If you have a Dalmatian or are considering getting one, knowing if and when they might go blind or deaf is pretty important, to say the least. This article explains everything fully and simply, to clear the air about Dalmatians, blindness, and deafness. Let’s get into it!
Dalmatians are not actually predisposed to blindness at all. They are predisposed to deafness. 8% of Dalmatians are born completely deaf with 20-30% being born with hearing in only one ear.
Do Dalmatians Go Blind?
It turns out that it’s not blindness that Dalmatians are genetically predisposed to, nope. It’s deafness. I will explain this shortly.
But let’s return to eye issues for one moment.
Dalmatians are known to develop a certain eye disorder called Iris Sphincter Dysplasia (ISD). ISD affects night vision, their overall sensitivity to light and can lead to partial or total blindness.
Thankfully, this condition is fairly uncommon, at least when compared to the other health issues that Dalmatians are prone to.
So while ISD can potentially cause blindness in Dalmatians, it’s not as prolific as many think. ISD only affects a very small percentage of the breed population.
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Are All Dalmatians Prone To Deafness?
It’s easy to get the two mixed up, but it’s deafness that Dalmatians are predisposed to, not blindness.
Deafness can be passed down from all Dalmatian bloodlines as a polygenic trait, and it’s said that around 8% of the breed is born completely deaf, while 20-30% are born with hearing in only one ear.
A very controversial stance on this topic is that The Dalmatian Club of America encourages euthanasia for puppies that are born completely deaf (at the time of writing). Many owners, including myself, believe that non-hearing dogs can make just as wonderful pets as hearing dogs. I will cover various points on training and raising a deaf dog below.
⭐ The good news is that recent findings in the genetics of deafness have revealed that it’s increasingly possible to reduce the chances of deafness. With the hopes that one day it can be completely eliminated. Source
Is Your Dalmatian Deaf? How To Know
In an attempt to reduce the chances of deafness, Dalmatians that carry the polygenic trait should not be bred. Reputable breeders know this and will screen both parents before breeding.
Then when the litter arrives, all puppies should be screened again and this information should be shown to you before getting your puppy. This way, you’ll know if your Dalmatian has any kind of deafness or not. But in some situations, like if you rescue a Dalmatian, this information may not be available…
How does your dalmatian respond to things?
Consider whether he startles easily, or doesn’t hear you come up behind him. Observe daily events and watch to see if he responds to knocks at the door? Does he always answer you when you call him from another room? Does he rush in the room when you pour his food into the bowl?
Although this is a very unofficial way of testing, if hearing loss is present, you will likely be able to tell from how your Dal responds to events throughout the day.
What color eyes does your dalmatian have?
It turns out that Dalmatians with blue eyes are more likely to be deaf than those with brown eyes. But please know that this isn’t a 100% guarantee and shouldn’t be used as an indicator alone.
Dalmatians that have one blue eye and one brown eye are also likely to suffer from hearing loss on the same side as the blue eye.
Genetic defects are responsible for many different health implications. Blue eyes, the spotted coat, and deafness are weirdly related in scientific ways I am not qualified to even begin to explain! This text from Lousiana State University may help shed more light.
The most reliable way to test your dalmatians’ hearing is with a professional hearing test known as (BAER) a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test. Using electrodes placed on the scalp, the computer is able to accurately detect any activity from the brain’s hearing pathways.
This test is usually done for puppies under 6 weeks, but it can also be done for adults too. You may need to visit a specialized veterinary medical center to have this test done. More info.
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Are Deaf Dalmatians Harder To Train?
The big topic surrounding deaf Dalmatians is their quality of life, trainability, and temperament. Some argue that hearing-impaired dals can’t be trained to the same level as hearing dalmatians, and others believe they are more aggressive and have tendencies to bite.
Not being able to rely on verbal communication does come with additional challenges. But deafness does not mean your Dalmatian can’t learn to be obedient, friendly, or feel loved.
The main philosophy of raising a deaf dog is that you as the owner must establish excellent communication via eye contact and hand signals. Which is totally possible with time and the right approach.
Throughout my research for this, I came across this video which is really concise, clear, and interesting. If you would like to learn more about this, check out this video.
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