Feeding Dalmatians

Introduction

We generally recommend for most Dalmatians foods with a 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. 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" commercial food diet. 

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.

Urinary Stones

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.

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 a dog is elevated and/or 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.

Raw Diets

As commercial dog food has become popular and convenient, many veterinarians, breeders, and owners have noted several health problems. Most dog foods have as their main ingredient cereals, which have been attributed to a range of problems such as allergies. Furthermore, commercial dog foods are laden with preservatives, additives, colors (dyes), and salt.

As a result, there is a movement afoot to return to a more natural diet for dogs. Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, found that farm and stock dogs as well as companion dogs were not living to as useful an age as before and seemed to have far more health problems. The one big change in their lives seemed to be commercial dog food which has not been popular in Australia as long as it has in the US and Europe. He began suggesting to clients that they change the dogs back to raw, natural foods and many of the health issues seemed to improve. His subsequent book, "Give Your Dog A Bone", formalized the Bones and Raw Food diet, or "BARF".

In the BARF scheme, 60-80% of the total diet is made up of raw, meaty bones such as turkey or chicken necks, chicken wings, chicken backs, and lamb neck bones. These bones are soft and pliable and dogs are able to chew them easily. The remainder of the diet is a variety of raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, leafy greens, cabbage, beets, squash. Since dogs cannot digest the cellulose in the cell walls of vegetables, they must be pureed in a blender to the consistency of baby food or put through a juicer. Yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, raw or cooked eggs, organ meats, and even small amounts of leftovers in the form of lean meats, cooked vegetables, rice, oatmeal, or pasta can be added occasionally. Some people also add some supplements such as flaxseed or fish oil, cod liver oil, kelp, and vitamins B, C, and E. 

Anyone contemplating a switch to a BARF diet should read "Give Your Dog A Bone". Although the diet described in the book is high protein and contains many foods on the moderately high in purines, Billinghurst has modified the BARF diet for Dalmatians. He described a modified diet and explains, "The best choice for raw meaty bones would be chicken wings, chicken necks, chicken backs, and turkey necks. Use plenty of pureed or pulped vegetables including lots of leafy greens. The diet could also include eggs, cottage or ricotta cheese, yogurt, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and even some peanut butter. The diet would be supplemented with a vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, kelp, and a teaspoon of cod liver oil several times a week. Dalmatian owners must keep organ meats to a minimum and be sure the diet contains plenty of water. A raw food diet has more moisture than a commercial diet but you may want to add 3/4 to 1 cup of extra water to a meal to keep the dog really well hydrated. The goal for a Dalmatians is to keep the urine neutral and dilute". 

Supplements

If your dog has no urinary stone problems, try adding Vitamin C to the diet to improve his health. Nowhere in his diet does he get Vitamin C unless you add it. It is not even in multivitamins. Either feed citrus fruits or supplement with about 500 mg. morning and night and your dog will be much healthier and happier. It relieves pain from arthritis, is a catalyst for nutrients and also medications. It is also anti-stress. It won't hurt your dog and as long as the stool doesn't become soft, you can give virtually as much as you would like. Most adult Dalmatians need a maintenance of 1000 mg. per day. Growing puppies easily could use 2000 to 3000 mg. per day. In puppies the Vitamin C helps prevent ligament and tendon damage which can result in either arthritis later in life or hip dysplasia. Dalmatians run and play so hard that they sometimes do themselves damage and the C helps prevent that. Also, after a long run (say, you went to the mountains for a day or weekend), give additional Vitamin C and he will no longer be body sore. Works wonders! Look for Vitamin C made with rosehips and bioflavinoids as they promote circulation, which in turn, promote joint health. Another way of reducing acidity in the urine is to add 1/4 tsp of baking soda to the meal once a day for a week each month.