An epidemiological approach to prevention and control of three common heritable diseases in canine pedigree breeds in the United Kingdom.
To screen for congenital deafness, brainstem auditory-evoked potential (BAEP) testing was performed on 1031 Dalmatians from three geographically separated areas. Phenotypic marker assessment was done to determine markers possibly associated with deafness. Markers included sex, hair coat color, pigmentation of different areas of skin (eye rims, nose, and ears), presence of a patch, spot size and marking (density of spotting), sire and dam BAEP status, and presence of iris and retinal tapetal pigmentation. Combined data from all test sites showed 8.1% bilateral deafness (N = 83 dogs) and 21.6% unilateral deafness (N = 223), or an overall 29.7% incidence of hearing disorders. Significant (P less than 0.05) associations with deafness for the data from all test sites combined were seen for patch, sire and dam BAEP, iris pigment, and retinal pigment. However, results differed for several of the significant phenotypic markers when analyses were done on the data from the individual test sites; changes from significant to not significant were found. This suggested the existence of multiple populations of deafness patterns, and reinforced the precautionary conclusion that associations of phenotypic markers with deafness are not necessarily functionally significant.