signs of these problems can sometimes disappear later.

Even if you don't register your dog with CERF, the vet sends in a copy to CERF with your dog's breed and age. Checking eyes and hips is the only way to maintain the health of the breed in this genetic area. To get a CERF number, the dog must be over one year old at the time of examination. CERF recommends annual exams.

Some juvenile animals may suffer from an aseptic meningitis characterized by lethargy, fever and neck or back pain. This syndrome varies in severity among affected animals and in rare instances can be fatal. The typical symptoms are neck pain, teeth chattering, or seeming to be painful all over. Many cases respond to steroids, but it is extremely important that they be continued for 3 to 4 months. Stop too soon, and the dog may not respond to treatment when he relapses. The disease definitely runs in families (PBGVs are not the only breed susceptible). Breeders need to take this disease very seriously, and never breed affected dogs or their primary relatives.

Seizure disorders and epilepsy are infrequently reported within the breed. Hypothyroidism, skin allergies, patellar luxation and hip dysplasia also have been reported.

It is wise for individuals planning to import dogs to request that vaccinations for distemper and parvovirus be given prior to shipment as vaccination schedules in Europe may be inadequate to provide protection here in the United States.

Ear infections, or the dreaded yeastie beasties

Ear infections are probably the most common health problem a PBGV owner will encounter. The problem usually is caused from yeast and the lack of air due to the long ears covering the ear canal. The dog will repeatedly scratch the irritated ear, which may smell and have brownish gunk in it. Treatment for ear problems varies among veterinarians and PBGV-L members. Some suggestions are offered here, but consult with your own veterinarian before treating an ear problem.

Puppies often develop yeast infections at about 4 months of age. Treatment with Conofite for 1-2 weeks usually resolves the problem. In older dogs, uncomplicated yeast infections respond nicely to Otomax twice daily for 7-14 days, followed by Conofite 2-3 times weekly forever if recurrence has been a problem.

More difficult cases may require cleansing with a drying ear cleanser, which will sometimes improve response. Conofite is recommended to prevent recurrence in the noninflamed ear as it does not have a corticosteroid component and it is nongreasy.

Another treatment approach: Rinse well with a mixture of vinegar and water a few times a week, wipe out well around the edges -- never put anything down the ear canal unless you know what you're doing -- and use Tresaderm or Otomax from your vet 2 times a day for 3 weeks. Once the problem is cleared up, a weekly rinse with the vinegar water solution is helpful. Here are two other recipes for ear solutions, recommended by list members.

Sometimes Panotic works when Otomax doesn't. You can also try gynolotrimine, the stuff for human yeast infections. But please check with your vet for amounts to use. You may need to use an antibiotic to get the infection under control first.

And another treatment option: Mix in a 1 ounce bottle, 1/2 ounce Panolog and 1/2 ounce of Wax-a-sol. Wax-a-sol loosens and helps dissolve ear wax, while the Panolog has anti-fungals in it to treat the yeast. For a minimum of 3 weeks, apply the solution twice a day. It will cause the hair around the ear to get oily, but if you wash the hair in that area with alcohol you can get off most of the oil.

Epi-Otic is another favorite cleaner. In cases where the ear is very bad, repeatedly flushing the ear with Pervade, an enema preparation, until all the "guck" is out of it, has had good results.

There is also a very expensive and very powerful antifungal pill called Fluconazol.

Some owners advise keeping the hair pulled out from the ear canal -- something your vet may have to do, unless your dog is used to it. Other list members advise against plucking the ears on a prophylactic basis, saying it causes more harm than good. They advise just keeping the ears clean and plucking hairs only if and when a problem develops.

Also, watch out, some PBGVs are allergic to some of the ointments used in treating ear infections.

Recurring or stubborn yeast infections may be related to allergies. So if you have been through a treatment with little or no results, an allergy regimen is recommended. Sometimes the dog may not show any other signs of allergies (scratching, sneezing, watery eyes, scooting, etc.), except for shaking his head and rubbing or scratching at his ears. The irritation in the ear canal sets up a perfect place for yeast to grow. Once yeast is cleared up, it should be followed up with a cortisone drop, HB101 or Burocort.

A final caution: Yeast can become resistant to the drugs it's treated with if the medication is used long term.

In cases of chronic ear problems, don't discount the possibility of ear mites, especially if you've had them in your home/kennel before. Mites can reside very deep in the ear canals.


The PBGV is pretty much an easy care, wash-and-wear dog. The coat should be harsh and rather thick, the texture similar to that of a goat. To prevent matting of the coat, dogs should brushed, followed by combing, once weekly. Small mats will be easily removed in the process of combing. Only neglected coats will mat severely. For help with mats, you might try something called The Stuff. Spray on a wet coat and watch mats magically disappear (almost!).

Some temporary softening of the coat will occur following the bath. Trimming is rarely necessary in the properly maintained coat. One shake following brushing and combing should return the dog to his tousled state!"

As a puppy grows up, some people advocate removing the softer puppy coat to allow the adult coat to come through fully and to encourage the harshening, but a really soft coat will stay that way regardless.

Most PBGV-L members do not believe in stripping -- the breed standard states that PBGVs are to be shown untrimmed -- but some who show do a bit of stripping and snipping to clean up the lines, get rid of the old, dead coat and enhance the line of the dog.

Some use Harsh Coat shampoo by BioGroom. Another thing that helps to bring back the coat after the bath is making the last rise a vinegar rinse. Mix some vinegar and water in a small bucket make sure it gets all over the coat. It changes the PH and brings back the natural condition of the coat.

To make the coat as white as possible, some PBGV-L members shampoo with Plum White, by Laube, the clipper company; or Shimmer Lights Shampoo (for people) by Clairol. Others recommend #1 All Systems shampoo.

When you can't do a complete bath, Self-Rinse Plus is a useful product: a shampoo that doesn't use any water. You just rub it in, let it sit for a few seconds and towel off or blow dry depending on the coat's needs.

The only problem with any of these kinds of in-between shampoos is, you will notice that they are blue, and if you've done anything like bleach the coat (heaven help us!) and then leave it on too long, you'll have a lovely, blue dog!

Some of those who show dogs use a coat cleaner such as Foo-Foo Powder, which is put into the coat the evening before a show, and next morning, the stains in the coat are pretty well gone. If you use any type of chalk or other whitening powder, you must wash between shows, because leaving in chalking for any length of time tends to make the coat brittle and break more easily.

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