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Deafness In Dalmatians Is On The Decline

The Dalmatian dog breed is one that virtually anyone could identify on sight, even though this is not one of the most commonly seen breeds in the UK – being as they occupy 57th place in the popularity stakes. We have the film “101 Dalmatians” and its various sequels and spin-offs to thank for the UK’s widespread familiarity with the breed, which for many Dalmatian owners, was their very first introduction to the breed back in their childhoods and that formed the foundations of a love of the breed that endures for a lifetime.

Dalmatians are hugely distinctive and very handsome looking dogs, thanks to those beautiful liver or black spots on a contrasting white background. An interesting fact about the spots too is that puppies aren’t born with them; they’re born all white and only begin to develop their spots as they get older.

As well as good looks, Dalmatians also have big personalities, need lots of exercise, and as their owners will tell you, can be a bit of a handful!

They’re also a breed with a high occurrence rate of hereditary deafness across the population of the breed as a whole, which can vary from partial deafness in just one ear to complete deafness in both, and everything in between.

This is naturally a concern for fans of the breed, and one that the Kennel Club, Dalmatian breeders and owners alike all have a vested interest in addressing. BAER testing for deafness in dogs is widely used within the breed by responsible Dalmatian breeders to reduce the chances of their subsequent litters inheriting hearing problems along with their spots.

In fact, the results of a recent study conducted by the Animal Health Trust and the Kennel Club indicates that testing and selective breeding has proven successful in reducing the occurrence rate of deafness in the Dalmatian breed by a total of a third over the 26 years since data on deafness and BAER testing in the breed has been collated.

The study also turned up a number of interesting and useful insights into deafness within the breed too, including what type of Dalmatians are most likely to be deaf, what percentage of Dalmatians are deaf, and what degree of deafness is most common in Dalmatians that do have less than perfect hearing.

Read on and we’ll share some interesting facts and statistics on deafness in Dalmatians, and tell you what type of Dalmatians are at highest and lowest risk of deafness.

What proportion of Dalmatians in the UK are deaf?

Based on the results of BAER test data and supporting information on pedigree Dalmatians provided by the Kennel Club, overall, 17.8% of all Dalmatians are at least partially deaf.

How acutely affected their hearing is and whether this affects just one or both ears varies; but this statistic does mean that almost one in five Dalmatians in the UK are affected by deafness to some degree.

What proportion of Dalmatians are deaf in both ears?

The 17.8% figure stated encompasses all Dalmatians with less than perfect hearing, some of which will be fully deaf in both ears, with others just partially deaf in one ear, and everything in between.

Broken down further, 4.4% of Dalmatians or not quite one in twenty are affected by deafness in both ears (not necessarily full deafness) while the remaining 13.4% are only affected in one ear.

Is deafness in Dalmatians on the rise?

No, it is in fact on the decline based on the study’s results.

Data on deafness in Dalmatians, and a formal database of BAER testing results for the breed have been being collated and analysed for 26 years now, and in that time, occurrence rates of deafness in Dalmatians as a whole fell by around a third.

Broken down into the occurrence rates of being affected in just one or in both ears, in that time the occurrence rate of dogs suffering from deafness in just one ear fell by around a quarter, and for dogs suffering from deafness in both ears, this fell by around half.

What type of Dalmatians are most – and least – likely to have some degree of deafness?

The study also collected information on the physical traits of Dalmatians tested under its remit, in order to see if there were any common factors that accompanied a high occurrence rate of deafness, or marked out dogs that tended not to be affected.

The findings here were quite interesting, and demonstrate a clear correlation between colour and deafness rates.

Dalmatians who had blue eyes (as adults) were found to be more likely to be affected by some degree of deafness, whilst dogs who had a colour patch on their heads (rather than their heads being wholly or almost wholly white) were less likely to be affected by some degree of deafness.

Over the duration of the study, which as mentioned, recorded an impressive fall in deafness within the breed, the number of blue-eyed dogs also fell in line with this, and the number of dogs with a colour patch on their heads increased.


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