With their endless spots and tendencies to smile, Dalmatians are one of the most recognisable breeds of dogs. If you are lucky enough to own one of these bundles of energy, it is important that you take care to make sure their coats and skin are getting the care and attention they require.
Dalmatians are the only spotted breed of dog, and come in predominantly two colours: black spotted and liver spotted (brown spotted). There are occasionally instances of lemon spotted (yellow) or tri-coloured Dalmatians, but these are considered to be a fault in the breed. They have short, soft coats and should have spots evenly spaced all over. Dalmatians shed year round, and should be groomed every month at least. It is recommended that you groom your Dalmatian more frequently if you wish to keep the shedding to a minimum.
Dalmatians are perfectly adept at cleaning themselves, but it is sometimes necessary to bathe your Dalmatian, especially when a muddy puddle is involved! If you do bathe your dog, make sure you are using a shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for dogs with sensitive skin. Puppy shampoo also works, as this is naturally gentler. After washing your dog, rub the shampoo gently into their coat and make sure you thoroughly rinse it off afterwards, so as to avoid any dandruff that may occur. You do not need to condition your Dalmatian’s coat, but if he is more prone to dry skin, you may find conditioning helps. With weekly grooming, bathing should be avoided, as it strips your dog’s skin of essential oils that aid in preventing flakiness or dryness.
Dalmatians have notoriously sensitive skin, and are prone to many topical allergies. It is for this reason that you must be particularly careful with introducing new shampoos or bedding. It is important that if you notice any redness, flaking or bumps on your dog’s skin that you act quickly to find a diagnosis. Keeping your dog free from fleas, ticks and mites is taken care of in a relatively easy-to-administer set of drops which you can purchase from your local pet store. This does not completely rule out infection from bites, however. You may find small red bumps or protrusions on your Dalmatian’s skin. These could be indicative of a number of ailments, but the most probable culprit is hives. An allergic reaction to a new food, bedding, shampoo or any major environmental change can trigger this reaction on his skin. Most often, the treatment is a topical cream, but your vet may prescribe a course of steroids if the outbreak is particularly bad. Most allergic reactions can be prevented from re-occurring by working out the cause of the allergies. Some dogs are severely allergic to airborne allergens, such as mildew, dust and pollen. You will be alerted to the presence on an inhalant allergy if your dog breaks out in hives accompanied by a mild ear infection.
Typically referred to, rather unpleasantly, as Dal Crud, Dalmatian Bronzing Syndrome is a common coat ailment that leaves your dog with a stripe of pinkish brown fur, which is often patchy in places, down the length of the back and even on to the head. It can be caused by mites, allergens or even excessive urate in the urine. Not all Dalmatians will be affected by Dalmatian Bronzing Syndrome, but all Dalmatians have excessive uric acid secretion, so it is important to check with your breeder to make sure there is not history of coat discolouration in their dogs.
Treatment for Dalmatian Bronzing Syndrome is usually a course of antibiotics and a series of antiseptic shampoos that you will need to use on your dog regularly. Uric acid levels can be reduced with medication and changes in diet to limit the amount of protein consumed. It is believed to be a genetic condition, and therefore it is recommended that dogs possessing these traits are not bred from.
Stresscan also trigger allergy-like reactions on your Dalmatian’s coat. Certain situations, such as traveling, changing diet or changing environment are particularly stressful. Stress leads to an increase in the steroidal hormone glucocorticoid, which can sometimes lower the protective quality of a dog’s skin, thus allowing harmful bacteria to enter and materialise itself in hive-like bumps and rashes. Heat and humidity can also trigger these responses in the skin. If your dog is showing no excessive signs of itching, it is likely that stress or heat is to blame, rather than any allergic reaction which requires treatment.
It is important to remember that Dalmatians have sensitive coats. Whilst it is tempting to invest in whitening shampoos and excessive skincare lotions and conditioners, these will likely only serve to further aggravate your dog’s skin. Try to use only hypoallergenic shampoos on your Dalmatian, and only use flea and tick medication that has previously proven to be allergen-free for your dog.
If bumps persist in your Dalmatian’s coat for more that four weeks, a more aggressive treatment scheme will need to be employed. Topical treatment with Benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine shampoos will need to be used on your dog weekly until the infection clears up. These products remove unwanted bacteria, and allow your dog’s skin to heal. If you find they excessively dry the skin out, you may have to follow treatment with a hypoallergenic cream rinse, such as any oatmeal-based cream.
Most Dalmatian owners are already well aware of the dietary and skincare needs of the breed, and will have no problems with any hives or allergic reactions. If a reaction does occur, however, it is important that you immediately seek the advice of a veterinarian. Most conditions can be easily cured or managed, but it can be an annoying and unpleasant experience for your dog, so the quicker you can act, the better. As with people, allergies are easily managed, it may just take a while for you to learn what it is your Dalmatian is allergic to!