DALMATIAN HEALTH ISSUES
Anyone contemplating Dalmatian ownership should be aware of some of the health issues in the breed. In general, the Dalmatian is a hardy, sound, healthy breed unaffected by many of the orthopededic, ocular, and cardiac problems affecting many other medium to large breeds.
The primary health issue in Dalmatians is deafness . About 8% of all Dalmatians are born totally deaf. Another 22% are unilateral hearing, that is, normal hearing is present in only one ear. Unilateral hearing Dalmatians still make fine pets and most owners are unaware of any problem. Hearing is tested using a method known as Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) testing and can only be done at certain facilities. Most local veterinarians do not have the highly specialized equipment to perform the test. Since statistics have confirmed that the risk of producing deaf puppies is significantly higher when one or both parents are unilateral hearing, the Board of the Dalmatian Club of America recently issued the following policy statement …”The Dalmatian Club of America strongly recommends that Dalmatian breeders seriously consider using only bilaterally hearing dogs in their breeding program.”
Another major concern is the formation of bladder stones. This problem can be largely prevented and/or treated through proper diet.Dalmatians particularly need to be kept well hydrated and should be given ample opportunity to urinate. Owners should familiarize themselves with the signs that their dog may have a stone forming problem. The British Dalmatian Club has a comprehensive page on stone-forming information.
Skin problems and allergies do seem to be present in the breed. The allergies are frequently seasonal and are often inhalant allergies. Use of over the counter antihistamines, change of diet, and the use of fatty acid supplements may help.
Hip dysplasia does exist in the breed. Any Dalmatian that is to be used in a breeding program should be x-rayed and certified free of hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals or PennHIP. Dysplastic dogs should not be bred. It is also a good idea to x-ray the hips and elbows of any Dalmatian that will be doing a lot of jumping as in advanced obedience or agility.
Eye problems are extremely rare in the Dalmatian. Any Dalmatian intended for breeding should have an eye exam by a veterinary ophthalmologist and have the results sent to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. One eye problem that has been diagnosed in the Dalmatian is iris sphincter dysplasia. Affected individuals appear to be squinting when in bright sunlight. Testing for iris sphincter dysplasia is not part of the regular CERF exam. You need to notify the ophthalmologist that you want to test for it as it must be done with the slit lamp before the eyes are dilated for the remainder of the exam. More research is needed on how this problem is transmitted but it appears to be hereditary thus affected individuals should be removed from breeding programs.
Hypothyroidism seems to be on the rise in all dogs. Some holistic practioners feel it is due to improper diet and overkill with vaccinations. Some signs of hypothyroidism include lethargy, excess shedding, dull coat, overweight, skin problems, reproductive difficulties, etc. Dogs intended for breeding should be tested for hypothyroidism using a simple blood test available at your veterinarian’s office. Treatment is inexpensive but most dogs will need medication for their entire life. Hypothyroid dogs should not be bred.
Seizures are also present in all breeds. Seizures usually require careful monitoring of medication. A dog that is affected with seizures will need to stay on medication his whole life and should not be bred.