In my newsletter, I encourage my readers to ask me questions that I will then attempt to answer here on the blog. I recently received a question from Suzy who was wondering if it’s possible to feed Dalmatians a raw diet, considering their intolerance of food high in purines:
I’m a new discoverer of K9sOverCoffee and I have been enjoying reading your blog posts. I currently have 2 Dalmatians and have been interested in raw/home cooked feeding for them.
I’m hesitant, even scared to try! As Dalmatians have a serious problem with urinary stone formation, they can’t have food high in purines (which would include organ meats, fish, even some veggies and fruits, just to name a few things).
Meat itself can be high in purines, so that has to be a consideration. How do you figure out a way to feed this breed in a healthy way making sure you’re not causing any health issues yourself?
I had no clue how to answer this question at first, to be quite honest. I’ve been feeding my own two pups Missy & Buzz a raw diet for almost 2 years now, but I didn’t have to take any breed specific diet needs into consideration.
While I have had the immense pleasure of pet sitting a deaf Dalmatian girl by the name of Pebbles when I lived in D.C. suburbia, she was fed a kibble diet. I remember that she always needed to have access to a huge water bowl, but that was about the closest I came to experiencing any special dietary needs of this beautiful, beautiful breed.
Walking Pebbles, The Deaf Dalmatian
So I set out to find some answers for Suzy and broaden my own horizon. I asked Darwin’s Natural Pet for advice, a company I have actively ordered raw food from since making the switch from kibble to raw and who I trust.
I also browsed the web to see if I couldn’t find Dalmatians who are fed a raw diet. Turns out I found several and got the opportunity to get a glimpse into Norman the Dal’s dinner bowl, although he lives in the UK (all hail the internet, it is a beautiful thing).
Before I bring you Darwin’s advice and talk about how Norman’s owners manage to feed him a minimally processed, raw diet, let’s take a look at what this deal with purines is.
So What Are Purines?
According to WebMD, Purines are a chemical compound that are broken down into uric acid. They are produced naturally by the body and are also found in food in varying concentrations.
Foods high in purines include seafood such as sardines, anchovies, herring, or mackerel, red meats such as beef, venison, or lamb, organs such as livers, kidneys, brains, testicles, and spleens. Vegetables high in purines are artichokes, been sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, and peas.
How Do Purines Affect Dalmatians?
Purines can contribute to the formation of urate crystals in the Dalmatian’s urinary tract, which can vary from mild to life threatening.
Since Dalmatians are prone to developing urinary tract issues (urolithiasis is the clinical term), they need to be fed a diet low in purines and have unlimited access to water to flush out their urinary system. Note that not every Dalmatian WILL develop urinary tract issues, but the potential is definitely there.
Norman The Dalmatian Eats A Raw Diet
Norman the Dalmatian turns two years young in April of this year and has been successfully eating a raw diet for his entire life.
Norman eats a block of minced chicken in the morning (450 g, just shy of 1 lb), and another block of chicken mix (chicken and bone) at night.
If you’re wondering how to figure out how much raw food to feed your dog(s), I invite you to check out my blog post How To Figure Out How Much Raw Food To Feed Your Dogs.
His owners add a vegetable, seed, and fruit mix to each meal (one spoonful) to ensure that he gets all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients he needs. They also add a good amount of water to his bowl which is why you’ll notice that his food looks somewhat soupy once mixed together.
The particular mix they use is from SmartBarf, a UK brand. I looked it up and found that it’s comparable to vitamin/mineral mixes from The Honest Kitchen, Dr. Harvey’s, Sojos, or Grandma Lucy’s here in the US. I did, however, notice that the SmartBarf mix contains a much larger variety of nuts than any of the US brands I just mentioned. I might just elaborate on that in a different blog post 🙂
Minced Block Of Chicken, SmartBarf, & Water
Minced Chicken, SmartBarf, & Water Mixed Together
Occasionally, Norman also gets an egg mixed into his food and every now & then a raw chicken leg.
What Norman Doesn’t Eat
Norman isn’t crazy about turkey, so he mainly eats chicken. He doesn’t get any red meat such as beef, venison or lamb because the purine levels are much higher in red meat than they are in poultry.
He also doesn’t get any seafood or organ meat, again because of the high purine levels.
But Aren’t Organs An Inherent Part Of The Raw Diet?
Here’s where feeding Dalmatians a raw diet can become tricky – they really should avoid organs because of their high purine levels.
But according to the raw feeding formula, 70-80% must be muscle meat, 10% must be bone, and 10% must be secreting organ (5% liver, 5% other organ such as kidney, pancreas, brain, spleen – heart & tripe are considered meats).
Secreting organs are such an essential part of the raw diet because they are chock full of vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folic acid, B12), some vitamin D, E, K, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, and iodine, making a raw diet nutritionally complete and balanced.
Just in case you were wondering – no, you can’t just throw your dog a steak and expect him to thrive, that’s not how a healthy raw diet works.
So what’s the Dalmatian owner to do? Follow Norman’s owners’ example and replace the organs with a vitamin/mineral/nutrient mix such as SmartBarf’s. Also find a holistic veterinarian and talk to them about your Dal’s raw food needs. They should be happy to guide you throughout the transition from kibble to raw. If they’re not – find a new vet.
I Found Several Videos Of Dalmatians Eating A Raw Diet On YouTube
SpottedDogLover1 shared a video of their Dalmatian eating a raw chicken quarter.
Eindraxsonpax shared a video of their Dalmatian eating raw chicken wings.
ChicagoK9Gal shared a video of her 4 dogs eating a raw chicken leg quarter & chicken gizzards (including 1 Dalmatian).
Dalmata.eu shared a video of Dalmatian puppies eating raw goat milk.
I Asked Darwin’s Natural Pet For Advice – Jeanne Romano’s Answer
“The answers I give everyone who is nervous about feeding raw (ours or other reputable source) is to talk to their vet first. If they have a holistic vet or pet nutritionist they will be able to create a plan for her two Dalmatians.
Also, if she is planning on making her own raw meals, it is critical she use hormone free, antibiotic free and steroid free, etc.… meats. Go to a health food store or the butcher section of stores like Whole Foods or Mother’s to make sure she is getting the “cleanest” meat possible.
If she is planning on cooking the meat, while it’s still important to get top of the line product, it’s not nearly as critical to buy the most expensive. Cooking it thoroughly will destroy almost 100% of the pathogens in the meat.
In the meantime, if she is worried about purines, I would stay away from any foods (again, ours or others) where there is an over abundance of organ meats such as liver.
The high uric acid content in saturated fats in red and organ meats can lower the body’s ability to eliminate the uric acid.
Darwin’s offers duck, chicken and turkey in addition to its read meat selections. However, organs are still part of the poultry package. While it may not be as high in purines as red meat, and this being [edited] so breed specific, I would definitely research holistic experts to find out exactly what would be safe to feed (cooked or raw) and what to avoid.”
Yes, Dalmatians can eat a raw diet as long as it’s low in purines. This means that seafood, red meats and organs shouldn’t be fed as their purine levels are high. The same goes for certain vegetables (mentioned above).
Dalmatians should be encouraged to drink plenty of water and have unlimited access to fresh, clean water to flush out their urinary system and minimize the chances of developing urinary tract issues.
It’s a good idea to add water to the bowl containing the raw food, as seen in Norman’s food bowl, especially if the dog isn’t big on drinking.
Another smart move is to talk to a holistic veterinarian before switching your Dalmatian over to a raw diet. That way, you’re sure to get a customized diet plan tailored to your Dal’s specific needs. You can browse the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association for holistic vets near you.
Dr. Coger is such a vet who offers consultations and diet formulations. You can learn more about her services on her website.
For anyone interested in doing some further reading on Dalmatian-specific health concerns and raw-fed Dalmatians, I recommend checking out the following links:
Update 2019: I just recently found out about a Facebook Group for Raw Fed Dalmatians!
Are you the proud owner of a Dalmatian? Do you feed raw or have you considered making the switch? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!