Copyright (c) 1997, Roanoke Times

DATE: Sunday, April 20, 1997                 TAG: 9704220046
COLUMN: paws & claws


Q: I am 10 years of age, and I have seen the film "101 Dalmatians." I would love to get a Dalmatian puppy; they are so cute. Mom says I should ask you what they are like, as this would be our first dog.

A: The Disney film "101 Dalmatians" has certainly started a fashion for this breed of dog, but they are not for everyone.

As puppies, they are cute, as are all puppies, but puppies quickly grow into adults. Adult Dalmatians may not be the best or easiest dog for the novice dog owner. They are strong, both physically and in temperament.

They are a very active dog and can be difficult to train. They originally were bred to run with horse-drawn carriages, so they require a lot of exercise, ideally several miles per day.

Dalmatians also are prone to a number of veterinary problems. Your puppy might be deaf, as deafness is a hereditary defect in this breed. They are the one breed capable of developing gout and are prone to bladder stones as they grow older.

In the summer, Dalmatians cannot be left outside, as they may get sunburned over the white parts of the body as well as on the nose, unless a sun block is used. As with all unpigmented animals, they also are prone to chronic skin conditions.

Another problem that occurs frequently is ``tail tip trauma.'' This occurs when the dog hits its tail on a hard object, such as the wall, causing the tip to bleed. Bleeding from the tail tip is very hard to control, besides being messy, if the dog is in the house. This injury may mean that the tip will have to be amputated.

On the positive side, Dalmatians are an eye-catching and friendly dog that people will admire. If you are still determined to get one, contact a reputable breeder and go see the dogs, especially the parents of the puppies.

I think most families would be happier with a less willful breed of dog and one that needs less space. There are many breeds more suitable for a first dog. I would suggest that you buy some dog magazines and do some research before rushing headlong into a purchase you may regret later.

A visit to the dog pound or humane society shelter also could prove rewarding. Who knows? You might fall in love with a delightful mongrel looking for a deserving home.

Jill Bowen has practiced veterinary medicine in England and Texas and

taught at Texas A&M. She lives with her veterinarian husband and two chocolate

Labrador retrievers in Blacksburg. If you have a question, please write to her in care of The Roanoke Times' New River Current, P.O. Box 540, Christiansburg 24073, or send e-mail to

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by CNB