Q. How common is deafness in the Rhodesian Ridgeback?
A. While it is not widespread, deafness is also not a rarity in our breed. It seems to occur in pockets of the breed population. Our goal is to find a genetic marker before deafness becomes a more significant problem than it already is.
Q. Is deafness in Ridgebacks different from deafness in Dalmatians?
A. Yes, very different. In Dalmatians and other breeds with white markings, deafness is connected to the presence of white. By contrast, deafness in Ridgebacks is not related to color – what geneticists call “non-syndromic.”
Q. How is deafness inherited in Ridgebacks?
A. Genetics researchers have concluded that it is a simple autosomal recessive – that is, two non-deaf dogs that each carry the gene for deafness can produce it if bred together. In such carrier-to-carrier breedings, each puppy has a 25 percent chance of becoming deaf.
Q. Can deafness be diagnosed with a BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test at 8 weeks old?
A. Unfortunately, not always. Deafness in Ridgeback puppies is progressive, and many deaf puppies are hearing at 8 weeks. They begin to go deaf soon after, and from the anecdotal information we have gathered, all are bilaterally deaf by six months, if not sooner.
Q. I have a deaf Ridgeback puppy, or a Ridgeback that has produced deafness. How can I help with genetic studies?
A. Researchers at the University of California at Davis are ready to begin searching for the gene that causes deafness in the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The researchers need DNA swabs from families that include deaf and hearing siblings, parents, and ideally as many grandparents as possible.