Q: I have a 6-year-old Dalmatian male who, while in a vet hospital for something unrelated, was found to have some irregular-looking urine. A test showed the urine contained some small crystals.
I have been advised that he is a likely candidate for kidney stones and will have to take one 300-milligram tablet of Allopurinol daily for the rest of his life and one teaspoon of baking soda twice a day with his meals.
I hate to think of my dog being on this medication for the rest of his life. Is there any alternative to this regimen? I would appreciate any advice you could give me on this matter.
A: The condition that you describe is the formation of urate crystals in the urine, which is very common in Dalmatians.
Urates are the product of protein metabolism, specifically that of purines, which are normally converted into urates that are then transformed into a product called allantoin.
In the Dalmatian, the conversion of the urates is not completed in the liver, and therefore these products are taken up by the kidneys and passed into the urine, where they may form urate crystals or stones.
Once these stones form, the dog starts to show signs of painful urination, occasionally blood in the urine and eventually straining due to blockage.
Diagnosis is made by testing the urine. In some cases, radiography may be necessary to identify stones in the bladder or kidneys.
Surgery is often required to remove the stones and have them analyzed by a lab.
Treatment of urate crystals is based on reducing the amount of purines in the food through special diets that exclude lean meats, liver, and kidney or diets that use vegetables as the source of protein.
The use of Allopurinol is necessary because this drug decreases the production of uric acid. Unfortunately, the medication will be required for the life of the animal.
The use of baking soda is to supply sodium bicarbonate, which will keep the urine in an alkaline state, reducing the formation of urate stones.
Some veterinarians suggest adding salt to the diet to increase water consumption in an effort to keep the urine diluted and not allow the crystals to form into stones.
Unfortunately, all of these measures will be necessary for your Dalmatian because he has been diagnosed with this condition.
It is fortunate that your veterinarian was alerted to this condition and took the proper steps to keep your dog healthy.
Q: I am trying to keep my dog's teeth as clean as possible by brushing them with a tooth brush.
My vet told me not to use regular toothpaste but to get a special paste designed for dogs. Is this really necessary? Can I use something else?
A: It is recommended that you use a paste for dogs rather than human paste because the latter will foam excessively and your dog may swallow it and vomit.
You may also consider using baking soda or just gently cleaning the teeth and gums with a wash cloth.
I admire your efforts to keep your dog's teeth healthy, since I see so many dogs with severe gum disease and infected teeth.
Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.