- in Dog Health
A degeneration of internal ear structures occurs a few weeks after birth which results in deafness in one or both ears. Inherited deafness is a common occurrence as it affects many breeds. It is most prevalent in Dalmatians.
For most breeds the deafness trait is linked with coat color. This is particularly true in breeds with white, merle, dappled and spotted hair coats. As you can see, the Dalmatian has two of those. So, for him, it’s double jeopardy. Blue eyes also increase the risk of developing deafness.
The incidence of inheritance of deafness in Dalmatians can be as high as 30%. The process is not very well understood, however efforts are being made to find out the cause and reduce the number of affected dogs.
How Do You Know If Your Dalmatian Is Deaf?
If your dog is only deaf in one ear you will probably never notice it. Puppies will lose hearing a few weeks after birth. The most common signs are aggressive play, because the puppy cannot hear cries of pain, and not waking up to sounds. Unilateral deafness is very hard to spot.
If your Dalmatian has unilateral deafness you will probably just notice he responds a little better to hand signals instead of verbal cues during training. Unless he’s a working dog to whom sound location is important it won’t be a problem.
Bilateral deafness, however, makes it very hard for your dog to lead a normal life. Deafness cannot be cured, and there are no degrees of deafness. Either he has it, or he doesn’t.
How Does Deafness Affect Your Dalmatian?
As I’ve said, if your dog is only deaf in 1 ear you will probably never have any unusual problems. On the other hand, a totally deaf dog will have many more problems and needs special care.
He will startle easily and is much more difficult to train. Since most dogs respond to praise in the form of a warm tone, if he can’t hear he won’t know what’s going on.
Your only option is to train the dog to respond to hand signals or other visual cues. Even this will not be enough, you will have to always restrain him using either a leash or an enclosed space and you must always be aware that he may bite someone if he’s startled.
It’s important not to breed deaf dogs, even if they have unilateral deafness. This problem affects a significant number of Dalmatians. To help eliminate deafness every Dalmatian should be tested with the BAER test. The Brainstem Auditory-Evoked Response procedure is a non-intrusive, painless test that reliably detects hearing loss, even unilateral deafness.
Many Dalmatians are likely to develop hearing loss in one or both ears. Bilateral deafness is quite debilitating and requires special measures for the dog to lead a normal life. Unilateral deafness is usually not problematic. In fact, you probably won’t even find out about it.