When I was a child, I always wanted a Dalmatian for a pet—and although my dad agreed with me that they were awesome-looking dogs, I always ended up with beagle mixes—or what my mother called “mutts”—instead. (Don’t get me wrong—beagles are great, and I always loved mine.) When I asked why we couldn’t get a Dalmatian, my mother told me it was because they always get sick, are psychotic as far as dogs go, and that it would just die on us anyway.
I scoffed at her explanation; as a preteen I figured they were simply too expensive and she just wanted to give me a complicated reason so I’d shut up instead of try to argue with her (which I was often prone to do). But now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize that she was partly right; while I wouldn’t call the spotted canines “psychotic”—after all, they are famous for helping during times of war as well as being used for hunting, vermin control, circuses, and even firehouse mascots. Although they’re generally healthy dogs, they can also be prone to health complications. Here are a few of them:
Old Age: The average Dalmatian doesn’t live past 13, and like any dog, during old age they may develop bone spurs and arthritis.
Deafness: Dalmatians are genetically more likely to be deaf than many other breeds. This is caused by a lack of mature melanocytes in the dog’s inner ear, a common condition in albino and spotted animals. Great Danes, bull terriers, border collies, white cats, Poodles and other animals that are usually light-colored often share the same plight. If you have a Dalmatian, he can be tested as early as his fifth week of life with a BAER test to see if he is deaf or not. Dalmatians born with large patches of color may have a reduced risk of deafness, though blue-eyed Dalmatians are more prone to deafness than dogs with darker eyes.
Bladder stones: Dalmatians can develop gout, causing kidney and bladder stones; this usually occurs in middle-aged male Dalmatians. However, it can often be prevented by keeping your dog away from organ meats or animal byproducts.
While these may seem like strong reasons to avoid Dalmatians, any dog can have health problems. The important thing is to adopt animals you connect with—especially shelter pets, or blue-eyed Dalmatians, which are often considered “inferior” to brown-eyed ones (which is also stupid)—and to love and care for them no matter what.