The worst genetic flaw that is associated with Catahoula Leopard dogs is deafness. This inherited flaw can range from deafness in one ear to totally deaf in addition to other health flaws such as blindness. For fanciers of the breed, there is a constant battle between those that believe that this flaw must be forcibly culled from the breeding program while others believe that there is no harm in allowing the trait to continue. In this article, we'll take a look at how deafness in Catahoula Leopard dogs can happen and what interested buyers can do to avoid purchasing a deaf dog.
While deafness can occur in dogs as a result of age or injury, some Catahoula Leopard dogs inherit this defect as a result of a genetic disorder called congenital sensorineural deafness. Despite the fact that it is considered to be congenital, meaning that it is present at birth, the disorder usually doesn't become apparent until three or four weeks of age. The development of the inner ear usually functions normally until this stage, until the blood supply to the cochlea ceases, causing the hair cells of the cochlea to die. There is not treatment available for this, and as a result, the hearing loss in the affected ear is total. These dogs can be deaf in one or both ears.
While the cause of this disorder is not completely understood, there does seem to be a correlation between deafness and coat color, as dogs that inherit the disorder are usually white, leaving experts to believe that the gene that causes an absence of pigment in the coat color also causes the death of the important hair cells of the cochlea. While Catahoula Leopard dogs are not as affected as other breeds, notably the Dalmatian, a significant number of Catahoula Leopard dogs that have double merle coats, or are mostly white, stand a strong chance of inheriting the disorder.
Breeders that find themselves with deaf Catahoula Leopard dogs are strongly discouraged from selling them, as in most cases they do not make good pets and owners could find it extremely difficult to train and raise them well. Most responsible breeders will cull these dogs from their breeding program in an effort to cut down the chances of continuing this disorder in future litters. Because deafness will not always be apparent at the time that interested buyers are seeking out Catahoula Leopard puppies to purchase, they are warned to talk frankly with breeders to learn the medical histories of the parents and their ancestors to gauge the likelihood of their dog developing deafness. Deafness will not always be apparent at the time of purchase because the deafness could only be in one ear. Interested buyers are recommended to test the dog's hearing with clackers, toys or a tuning fork before purchase, and take the puppy to a veterinarian that can perform a Baer hearing test, which can also gauge the hearing capabilities of each ear.