Health & Care

drboyNo breed is perfect and, unfortunately, Dalmatians are afflicted with three primary, genetic, health problems: deafness, high uric acid levels, and skin and coat problems.

Deafness has long been a heartbreaking problem and breeders have dedicated themselves to its eradication. Modern science has recently provided us with another tool that can assist us in our quest to eliminate this defect. It was previously unknown that dogs could be deaf in one ear and the gene for this problem was inadvertently carried on by breeding these “unilaterally” hearing dogs. Now, however, BAER (Brain Stem Auditory Evoked Response) testing is done on all puppies produced by ethical breeders in an attempt to determine which puppies hear and to what degree. With this test, it can be determined if sound from one, both, or neither ear is, in fact, reaching the brain. Any puppies discovered to be totally deaf are humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. As cruel as this may seem, this is truly the kindest thing to be done for a deaf dog. This will prevent a life of danger and frustration for the dog. Many deaf dogs are killed if they get loose and then cannot hear oncoming traffic and others become so timid and fearful they must be put to sleep eventually.

The second inherent problem in the breed is high uric acid levels. This should not be confused with renal failure or incontinence which can occur in any breed. The most prevalent consequence of this condition is the formation of bladder or kidney stones which, because of his anatomy, are more prone to cause problems in the male. Corrective diets and medications have proven useful in combating this problem and research is ongoing.

Some Dalmatians may experience coat problems which can manifest themselves as redness, itching and irritation, and/or a loss of hair. This problem appears to be of an allergic nature and symptomatic flare-ups are more apt to occur during the summer months when pollen and dust levels are at their highest. As this tends to be an inherited sensitivity, when looking for a puppy, it is wise to view the parents and inquire about possible skin reactions in the bloodline.

Overall, the Dalmatian is an exceedingly robust animal. Most Dals live a long and active life, with few complications due to illness or disease. Although incidents can occur with any individual, there have been only infrequent occurrences of hip dysplasia, epilepsy, or eye anomalies in the breed as a whole.

Care

As previously stated, the Dalmatian is basically a sound animal and little is required to keep him in good health. However, it is an owner’s responsibility to see that his good health is preserved by ensuring regular and appropriate care.

Medical
It is essential to provide a dog with the proper veterinary care in order for him to achieve and maintain optimum health. Vaccinations rank as the single most important item in a dog’s health maintenance program. Puppies are the most susceptible to disease, but it is imperative to maintain inoculations on a current basis for dogs of all ages.

Heartworm infestations are rising dramatically around the country and all dogs should be tested for the presence of these parasites. Once tested clear, your dog can then begin the preventive that will protect him from this fatal disease.

As breeding should only be done in an attempt to continue or improve quality, it should not be undertaken lightly nor with substandard animals. Any animals not destined to participate in a breeding program should be spayed or neutered. Not only will this prevent an accidental pregnancy, but the animals themselves will be happier and healthier as a result of this procedure. Males will be calmer and less inclined to roam and the problems associated with bitches in season will be eliminated. The end result is a pet content to concentrate his now platonic affections upon his owner and not upon other members of his species. Additionally, the chance of the development of mammary or testicular tumors is reduced to virtually zero.

Grooming

Because of his “wash and wear” coat, grooming the Dalmatian may not seem to be an aspect for serious consideration. There are, however, some basic procedures that should be observed to insure a happy, healthy animal.

It is said that a Dalmatian sheds only two times a year – morning and night! This may seem an overstatement, but the one aspect of a Dal that comes as more of a surprise than any other to a new owner is the volume of shedding he can do. Regular grooming with a rubber curry brush will alleviate this problem. As an added bonus, the relationship with your pet will be enhanced as a result of the time spent together in a pleasurable pursuit. Medical science has proven that stroking or petting a dog substantially reduces stress in people, so grooming can prove to be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties.

Another item to be considered in grooming is the need to keep toenails trimmed on a regular basis. Overly long nails can cause a dog to rock back on his feet in order to move. This unnatural position can cause discomfort and, in some instances for the elderly pet, severe pain as they try to accommodate arthritic joints.

Some dog owners also insist on dental care for their pets and go about it by regularly “brushing” their teeth for them. It should be emphasized that human toothpaste is inappropriate for canine dental hygiene and many owners use baking soda for cleaning teeth. Furthermore, there are dental products currently on the market specifically designed for dogs which may be obtained from a veterinarian. An annual examination and cleaning by a veterinarian is also
recommended.

Exercise & Training

The Dalmatian has a long history as a coach dog who is naturally energetic and requires daily exercise. A fenced yard or kennel run is strongly recommended for your Dal to receive the exercise he needs and also to help protect him from the dangers of traffic, injury or disease from other animals, and theft. Traffic poses a particular danger to Dals because of their natural “coaching” instinct. It is a tendency of many Dals to transfer this instinct to automobiles, thereby putting themselves in danger of being run over.

Bred as a working dog with the ability to think on his own, training is an essential element in producing a well-adjusted, socially acceptable Dalmatian. Puppies are constantly learning and you can take advantage of this fact by beginning training the day you bring your dog home.

We advocate crate training for all Dalmatians. Many people are vehemently opposed to crates, feeling it is cruel to put their dog in a “cage”. These people mistakenly attribute human emotions to their dogs and equate the “cage” with “prison”. Dogs are den animals and a dog properly introduced to his crate will consider it as his home and a place to retire to when his world becomes too hectic. Anyone who has lived with a dog will recognize this facet of their personality in their desire to seek refuge under tables and beds. Crates can also prove invaluable in housebreaking. Dogs are fastidious by nature and will not soil their sleeping area. A dog who views his crate in this light will learn to wait to eliminate, thereby facilitating the housebreaking

Obedience stresses the behaviors essential for a well-mannered dog. In basic obedience, the dog will learn to heel, come when called, and to remain in a sitting or reclining position. Once these exercises are mastered and should you wish a challenge, you can proceed to more advanced degrees of training. In addition, The American Kennel Club offers Obedience Trials where you and your dog can compete on various levels to earn obedience titles. This can be extremely rewarding and we recommend it for those of you with a competitive nature.

Regardless of whether you intend to pursue an obedience career with your dog or not, we cannot emphasize enough the need for a well-trained Dalmatian. They are intelligent, independent dogs and, in order to maintain your position as “Top Dog” with them, you must earn their respect. Obedience training is an excellent method by which you can secure the “alpha” position with your dog. Additionally, this will provide him with a purpose in his life, thus making for a happy, fulfilled animal.