Dalmatians are a relatively healthy and easy to keep breed. Like other breeds, Dalmatians display a propensity towards certain health problems specific to their breed, such as deafness, allergies and urinary stones. Reputable breeders have their puppies BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) tested to ensure the status of the hearing on their pups. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions. Autoimmune thyroiditis may be a relatively common condition for the breed, affecting 11.6% of dogs.
A genetic predisposition for deafness is a serious health problem for Dalmatians; only about 70% have normal hearing. Deafness was not recognized by early breeders, so the breed was thought to be unintelligent. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, breeders did not understand the dogs' nature, and deafness in Dalmatians continues to be a frequent problem. Researchers now know deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by the absence of mature melanocytes in the inner ear. This may affect one or both ears. The condition is also common in other canine breeds that share a genetic propensity for light pigmentation. This includes, but is not limited to Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Poodles, Boxers, Border Collies and Great Danes.
Typically, only dogs with bilateral hearing are bred, although those with unilateral hearing, and even dogs with bilateral deafness, make fine pets with appropriate training. The Dalmatian Club of America's position on deaf pups is that they should not be used for breeding, and that humane euthanasia may be considered as an "alternative to placement". Deaf Dalmatian puppies can be difficult to home, due to increased aggression and difficulty in managing behavior. Dalmatians with large patches of colour present at birth may have a lower rate of deafness. Selecting for this trait may reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed. However, patches are a disqualifying factor in Dalmatian breed standards in an effort to preserve the spotted coat (the continual breeding of patched dogs would result in heavily patched Dalmatians with few spots).
Blue-eyed Dalmatians are thought to have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although a mechanism of association between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively established. Some kennel clubs discourage the use of blue-eyed dogs in breeding programs.
Hip dysplasia is another disease that affects nearly 5% of purebred Dalmatians, causing those to experience limping, fatigue, moderate to severe pain, and trouble standing up. Most Dalmatians who eventually develop hip dysplasia are born with normal hips, but the soft tissues surrounding the joint grow abnormally due to their genetic make-up. The disease may affect both hips, or only the right or left hip, leading afflicted dogs to walk or run with an altered gait.
Dalmatians, like humans, can suffer from hyperuricemia. Dalmatians' livers have trouble breaking down uric acid, which can build up in the blood serum (hyperuricemia) causing gout. Uric acid can also be excreted in high concentration into the urine, causing kidney stones and bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have their calcium intake reduced or be given preventive medication. To reduce the risk of gout and stones, owners should carefully limit the intake of purines by avoiding giving their dogs food containing organ meats, animal byproducts, or other high-purine ingredients. Hyperuricemia in Dalmatians responds to treatment with orgotein, the veterinary formulation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.