Dalmatians are active, intelligent dogs that perform well as working dogs, show animals or family pets. Although best known in the United States for their role as firehouse dogs and mascots, these animals have held jobs as retrievers, shepherds, and war dogs in earlier eras.
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Dalmatians have high energy levels and require regular exercise, but have minimal grooming requirements aside from a daily brushing to control shedding. However, there are several Dalmatian health issues associated with the breed including deafness, crystals, and eye issues.
Hearing and Dalmatian health issues
Deafness is one of the most significant physical problems in Dalmatians. It was once thought that approximately 30 percent of Dalmatians in the United States are born congenitally deaf in one or both ears. However, a recent study reveals Dalmatian deafness has actually decreased, thanks to careful breading.
Now it's believed only about 18 percent of Dalmatians are affected by deafness: 14 percent in one ear, and only 5 percent in both ears. However, blue-eyed dogs with a large amount of white in their coat are at higher risk of deafness than other members of the breed, and females are at higher risk than males. Oddly, deafness impacts many white dog breeds are more than other colors.
Kidney stones and crystals
Some Dalmatians have a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for their bodies to completely break down urates, which are salts that form during the protein digestion process. Tiny crystals in the urine clump together to form stones. Sometimes these stones block the urinary tract and make it difficult for dogs to urinate.
Females with urinary stones sometimes lick the genital area and subsequently have housebreaking accidents, while males are often unable to urinate. Canine urinary blockage is an emergency situation requiring immediate veterinary care.
Dalmatian health problems and eyes
Some Dalmatian puppies are born with incorrectly developed iris sphincter muscles, which means the pupils cannot contract normally when the dog is exposed to bright sunlight. Exposure to bright lights can therefore be painful. Dogs might squint when outdoors.
Entropion is another potential Dalmatian health issue — it's a condition where the eyelid rolls inward and the eyelashes rub against the surface of the eye, causing irritation. This disorder can lead to vision loss over time.
Other visual Dalmatian health problems include glaucoma, or a buildup of pressure within the eye; pannus, which is an inflammation of the cornea; ceroid lipofuscinosis, a metabolic disorder that deteriorates the retina, and dermoids, which are folds of skin that form near the eye and irritate the cornea or conjunctiva.
Dalmatian nervous system disorders
Dalmatian puppies sometimes succumb to a nervous system disorder called laryngeal paralysis. Puppies with this disorder usually show symptoms before they are six months old. These Dalmatian puppies might have difficulty breathing and usually die of pneumonia within several months of diagnosis. Common symptoms include loss of muscle tone, generalized weakness, and coughing.
Degenerative myelopathy is another nervous system issue. The myelin that protects the nerves in the spinal cord deteriorates. Affected dogs might have progressive difficulty using their back legs. Degenerative myelopathy, one of several Dalmatian health issues, is a result of a genetic mutation and only two percent of Dalmatians are believed to be carriers of this mutation.