The majority of dogs excrete small amounts of uric acid (a product or purine metabolism) in the urine. However, the Dalmatians are exceptional in that these excrete large amounts. This disorder in Dalmatian dogs is due to impaired conversion in the liver of uric acid to allantoin by the enzyme uricase leading to excess excretion of uric acid in the urine. Dalmatians do not suffer more from kidney or bladder stones than other dog breeds. However, if they develop such stones, their composition is different and they are called urate uroliths. Although all Dalmatians have the primary defect, only a some dogs develops clinical disease. The high heritability of the disease makes it possible for breeders to effectively select against the disease.
In the urine, high uric acid levels can promote "crystals" which in turn can form into larger stones. The result can be complete blockage of the urinary tract which is an emergency situation with life-threatening potential. Although male and female Dalmatians can develop stones, males are most likely to do so. English Bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers are also susceptible to the formation of urate uroliths and familial predisposition is suspected. The cause of urate urolithiasis in these breeds is not known.
Uric acid stones can be effectively prevented by limiting the amount of purine (a type of protein) in the diet. Most fruits and vegetables, except beans, peas, asparagus, spinach, and cauliflower, are low in purines. Eggs, cheese and milk are also low, while meats, fish, and organ meats are high in purines. Processed breads and cereals are low in purines, but whole grain varieties are not. Feeding Dalmatians a low-purine diet and increased water intake is the best way to prevent urate stones in this breed. Drugs such as allopurinol may be needed in some cases, although they may result in complications with the formation of xanthine stones in some dogs.
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