Q.) We convinced our kids to wait till after Christmas for a puppy but they are all excited about it now. We will probably get a Dalmatian -my wife had one when she was a kid- and have located a couple of breeders. In the limited amount of research we have done so far it seems the biggest issue is that some Dalmatians are deaf. Is this something we should discuss with each breeder? Should we have our puppy checked when we get it?
A.) Congratulations on getting a new addition to your family and waiting till after the holidays to add him or her- that's tough to do!
Unfortunately, some Dalmatians do have issues with deafness. Those with this disability develop it after birth and will have either partial deafness or complete deafness usually by one year of age. Afflicted puppies may not respond to sounds or training normally but in some cases if can be difficult to determine for breeders and owners if a puppy has a partial or complete hearing loss.
An objective hearing test-Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response or BAER- is simple to perform. Sound waves cause an electrical stimulus in the brain that confirms hearing or deafness. Puppies can be tested as early as 5 weeks of age although it would be possible for deafness to develop after a passed test.
While BAER testing is highly accurate, it’s not widely available-teaching facilities and some larger veterinary practices will have access to it.
When discussing adopting a puppy with a breeder, it’s ok to ask if their puppies are tested and if they have had dogs in the past that were deaf. Normal parents can produce deaf puppies so the genetics are not perfect for predicting if offspring will be deaf too. However, responsible breeders will not breed deaf animals and should not only be aware of the issue but taken steps to minimize the risk.
Good luck with your future best friend- as always, check with your veterinarian before any adoption to increase your odds of starting out right!