Heritability and Segregation Analysis of Deafness in U.S. Dalmatians
E. J. Cargill, T. R. Famula, G. M. Strain, K. E. Murphy


Hereditary loss of hearing affects many breeds of the domestic dog, but the Dalmatian has the highest prevalence. Approximately 30% are affected in the United States (U.S.) population. It is widely accepted that a relationship exists between deafness and pigmentation in the dog and also in other animals. While the Dalmatian exemplifies this relationship, the genetic origin and mode of inheritance of deafness in this breed are unknown. The goals of this study were to: (1) estimate the heritability of deafness in an extended kindred of U.S. Dalmatians and (2) determine, through complex segregation analysis, whether there is a major segregating locus that has a large effect on the expression of deafness. A kindred of 266 Dalmatians was assembled, of which 199 had been diagnosed using the brainstem auditory evoked response to determine auditory status. Of these, 74.4% (N = 148) had normal hearing, 18.1% (N = 36) were unilaterally deaf, and 7.5% (N = 15) were bilaterally deaf. A heritability of 0.73 was estimated considering deafness a dichotomous trait and 0.75 considering it as a trichotomous trait. Although deafness in the Dalmatian is clearly heritable, the evidence for the presence of a single major gene affecting the disorder is not persuasive.

  • Received July 23, 2003.
  • Accepted November 20, 2003.
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