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By Beth White, Melody Kennels

We generically recommend for most Dalmatians foods with the protein source of chicken and turkey, with protein levels in the range of 20-24%. No one food is good for all dogs, but with this range it should cover most dogs. Rather than the protein level, the source of the protein is what is important. Chicken and turkey are the lowest in purines.

If a Dalmatian has urinary problems then it usually means that he can't break down purines in his diet. Beef is highest in purines so we recommend the other protein sources. We also suggest that Dalmatians (again, most dogs) be fed scraps as a healthy addition to their "balanced" diet. It is interesting to note that all foods, from Walmart's Old Roy to the most expensive foods on the market state "nutritionally complete" or "balanced". Ever wonder why pet foods are considered balanced but human food isn't?

Scraps help make the dog's diet more complete. One of the worst things that has happened to modern pets is modern dog food....but that is another story. When we used to slop the hogs and slop the dogs, we didn't have hip dysplasia or many of the other more modern structural problems. Our convenient dog foods are an improvement in many ways, but they are not complete or balanced. Scraps are also "tasty" and fun for the dog.

Veterinarians began recommending not feeding human food when the average pet was found to be too fat., Moving from the farm to the city and from work to retirement caused many pets to loose their shape. Feeding too many scraps isn't good if it adds weight to dog, but there are just too many nutrients that go down the drain or in the trash that are helpful and useful to our pets. Modern dog foods are not always the best source of nutrients (from a source of diseased livestock possibly, etc.). The foods are also shipped long distances and sit on the shelf sometimes for months, are exposed to heat, etc. All this contributes to reduction in the quality and quantity of nutrients within the food fed to our pets.

There is a growing movement of feeding dogs raw diets, with great health results. For more information, search for Bones and Raw Food diet (BARF), or authors Billingshurst or Pitcairn, who have excellent books on the subject, on the web. Another great resource for dog owners is The Whole Dog Journal. Call 1-800-829-9165 for a trial copy.

Some dogs (Dalmatians included) can't tolerate ethoxyquin. It is best to feed a food without this preservative. Dalmatians (all dogs even) should always be fed with water added to their food. It need not be soaked, but served like milk on a bowl of cereal. Ask yourself why we add milk to a bowl of grain. It is easier to eat that way. But, with a Dalmatian, there is the added benefit of the dog taking in a larger quantity of water than normal (in order to get to his food) and he flushes his kidneys twice a day. This is good for the kidneys.

All dogs should be fed twice a day. Fortunately, most people have gotten away from feeding only once a day. Livestock is fed twice a day and we eat three times. Once a day simply isn't enough. We don't recommend free feeding because it isn't practical if water is added to the food. If not eaten immediately, it becomes soggy and then either spoils or is wasted. Besides, food exposed to the air loses more of its nutritional potency.

When a Dalmatian has urinary stones the old method, prior to modern commercial kidney diets, was to feed rice and vegetables (cooked with oil, bacon grease, salt, herbs of all sorts for flavor, etc.). Cottage cheese can also be added. Commercial kidney foods are fine, but they are usually not very palatable and often expensive.

Rice and vegetables are healthy and any Dalmatian can live on them and look great. Nothing gets fat on rice! When I prepared this diet for a dog that I once kept, I cooked the rice with various types of oils (Olive, safflower, corn, etc.) and threw in whatever herbs and seasonings I had on the shelf. I also added potatoes, green beans, and many other vegetables. The rice concoction was quite tasty and I usually sampled it too! A vitamin/mineral supplement was also added.

Dogs fed rice and vegetables usually hold their weight quite well. The owner, however, must remember to feed more than he would feed commercial dog food. The good thing is that most dogs actually love rice and vegetables, when herbs and spices and oils are added during cooking. Most of the time this method only requires cooking twice a week. Cook large batches and refrigerate what isn't fed. Warm cold rice concoction and water in the microwave slowly. When traveling, obviously, it would be better to take commercial kidney foods.

For non-chronic stone formers, but dogs with gravel or sediment in need of veterinary treatment, it is always best to follow your veterinarians advice. But, once the urine has attained a normal pH, attempt to start the dog back onto a quality commercial food. Often a dog's system has been corrected and by feeding low purines and lots of water, he can return to commercial foods. Make sure that the food is WELL WATERED.

One manner of managing elevated pH in the urine is to use baking soda. If the urine is becoming acidic and/or the dog is possibly showing red skin under the armpits, on the tummy and wherever the hair is short, it can usually be helped by a weekly regiment of baking soda. Serve the average sized Dalmatian 1/4 tsp. of baking soda one time a day mixed in the wetted dog food. Do this for one week once a month, if needed. This procedure usually keeps dogs on the edge from going on into further problems. It also helps keep the grass green in backyards too!

When taking a urine sample to the veterinarian for testing, make sure that the sample is not refrigerated, but read as soon as possible after collection. Cold and time can affect urine readings. The urine should also be the first pee of the day so that it is concentrated.

Experience has shown that if a Dalmatian is fed a quality diet, with fruits and vegetables and water added, and twice a day....he is not likely to have urinary problems. Also, about 40% of the time urine might show sediment....simply because they are Dalmatians. Unless there are accompanying heath symptoms, this should not necessarily be a reason for treatment.Sediment should be monitored, but that alone doesn't necessarily warrant a change in diet or treatment. Adding water to the food and/or baking soda will likely do the trick. Veterinarians sometimes can be very concerned about sediment in a Dalmatian's urine, and yet the dog displays no health problems. Chances are the next urine sample may not have sediment. Use the above suggestions for feed and water and the dog will likely be fine.

There are many "normal" Dalmatians that can be fed a beef based food. You just won't know which dog could develop stones until it is too late. So, it is best to feed all Dalmatians as described above. My husband and I have had a house full of Dalmatians since 1965 and we have never had a kidney or bladder stone. We add water and feed chicken!