Urinary tract problems in the Dalmatian dog

Urinary tract problems in the Dalmatian dog

Health & Safety

The Dalmatian dog breed is rather more prone than most other dogs to suffer from urinary tract problems, such as infections, crystal formation and bladder stones.

This is due to the unusual biochemistry of the liver and kidney of the breed, because of a genetic mutation present within the Dalmatian gene pool. This mutation causes Dalmatians to excrete uric acid in much higher amounts than normal, as the breed has an impaired capacity for processing uric acid naturally. The cause of this inability to process uric acid is due to the Dalmatian lacking the enzyme that is responsible for processing purine proteins, which are present in many different types of meat-based foods. The Dalmatian’s liver cells fail to properly absorb uric acid and convert it into allantoin, which is water-soluble and secreted in urine. Uric acid itself is not soluble in water, and so, this becomes deposited in the kidneys and bladder in large quantities, which can, over time, build up to form crystals and bladder stones.

Crystals within the kidneys and bladder lead to irritations, which can cause infections, blockages and related problems.

While there is no way to change the essential genetic makeup of the Dalmatian in order to correct their inability to process uric acid in the normal manner, there are various different ways in which Dalmatian owners can accommodate for the problem, and potentially prevent or minimise the chances of the excess uric acid transforming into crystals and stones.

Read on to learn more.

How to minimise the chances of Dalmatian dogs developing bladder stones

There are a range of different ways in which the owner of a Dalmatian can minimise and hopefully prevent the formation of bladder stones in their dogs, and your vet may suggest that you try out several methods at the same time. Prevention is of course preferable to having to deal with a problem further on down the line, and if you own a Dalmatian dog of any age, you should already be thinking ahead!

  • Make sure that your dog drinks plenty of clean, fresh water, as this helps to dilute uric acid and reduce the chances of crystal formation. For Dalmatians that have previously been diagnosed with bladder stones or that are considered to be at particular risk of developing them, veterinarians may recommend giving your dog distilled water to drink rather than tap water.
  • Give your dog every opportunity to go to the toilet whenever they need to, and never make them wait. Urinating frequently is important to allow your dog to flush out uric acid and the early formation of crystals, before they have the chance to develop and pose a problem.
  • Feed a veterinary prescribed low-protein diet, to reduce the amount of purine that your dog consumes; purine is a meat protein that transforms into uric acid, hence potentially causing a problem. Also, avoid feeding your dog meat scraps and treats that are rich in purine; as well as red meat and game, purine is also found in high quantities in organ meat, and oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovy.
  • Follow your vet’s advice in terms of adding any necessary supplements to your dog’s diet; a potassium citrate supplement may be recommended to help to lower the acidity levels of the urine, and make it easier to process.
  • Monitor the pH levels of your dog’s urine, using litmus sticks that are readily available to buy over the counter from chemists and pharmacies. Try to ensure that your dog’s urine acidity remains neutral or slightly on the alkaline side, at pH 7.0 or higher.
  • Your vet may wish to formally monitor your dog’s urine acidity on an ongoing basis too, by performing a more complex chemical analysis on the constituents.
  • If your dog is very prone to developing urinary crystals or bladder stones, your vet may recommend long-term medication using a medicine called allopurinol, which reduces the amount of uric acid within the body. However, this medication does come with a range of potential side effects if used long term, including skin rashes, sensitivities, and the formation of a different type of urinary tract stones, and so, allopurinol therapy is not suitable for every dog.

Can the genetic mutation that causes urinary tract problems be bred out of the Dalmatian?

As all Dalmatians as a breed are considered to have or carry the mutation responsible for difficulty processing urea, outcrossing of the Dalmatian breed to attempt to breed the mutation out of breed lines is something that has been suggested.

This could potentially involve breeding a purebred Dalmatian to a Pointer (a similar dog in terms of ancestry, appearance and size) and then breeding back the subsequent puppies to another purebred Dalmatian. However, this would mean that the puppies and their progeny for some generations to come would not be classed as pedigree Dalmatians, something that deters many professional breeders.



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