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) are converted through multiple enzyme processes, 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 lack 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 this final enzyme process, Dalmatians must manage and expel the excess uric acid. This can result in health complications like urate crystals and stones. Ouch!  These can cause irritation, pain, and potentially creating life-threatening blockages in the dog’s urinary system. Not all Dalmatians will form stones fortunately, but they will usually suffer the genetic issue of higher uric acid. This makes it very important to be aware of the risks, moderate diets accordingly, 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 find suitable quality commercial dog foods and treats. On the flip side, it also makes it extremely difficult to feed a balanced raw diet – especially with a whole-prey mindset.  This means that 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 to interpret labels and make ingredient checking a habit when shopping. When choosing meat-based 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 or a nutritionist) is really helpful for trying to make informed dietary choices. And remember, purine is just one dietary 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.  

Dalmatian Purine-Related Diets

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. Medications may also be recommended. 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 dietray 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.  

A purine-related diet can include other supporting factors, too. Including dog-safe foods that help with the movement of uric acid may also be part of a supporting dietary plan. On the flip side, it can also help to moderate foods that can impair the movement of uric acid, such as limiting excess fat in the diet. Foods that help with the management of a healthy urinary pH can also be beneficial. Frequency and timing of feedings vs. the dog’s usual sleep times and exercise routines 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

An active healthy lifestyle with plenty of access to clean fresh water and opportunity to pee can also help. This includes staying properly hydrated and emptying the tank on a frequent basis. We don’t things concentrating in there. This is good practice for maintaining general urinary health, not just for purine management or for Dalmatians. Nor is it just for dogs for that matter. Go with the flow, furfriends.

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 and homemade foods and treats. This has evolved over time, and continues to change. Our dogs currently have high quality commercial foods (different for each dog) as their primaries, supplemented with meats and fish in moderated quantities. They also enjoy small additions of many less traditional dog foods, including dairy, eggs, gelatin, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and more. Gelatin gummies are one of our favourite treats and gelatin bridges all sorts of dietary models, including being a low-purine protein. We’re also lucky here in New Zealand to have easy affordable access to quality pasture raised meat sources. The addition of quality natural treats, air dried complete foods, and most recently readily-available pre-prepared raw foods opens more options. Also, other health factors pose a greater consideration in 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. I won’t be whipping up a big batch of high purine dehydrated liver treats or the like any time soon, but there are still purine-yielding foods in their diet, from in what we make and the foods and treats we buy for them. Check the ingredients in any treat recipe, from here or elsewhere, to see if it suits your individual dog diet plans.

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, just 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.  As noted above, expert opinions sometimes differ or conflict, so consider the content and the sources carefully. 

One of the diet-related readings that I’ve personally found particularly interesting is the A+ Flint River Ranch article on the healthy Dalmatian diet for preventing urinary stones and allergies. They are a food company, so apply the necessary dose of salt to what you read (and not what you feed – hehe), but it genuinely is a very interesting article. There are also some interesting reads and perspectives from nutritionists, pet food experts, and long-time Dalmatian breeders/owners on conventional and alternative dietary models for Dalmatians. I’ll keep pinning to interesting reading to our urates and purine Pinterest board as I find them. 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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