The Dalmatian Diet
Take a bite out of health problems with a properly balanced diet.
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Urinary Stone Prevention
Unfortunately, some meat-based premium foods are ill-advised for Dalmatians because of a breed-specific health problem. According to some sources, Dals are the only breed whose urine produces uric acid instead of urea of allantoin. Therefore, Dalmatians have a predilection for developing urinary stones primarily in the bladder. Stones that travel to the urethra can form a blockage. Research suggests there's a link between this condition and diet. According to Dr. Young, it is important to avoid foods with high amounts of purine-producing sources, such as protein. Purines are the metabolic by-product of protein metabolism. They spell trouble for Dalmatians.
Evelyn Bordner of Massillon, Ohio, has been breeding Dalmatians for 20 years. Bordner recently had her first experience with a dog becoming obstructed. All these years I fed my dogs the same puppy food and the same adult food. This dog was no different, Bordner says. Yet for some reason he blocked up with stones at only 15 months of age. After this occurrence, Bordner made major adjustments to the dogs diet. He now eats a prescription diet. Training treats are grapes, pieces of cheese or corn cereal. I avoid any foods or treats that are high in purines. Beef, meat-by-products, even some vegetables, are now taboo. Bordner also feeds one hard-boiled egg a day, a practice her dog is particularly fond of. Eggs are low in purines and are excellent sources of protein, says Bordner.
Between the ages of 9 months to 1 year, Dalmatians should have an annual urinalysis, Dr. Young says. Stones can form a blockage, particularly in males, creating a life-threatening situation. It would be much better to foresee the problem than to perform emergency surgery. Breeder Kathy McCoubrey in Broad Run, Va., prefers twice-yearly or even quarterly urinalysis schedules for males. Dr. Young says a dog exhibiting symptoms of a uric acid problem can still live a relatively normal life if given a special diet and a drug called Allopurinol, which reduces the level of uric acid in the plasma.
Dr. Young also likes to treat stone-developers with potassium chloride. Light salt can be quite useful to augment urine volume and decrease the concentration of stone-forming agents.
If you are considering acquiring a Dalmatian, do not let the uric-acid problem discourage you. Max Bradley-Kemp in Riddleton, Tenn., has had great success feeding a premium diet. I believe excessive protein can cause problems, so I advise Dal owners to keep the protein level under 25 percent, even for younger dogs, Bradley-Kemp says. It is wise to avoid beef-based diets because beef is high in purines. Instead, feed a protein source of chicken, turkey or lamb. Bradley-Kemp also advises Dal owners to check out the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA), which lists high-purine foods to avoid.
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