Urinary stones and Diet
Urinary stones can take many forms, but the type most relevant to Dalmatian health & welfare is uric acid (or ‘Urate’) stones. All Dalmatians carry a genetic mutation, which prevents them from processing uric acid, a bi-product from all kinds of foods. Instead it is excreted in urine. Although Dalmatians excrete higher concentrations of uric acid, only a minor proportion develops stone problems. Uric acid is not very soluble, and there is a risk that it can deposit in the bladder, and sometimes the kidney. Initially, the deposits resemble fine sand, but can subsequently progress to coarser grit and eventually to a stone. The presence of uric acid crystals, whether large or small, can cause irritation to the bladder and urinary tract, giving rise to infection. Urinary stones, which pass into the urinary tract, can cause blockage, which is very serious and requires immediate veterinary attention. Dogs appear to be at higher risk than bitches to urinary stones, believed to reflect the anatomical differences in their urinary tracts.
How common are Urate stones in Dalmatians?
It is very difficult to be precise. The only available UK data is from the KC/BSAVA Health Survey for Dalmatians. The epidemiologist who analysed the data advised that the incidence is somewhere within a ‘best case’ scenario of 1.1%, a ‘worst case’ of 3.5%, and a reasoned ‘middle-of-the-road’ value of 1.8%. These figures are indicative hence some caution is required. They were based upon a sample of 452 live dogs and 199 deaths (none of the latter of which were attributed to urinary stones).
What can be done to reduce the risk of Urinary Stones?
It is important that a dog is given frequent opportunity to urinate, since this causes any sediment to be ‘flushed out’ before it can progress to a stone. Ready availability of fresh water for any dog is an essential, but it is advantageous to encourage water intake in order to increase the frequency of urination and to dilute any uric acid in the urinary system. Frequent replacement of water arouses curiosity from a dog, and a desire to drink. If you feed a ‘dry’ diet, put some water on it. There is no need to allow it to soak and the dog will take in the water as it eats. There is a proprietary Breed-specific diet available from normal retail outlets, which is low in ‘purines’ (the principal food source of uric acid). Some owners have formulated their own diets, which are also low Purine. Further information is available if required.
What are the signs of Urinary stone formation?
Any urinary infection or apparent discomfort on urination should be regarded with caution, and veterinary advice sought. If a dog is exhibiting clear pain, especially with a lack of urination, and possibly arching of the back, urgent veterinary attention is essential. A dog experiencing pain for any reason should always be referred immediately to a vet
What treatments are available for Dalmatians with Urinary stones?
Uric acid crystals or stones can sometimes be dissolved using prescription diets or medication, or more commonly a combination of both. In extreme cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.
IF IN ANY DOUBT, ALWAYS CONTACT YOUR VET
Written by Dr John Stevenson Breed club health co-ordinator. Reproduced with kind permission of the British Dalmatian Club.
For many years people thought that Dalmatians needed a low protein diet. This is in fact not quite true. Dalmatians like all dogs need protein to build and repair tissues. It is the type of protein that Dalmatians are given as part of their diet is paramount. The British Dalmatian Club have information on stones on their website see the link here.
Purine is a type of protein found in certain red meats, some poultry, game, offal and yeast products are high in levels of Purine. These purines can cause problems for some Dalmatians so are best avoided. There are pre-prepared foods available without prescription Royal Canin make a food specifically for Dalmatians it is based on egg protein and is very low in Purines. The other prepared foods available are by prescription they are made by Hills and Purina and are generally only used once a stone forming Dalmatian has been diagnosed and treated by a Vet. All of these foods have the disadvantage of being quite expensive compared to other dry foods. There are cheaper alternatives that have been successfully used by Stone Forming Dalmatians in Welfare. We have list of foods an their purine content, we have diets specially formulated from these lists that have been successfully fed to stone forming Dalmatians and kept them free of the recurrence of stones. Dalmatians should always have fresh clean water to drink and have access to outdoors so that they can regularly urinate.
Please get in touch with the website or our central coordinator if you would like more information.
Snacks and treats
Many pre-made dog snacks and treats are often made from offal and cheap cuts of meats that contain the highest amounts of Purines. We would recommend that these are avoided. Apple, Carrot, Hard Cheese (Cheddar) and hard boiled eggs make great low Purine treats and are great for titbits while training your Dalmatian.