Young Dalmatian dog

Before becoming a Dalmatian owner, I didn’t even know what a purine was, let alone what it meant for Dalmatian diet planning and health. Many years later, I’m still learning all the time. Since it’s one of the topics we often receive questions on from fellow Dalmatian owners, we decided to share a special post. Here’s an introduction to Dalmatian purine issues, including the challenges of diet planning for Dalmatian dogs, whether commercial or homemade, with links to more resources and information for a deeper dive. 

This post shares an introduction to the purine issue and some of our personal experiences. It is not professional advice. If you’re a Dalmatian owner (or considering adopting a Dali), we encourage you to explore what the experts have to say about Dalmatians, purines, urates, and health. Have a chat with your trusted vet and consider consulting a canine nutritionist about what’s right for you and your dog. Every dog is different, with different issues and needs that will evolve and change over time. Good luck, and we hope your Dali stays well.

Purines, Pee, and Problems

In most mammals, purines (a form of protein) in foods are converted through multiple enzyme processes in the body, with the last stages being into uric acid and finally into allontoin. Allontoin is highly soluble and easily excreted from the body. Easy pee-sy, if you will. But unfortunately, things are not so easy pee-sy for Dalmatians. Due to a genetic anomaly, purebred Dalmatians normally don’t have the ability to convert uric acid.  This condition is called hyperuricosuria (HU or HUU for short), meaning having excess uric acid in the urine. 

Without the help of this final enzyme process, Dalmatians must manage and expel the excess uric acid, but unfortunately, it’s not highly water soluble. In some cases, this can cause health complications, like urate crystals forming into larger stones. These can cause irritation, pain, and potentially create life-threatening blockages in the dog’s urinary system. Not all Dalmatians will form stones fortunately, but they will usually have the genetic issue of higher uric acid working it’s way through their systems. This makes it very important to be aware of the risks, moderate diets, monitor for potential symptoms, and seek veterinary advice.

Purine Sources and Dog Food Difficulties

High purine-yielding foods are the same foods that aggravate human gout. Some of these are otherwise excellent for dogs. Gout you say? Dogs shouldn’t be indulging in rich desserts or alcohol, but there are many other types of high purine foods. In fact, a lot of options that would be fantastic for most dogs are high in purine. Bummer indeed. Wild game, red meat, organ meats, and many other doggone great foods are high on the purine scale. This makes it extremely difficult to choose quality commercial dog foods. It also makes it extremely difficult to feed a balanced raw diet – especially with a whole-prey mindset. Dalmatian diets (both for foods and treats) require more careful consideration. You might find yourself needing to work with a trusted vet, nutritionist, or both to combine a diet that balances the purine risks with other needs, with special consideration to health factors and stage of life.  

Human gout resources have been extremely helpful to us for purine awareness. Find a purine table with a format you like and bookmark it. I’ve had this purine table bookmarked for years. It’s basic, but comprehensive and very useful. After a while, purine awareness will seep into your memory, too. If you’re not already a label reader, learn how to interpret labels and make checking a habit. When choosing protein sources, don’t default to the common assumption that red meats are high and white meats or fish are low. Some lean red muscle meats are actually similar or lower in purines than chicken and certain types of fish, as well as being more nutritionally dense foods. Awareness can help with balancing the diet and providing variety. A good purine table (and advice from your vet and/or a nutritionist) is really helpful for trying to make informed dietary choices. And remember, purine is just one factor.

Dalmatian Diet Options and Restrictions

Dalmatians don’t neatly fit a typical dog nutritional model, and their diets should be planned on a case-by-case basis in discussion with your trusted vets. A canine nutritionist may also be helpful.  For dogs with a known history of urinary issues, special diets are often prescribed as part of their preventative care plan. For others, the course is often moderation, monitoring, and supportive lifestyle factors.  

Dalmatian Purine-Related Diets

Finding the right diet for your dog’s specific needs can be tricky. Therapeutic or restriction diets are commonly recommended or prescribed for Dalmatians, especially those with a known history of stone formation or other urinary issues. These may involve prescribed veterinary diets, approved homemade diets, combination diets, or ingredient avoidance. Presecription medications may also be recommended, including drugs to dissolve stones and/or adjust urinary pH to reduce the risk of stone formations. Expert opinions often conflict. Consider advice carefully, get informed, and seek multiple opinions if/as needed until you’re comfortable with the approach for you and your dog. Of important note, low purine does not mean low protein. See above regarding how useful it is to have a purine table or two for reference.

Purine is one of many dietary factors to consider for your Dalmatian. Whatever feeding plan and foods you choose, the diet needs all of the building blocks to support other good health. As a lesson from our own experiences over the years, it’s easy to get fixated on specific health factors, including purine. But the body is a complex machine with a broad spectrum of needs. It’s extremely important that any dog’s diet be balanced, nutritionally complete, and suited to the health, age, and activity level of the dog.  Protein sources for Dalmatians are often heavily focused on poultry, certain types fish, and non-meat sources like eggs and dairy. Secreting organs and other high purine foods are often avoided or carefully limited. Less conventional foods, including low-calorie but nutritious fruits and veggies, are often added for moisture and/or urinary pH balance. Sniff your way to our next section for more detail on diet elements that can help support purine management,

A purine-conscious diet can include other supporting elements beyond just looking at purine content. Including dog-safe foods that help with the movement of uric acid may also be part of a supporting dietary plan, and on the flip side, it may also help to moderate foods that can impair the movement of uric acid, like limiting excess fat in the diet. Foods that help with the management of a healthy urinary pH can also be beneficial, since pH affects the ability of urine to carry dissolved urates. Including dog-friendly alkalizing foods can help balance the typically more acidic high-protein primary dog diet. In addition to healthy pH, we want a healthy dilution. Including naturally moist foods and treats, adding extra liquids at mealtime, and encouraging drinking (and peeing) can help to keep the system flowing. Frequency and timing of feedings vs. the dog’s usual sleep times and exercise routines are also considerations. The longer urine sits in the bladder, the more opportunity it has to concentrate or form stones. See lifestyle factors below.

Dalmatian Food Allergies and Sensitivities

In addition to the purine metabolism issue, Dalmatians are notoriously sensitive in general. Unfortunately, this may include individual food sensitivities or allergies. This is another factor in careful diet planning, changes, and adjustments on a case-by-case basis. 

Additional Lifestyle Factors for Purine Management

As noted above, maintaining an active healthy lifestyle with plenty of access to clean fresh water and opportunity to pee can also help to maintain urinary health. This includes staying properly hydrated and emptying the tank on a frequent basis. We don’t want things concentrating in our Dali’s systems. This is good practice for maintaining general urinary health for all pets, not just for purine management or for Dalmatians. Nor is it just for dogs for that matter. Go with the flow, furfriends and humans!

Monitoring and Testing Your Dog's Urine

Regular Vet Check-Ups

Urine testing is something that your vet might recommend as part of your Dalmatian’s routine check ups. In addition to all of the usual health indicators on a standard urine test, they can keep an eye on trends over time and/or analyse sediment for warning signs of crystals or stones. 

Collecting a Urine Sample from Your Dog

I still remember the first time a vet asked me to bring in Oli’s first morning urine sample. I was dumbfounded about how I was going to collect. They recommended catching the sample in a ladle and transferring it to a jar. That, my friends, did not go to plan!  For larger dogs (especially boys) unless you’re squeamish about such things, I recommend skipping the ladle or other tricks, and becoming a barehanded pee collection ninja. Well, barehanded with a container, of course! I prefer just going right under with the clean jar and catching a free flow sample from our dogs. It’s honestly way easier, there’s less transfer sample contamination risk,  and at worst case, you get peed on a bit and need to wash your hands afterwards. Easy as! 

Testing Your Dog’s Urine at Home

Home testing is a useful way to montior trends between vet checks, follow-up after any issues or illnesses, or proactively check how changes in diet or supplements might be affecting urinary pH.  Monitoring can be helpful when you’re aiming to keep pH within the slightly acidic range edging towards neutral (urate stones are more likely to form in very acid urine) or other ranges as recommended by your vet. Urine pH varies depending on the individual dog’s system, health, hydration, diet, time of day, time since fed, and lots of other factors so checking at the same schedule and/or getting to know your dog’s normal variations can be helpful. 

Unless your vet wants you to check other properties with urine test trips, any type of broad range pH tester or strip will do the trick for general monitoring. You can buy basic pH test strips (affiliate link) online, from vet or medical suppliers, pool suppliers, or hardware stores. Make sure the strips are full range – some multifunction pool and spa strips only cover a partial pH range. We use an inexpensive digital pH tester (affiliate link) for periodic checks. It’s intended for the spa pool, but works great in a pee jar. I use a clean clear glass jar for fuss free first morning checks. Collecting the sample in clear glass makes it easy to keep an eye on any changes to usual colour and clarity, too.

Our Dogs and Our Blog

Our dogs are not currently on a medically restricted diet. We’re fortunate that none of our dogs have, thus far, had issues. But it’s better to lean on the side of safety. Even without restrictions, we still aim to moderate their purine intake. Our dogs are currently mixed fed, with a carefully considered combination of commercial, fresh, and homemade. This has evolved over time, and continues to change. Our dogs currently have complete and balanced commercial foods (different for each dog) as their primaries, supplemented with meats and fish in moderated quantities for toppers and treats. They also enjoy small additions of many less traditional dog foods, including dairy, eggs, gelatin, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and more. A variety of complete and balanced foods with small amounts of extras, toppers, and treats opens more options for diet management and their purine moderation. Other health factors are also significant considerations in their diet planning and we’ll continue to evolve in consultation with their vets.

Our recipe ideas are not specially formulated for purine restricted diets. Sorry to disappoint any Dal pals who’ve come to our blog looking for special Dalmatian diets, food, or treats. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but our boys aren’t on a special restricted diet so we’re flexible on dog treat ingredients and options. Check the ingredients in any treat recipe, from here or elsewhere, to see if they suit your individual dog diet plans and preferences. Looking for ideas? You can use our labels to explore or the internal search to sniff out your favourite ingredients. You can search our posts for specific types of meat, like chicken or turkey, and we also have lots of different homemade dog treat recipes with eggs, dairy, gelatin, fruits, veggies, and other low/lower purine ingredients. Gelatin gummies are one of our furfamily’s favourite dog treats, and gelatin has the bonus of being a low-purine protein. 

We don’t advocate a particular feeding plan, product, or diet. There’s a reason why you won’t find homemade dog food recipes here on the blog, other than occasional behind the scenes shares of our own mixed feeding approach. I genuinely believe that every dog is different and that whatever foods you choose need to be purchased or prepared as well as portioned to that specific dog’s individual needs, health, age, and activity level. Balanced nutrition is essential. Our boys have different feeding programs. There are some overlapping elements, but the needs of young active Humphrey and slower senior Oli are very different, even though they’re both big male Dalmatians. Their diets are also always evolving as their needs change over time. Treats are small extras, not main elements of balanced nutrition, but those too require case-by-case consideration and moderation as per the notes we include at the end of our treat posts.

Learning About Dalmatians, Purines, and More

Want to dive deeper? We have an active board on Pinterest dedicated to urates and purine information. That’s where we collect and share purine-related references, readings, information, and ideas. Some of the links are dog-specific and some are human gout related resources on purines. There are many interesting reads and perspectives from nutritionists, pet food experts, and long-time Dalmatian breeders/owners on conventional and alternative dietary models for Dalmatians. As noted above, expert opinions sometimes differ or conflict, so consider the content and the sources carefully. I’ll keep pinning interesting info to our urates and purine Pinterest board. Feel free to send me a link if you have one you think I’d like to read or share.

If there is a Dalmatian in your life, I encourage you to dig in and learn as much as you can about supporting their health and well-being. Arrange for a chat with your trusted vet and consider consulting with a specialist or a professionally trained canine nutritionist, if there is one in your area or available via remote consultation.  Not sure where to start? Ask your vet for recommendations. Local Dalmatian breeders, rescues, and associations may also have specialist recommendations in your area. 

Choose and consume with care, and stay well, furfriends! Woofs!

An introduction to Dalmatian diet issues and purine problems

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