The Dalmatian Club of America
Fallacy of "Low Protein" vs.
Protein"in Generalizing About Diets For Stone-Forming Dalmatians
The Study Group on Urinary Stones is concerned with some
generalities and comments recently picked up by a national Dalmatian magazine
from the newsletter of a regional Dal club. We are especially disturbed
because many of those statements can be misleading to the unsophisticated
reader whose Dalmatian may be a stone-former.
The following Dalmatian scientific data and facts come
not from "a food survey...of 60 breeders" but from 78 years of published
veterinary textbooks and veterinary journal articles, particularly within
recent years emanating from the two U.S. veterinary centers specializing
in urinary stones:
1) the Minnesota Urinary Stone Center of Professor Carl
Osborne, DVM at the U. of Minnesota Veterinary School in St. Paul, MN,
2) the California Urinary Stone Center of Professor Gerald
Ling, DVM at the U. of California Veterinary School at Davis.
To first understand the impacting influence of diet on
urinary stone-forming (and the Study Group's concern about the generalities
made) one must know a bit of the scientific background data on stone-forming
Dalmatians and the food intake desirable and undesirable for them. A published
veterinary journal article of 275 Dalmatians over a 10 year period showed
95 percentof the afflicted Dalmatians were confirmed with "urate" stones
(stones containing "ammonium acid urate," the most common, or "sodium urate"
or"uric acid," or a combination of two or more of those). URATE stone
formation is worsened by diets containing foods known to be high in purines,
and all Dalmatians are born with the potential for those type of stones
(see discussion, later, under stone-forming and breedlines).
Fallacy of "High protein" vs. "Low Protein" in Stone-Formers'
Diet, alone, has been reported to control or even prevent
urate stone-forming in dogs including our beloved breed. But, for urate
stone-forming Dalmatians, the amount of protein which helps or aggravates
their health problem is less important than the type of protein,
purine-yielding proteins. Liver, other organ meats and beef are notoriously
high inpurines...lamb and poultry less so. Eggs, most vegetables and fruits
are very low in purines.
Remembering it is not the amount but the type of protein
affecting this specific urinary problem, a "high protein" diet hypothetically
made up with no purine-yielding proteins would not be as dangerous to be
fed to a stone-forming Dalmatian. Conversely, a "low protein" diet of only
purine-yielding proteins would be extremely undesirable for that same Dal.
An eloquent case history: A Dalmatian, after 13
years of no stone-forming symptoms - ever - had a few spoonfuls of a 14
percent protein "treat" food-additive to supplement his diet (unchanged
for his entire adult years). A few weeks after adding only two spoonfuls
of the daily "low protein" supplement, his ability to urinate one day abruptly
became totally obstructedby urate stones. (Urinary obstruction in male
Dalmatians is a life-threatening condition and mandates immediate emergency
veterinary treatment.) Closer re-examination of the food label showed the
low amount of 14% protein (the lowest protein percentage quoted
from the published "food survey") to be liver, perhaps the worst
purine-yielding food to be fed to Dalmatians.
Where, why and how the generality of "low protein" diets
for Dalmatians came to be is unknown, but for urate stone-forming Dalmatians,
unqualified comments on "high" vs. "low" protein food should not be published
indiscriminately or without scientific fact and professionally-determined
Another eloquent example: For years, "rice-and-vegetable"
diets (homemade or commercial) has been a frequent conversational subject
when breeders and fanciers get together...yet spinach, asparagus, cauliflower
and lentils contain vegetable-proteins known to be high in purines. This
is another common generality about Dalmatians' food and emphasizes how
indiscriminately recommending just any "vegetable" diet for stone-forming
Dalmatians can worsen their condition unless knowledgeably and responsibly
We accordingly urge the Dalmatian breeder and fancier,
and certainly those publishing and disseminating dietary recommendations,
to go to their local library and consult a nutrition textbook for a tabulation
of purine-yielding foods. It is purine-yielding proteins to be avoided
for the specter of stone-forming, not just whether a food is "high" or
"low" protein. On the other hand, "high" vs. "low" protein foods may indeed
have significance for Dalmatian health problems other than stone- forming.
Stone-Forming in Dalmatian Breedlines
Breeders are quoted "while they never have owned a stone-forming
Dalmatian, their males have produced stone-formers or pups [were]...stone-formers."
This surmise can be highly questionable if those Dalmatians, like the 13 year
one cited previously, never had obstructed and never had shown other observable
symptoms and the breeders then jumped to the understandable and usual (but
unsubstantiated) conclusion that the Dal was "not a stone-former." The
veterinary authorities on urinary stones state quite emphatically that
many stone-forming dogs, Dalmatians included, live out their lives without
ever showing symptoms of this health problem which therefore goes undetected
and undiagnosed. Dr. Osborne labels these dogs as "silent stone-formers."
Since 1916, veterinarians have known all Dalmatians have
a breed-specific potential for a certain kind of urinary stone-forming.
(It is a tendency also shared by human beings and some apes.) This characteristic
of Dalmatians is taught to students at veterinary schools and has been the
subject of articles in veterinary journals and veterinary textbooks throughout
the world for the past 78 years. For those fanciers dismayed with this
breed-specific realization, let me quickly reassure them that not every
human being forms kidney stones and not every Dalmatian becomes a urinary
stone-former. But the potential of urate stone-forming still is there,
"unique [to Dalmatians] from that of other breeds..." according to a 1993
article from the California Urinary Stone Center in the Journal of the
American Veterinary Medical Association.
The influence of diet and other contributory factors on
Dalmatian stone-forming is also taught to veterinary students. This perhaps
is why the most effective anti-urate stone diet, Hill's u/d®, can only
be obtained as a prescription food from licensed veterinarians so that,
unlike published generalities from a "survey," the food formulation can
be recommended because of specific scientific rationale and based on scientific
diagnosis of each Dalmatian's need for it.
The least expensive test for stone-forming in Dalmatians
is a periodic routine, standard urinalysis during which centrifuging will
show whether the dog is throwing excessive urinary crystals (crystals can
"grow up"to become full-fledged stones). If periodic testing (regardless
of changes in diet), consistently shows no abnormal urinary crystals, it
may be concluded the Dalmatian is not a stone-former, not even a "silent"
one. Be aware, though, that urinating flushes out many crystals and stones
from the dog's bladder. To avoid a misleading urinalysis, a "fresh" specimen
should therefore be obtained from the first urination in the morning, or
after the Dalmatian has been crated or indoors for many hours. Specimens
should not be refrigerated because temperature drop (from the animal's
body temperature) creates a certain "false" crystallization in the urine.
For this reason, the specimen should be taken to the vet's office as soon
as possible to be tested; the desk personnel there should also be cautioned
not to refrigerate the specimen and to process it as soon as possible.
Incorrect diet is a major problem for Dalmatian urinary
stone-formers but by no means the only one. The quoted breeders from the
"survey" happened to be correct in concluding other factors "contributed"
to stone-forming (although their emphasis on males suggested the problem
rarely occurs in bitches who also can be stone-formers but do not display
symptoms as obviously as males perhaps because of their urinary anatomy).
Urine which sits in the unemptied bladder will worsen stone-forming. Dalmatians,
therefore, should not be crated or kept indoors for long periods of time
without being given frequent (not merely "regular", as has been published)
opportunities to flush out their bladders...the more often, the more preventative.
Flushing out of the bladder also should be encouraged by permitting the
Dalmatian frequent or uninterrupted access to drinking of water. If there
is the remotest question about the local water quality, commercially bottled
water (specifically labeled "distilled" water) should be the only type
given to stone-forming Dals at home or at dog shows. And, please, DO
NOT BAIT WITH LIVER, particularly Specials who are baited so much more
In closing summary, then, please consider:
"High protein" vs. "low protein" for Dalmatians are generalities
which always must be carefully qualified before indiscriminately recommending
or publishing diet recommendations and conclusions;
Proteins from meats and vegetables containing high levels
of purines are absolutely to be avoided for any Dalmatian known to be forming
urate stones or excessive urate crystals in their urine - regardless
whether they are receiving "high protein" or "low protein" diets;
Every Dalmatian has the potential to be a urate stone-former
because of their breed-specific metabolism. In the absence of stone-forming
symptoms, it can only be the considered judgment of the owner and their
veterinarian if and when to place their Dalmatians on a preventative low-purine
diet (this decision, to be knowledgeably evaluated especially for the diets
of young growing puppies);
The least expensive test to determine if a Dalmatian is a
"stone- former" is a standard urinalysis, in particular centrifuging for
sediment in the urine. The most error-free and knowledgeable identifications
of sediment which is centrifuged out is by either the California or Minnesota
urinary centers mentioned earlier in this article; the Minnesota Urinary
Stone Center does not charge for this service. Urinalysis as a diagnostic
instrument of stone-forming in a Dalmatian cannot be significant and reliable
unless carried out for that dog many times over the course of many months
(or years) to confirm an unchanging pattern of abnormal urinary crystals
being present or absent.
Two horror stories have been reported to the Study Group
on Urinary Stones of a young Dalmatian and a puppy, both males, whose bladders
burst as a result of urinary obstruction. A little precautionary observation
by their owners could have aborted the progression to such a terrible end.
How is a Stone-Forming Dog Detected?
In males: Urinary obstruction in male Dalmatians is
very visible to the observer familiar with the signs. Males will demonstrate
warning symptoms more obviously than bitches perhaps because of the marked
difference in their normal urinary anatomy. As a large-enough stone travels
down the urinary pathway, it can lodge within the male dog's penis at a
dam-like narrowing of the cartilage, the "os penis." (The same size stone
would pass uneventfully through the female dog's urinary anatomy.)
When normal urine flow is obstructed by a stone, the male
dog will strain to urinate, but unsuccessfully. This will be very apparent
to the observer: no urine will pass at all or only a few drops. The dog
will attempt to urinate repetitively with little or no result.
In females: Bitches with stones will demonstrate
symptoms similar to those of urinary infections, namely more frequent urinating,
or attempts to, "accidents" by housebroken bitches and incessant licking
of their genital area.
Some stone-forming dogs will succeed in urinating, after
several attempts, with a sudden outpouring of urine. In such an instance,
it is probable that the stone creating the obstruction was "passed," restoring
the normal flow of urine. Any obstructed dog, even those who quickly pass
stones naturally, should be seen by their veterinarian for workup and to
embark on a program of prevention.
What to Do for Urinary Obstruction?
Blockage of normal urinary flow becomes progressively serious
the longer it exists, unrelieved, during which the urine is backing up
into the dog's system. The top priority therefore is to remove the obstructed
urine from the bladder as soon as possible and, while the obstruction remains
unchanged and while treatment is being evaluated, as often as necessary.
The Dalmatian should be immediately taken to a veterinarian who usually
can accomplish this simply and effectively without surgery or anesthesia,
sometimes even without tranquilizers. The veterinarian will catheterize
the dog in a special way by which the obstructing stone(s) can be passed
or, if not, are "backflushed" into the bladder thereby removing the cause
of the obstruction at the os penis and reopening the normal flow of urine.
After a successful "back flushing," some dogs do not ever obstruct again,
some do not for years but some can obstruct within a matter of hours or
days as stones again move down the system until they lodge without being
passed. A second or even a third "back flushing" may be required to produce
Once normal urinary flow has been successfully restored,
many stone-forming Dalmatians can live out their years happily and uneventfully
without the need of bladder surgery so long as their owners conscientiously
adhere to a preventative program (mostly an anti-stone diet for Dalmatians).
Members should be reminded that the 1992 Dalmatian Club
of America's Annual Educational Seminar, "Urinary Stones in Dalmatians
and Other Canines," by Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, of the Minnesota Urolith
Center, was professionally videotaped by Carolyn Bolt for our DCA lending
library. It is a superb teaching one and available by contacting: Mrs.Cathy
Nogar, Hopi-Kachina Dalmatians, Route 1 - Box 370 J, Espanola, NM 87532
Study Group on Urinary Stones
Dalmatian Club of America
Originally published and copyrighted in
The Spotter, Fall 1994 issue
Official publication of the DCA
Updated June 1996
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