Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How a raw diet can help purine problems in Dalmations and other breeds…

If you have a Dalmation, Beagle, Bulldog, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, Miniature Schnauzer, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, Dachshund, Newfoundland, Irish Terrier, Scottish Terrier or Irish Setter then you are probably only too aware that these breeds can have purine metabolism problems.

In this short article – and with the considerable help of our Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Tom Farrington – I will try and explain how diet can help.

What are purines?

Purines are natural substances found in plant and animal cells and they are vital to the chemical structure of genes. (Don’t ask me any more about the gene angle because I am already in over my head!). High levels of purine can be found in any food group - that is to say vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. Certain foods such as kidneys, game, yeast,
mackerel, herring, sardines and mussels are particularly high. Others, such as chicken, beef, lamb and non-acidic fruit contain lower levels of purine.

When cells die and get recycled in a dog’s body the purines in their genetic material also get broken down. Once completely broken down they turn into uric acid, which is important to good health because it serves as an antioxidant that protects blood vessels.

However, sometimes uric acid levels in the blood and other parts of the body can become too high. This happens, for instance, when the kidney isn’t functioning properly (as it is the kidney that helps keep blood levels of uric acid balanced) or where there is excessive breakdown of cells. Although kidneys regulate the amount of purine (excreting what isn't required) it is worth remembering that the cause of the problem lies in the liver where purine metabolism is done.

OK enough biology.

The purine problems in dogs…

The breeds already mentioned above metabolise purine in a unique way ending up with excess uric acid. This in turn leads to urate stones. Worse, if treated with Allopurinol to block enzyme-producing urates, dogs can end up with xanthine stones instead of urate stones. This is what Tom has to say about the problem:

“From my experience in treating these cases it should be pointed out that urate stones are radio-lucent and thus can easily be missed especially when in the kidneys as x-rays pass right through them leaving no shadow unlike other stones. It takes air contrast x-rays to show them up! But this cannot be done in the kidney and the stone cannot be felt in the kidney, either. Even ultrasounds can miss them but CT (Computerised Tomography) can pick them up."

The Dalmation question

Dalmations are one breed that has been particularly prone to urinary stones and if you have a Dalmation or are interested in why then this site will be of interest:

How can diet help?

A raw food diet without organ meat and with none of the high purine vegetables (such as cauliflower, peas, spinach, mushrooms and legumes) is generally excellent as a diet for all breeds with a purine metabolism problem.

Tom says: “There will be dogs that are severely compromised genetically and some dogs who, due to various commercial diets including some commercial and home-made low-purine diets, have already suffered severe stones.”

He also points out that in compromised dogs a high fat diet can add to the problems by increasing urate formation especially in the kidneys. So if you have a thin dog with a purine problem consider increasing the frequency and size of meals rather than the fat level and check for hidden stones.

Bear in mind that plenty of pure water is also important. The word ‘pure’ must be emphasised as some additions to water for purification and sterilization purposes can change the urine pH or entire body chemistry triggering crystal formation.

What else? ‘Table foods’ are out and so is anything with salt in it. With regard to diet, incidentally, this may require the addition of potassium citrates (for preventing calcium oxalate crystals) and sodium bicarbonate (for preventing cystine crystals). Always ensure that the diet does not have large amounts of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) added as it acidifies urine decreasing the risk of the most common forms of stones but increasing the risk of urates.

Finally, do remember to arrange regular urine checks to ensure the pH stays alkaline and for the presence of either urate or xanthine crystals.

Remember, we make all our food to order

If you want to switch your dog to a low-purine, raw food diet but don’t know where to start we can help. All our food is made to order and we don't charge anything extra for adding or altering the basic ingredients. Please call or email for more information.

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