Dalmatian with health issues

I am new to the forum. Also new to adopting a rescue dog, and on a steep learning curve. We adopted a dalmatian in November. The shelter thinks she is about four. She has a lovely nature but can be quite timid. She is just learning to play and really coming on well. She has bonded really well with the family. We started feeding her Hills Vet Essentials on the vet’s recommendation. She seemed to do ok on it, but was always looking for more food. In December, she got a bout of colitis and became quite bad, on a drip for dehydration etc, so she had a couple of days of Hills I/D tinned food. At a cost of €9 for 24 hours, feeding this tinned food was unsustainable. So I started to research dog food and came across this site. We fed home made rice, chicken and sweet potato until she was over the colitis. About 2 weeks later, she had another bout of diarrhoea and we whipped her off to the vet for more antibiotics and anti inflammatories. A stool sample was taken and showed up nothing. Blood tests were taken and though her results were not good, they were inconclusive. More and more tests were suggested, and I thought we have to look at this more closely. Particularly we have to look at what we are feeding our dog. Oh, and unfortunately, we do not have pet insurance. We fed home made food for a while (really the dog was eating the best quality food) but I was concerned that she was not getting a balanced diet. Also, with home made food, I was concerned about over-feeding as I think her system can only handle so much food, though she is always looking for food. We had another bout of diarrhoea that lasted about 5 days in January and we got her through it. We transitioned her onto Markus Muehle dry food and she has been on that 100% (with fruit for treats/training) for about 10 days. I am now noticing she is itching a bit, and see small rust coloured patches on the hair on her tummy. I wonder whether to get a supplement from Luposan, but would prefer a complete food. What do I do at this stage. Complete dry food is best for our dog, I think, because we are less likely to over feed. I am getting samples of Simpsons to try and have been looking at Acana and Orjen (but worried about purine level if food too high in protein). Completely bamboozled but wanting to do right by our dog! Please help.

Hello and welcome to the forum. I am sorry to hear about your Dalmation’s illness. It is frustrating when you don’t know the reason for the colitis because without that information you can’t attempt to prevent it.

We automatically link colitis with diet but as you are probably aware by now, this is not always the cause. There are other reasons and sometimes they cannot be pinpointed. To this end, I was wondering about the inconclusive blood tests. Just thinking that it might have thrown some light on the issue but I can fully understand why it is difficult to proceed with this. They are so very expensive.

If you feel that the problem is due to diet then the correct way to go about it is to commence an exclusion diet with the help of the vet. However, this does take some time. TBH I’m struggling a bit here because I can’t discern from your post what your Dalmation might be intolerant of (if anything). However, the fact that you successfully fed home made food containing chicken, rice and sweet potato would seem to indicate that none of those products are a problem to the dog. Is this assumption correct?

Markus Muhle contains maize (corn) which might be causing the skin/coat problems. I too feed cold pressed food and chose Gentle partly because it does not contain this ingredient.

I take your point about the dried food being easier to manage but they tend to contain more ingredients/fillers than wet food. Sometimes dogs like yours do better on wet food perhaps because it is more digestible and has a simpler formula. Wet food can be weighed just like dried food and that should reduce the risk of overfeeding. However, they can be more expensive. I have a friend who has a dog with colitis and she started to feed Natures Menu Country Hunter canned food quite a few months ago. He has only had one bout of colitis since being on this food and that was due to medication.

Regarding the hunger, if the dog is of a decent weight and otherwise healthy, I think you can ignore this. I have three dogs, two of them are constantly ‘hungry’ in that they are always wanting to eat. If I responded to this behaviour all the time they would be enormous. With some dogs, it can’t be helped and the owner just has to be firm. However, having had a dog like yours, I do think that small, frequent meals are best.

Not sure if this will be helpful but to summarize the options:

  • Commence exclusion diet with the help of your vet.
  • Continue with home cooked diet, varying the content; try different meat sources e.g. fish, lamb. Also add some salmon oil for the omega oils.
  • Commercial foods - possibly try wet food, using the Dog Food Directory on here but set the filters Rating slider to 4-5 stars. You can also take cereals out of the equation if you wish.
  • Try a raw complete food such as Natures Menu, Natural Instinct, Honeys, Nutriment. All of these companies have customer service helplines so you can telephone for further advice.

Hi Dottie
Thank you for all of that information. When we first got Daisy she came with a bag of Tesco kibble, and we went to the vet and got the Hills. No transition or anything. No problem. About 4 weeks later she got colitis, so we went to the vet. She was given the meds, put on the I/D food and unfortunately became dehydrated., but recovered in about 5 days. We went back onto Hills. About two weeks later, I noticed her straining to poo with nothing happening, so went back to the vet. She was given the meds and we put her on home made food and made sure of no dehydration this time. There was no fever or temperature and the dog was still eating and fairly lively. The vet suggested a blood test to find the cause, and he advised that there was no specific diagnosis, but that the dog could have any of a number of conditions such as sub-acute pancreatitis, mal-absorbsion or IBS and that further more specific blood tests could be done, and if they were inconclusive, biopsies could be taken under GI. It was all a bit much to take in. I was looking for a more reasonably priced food than the Hills and when I started to research, came across your site and was dismayed to see how poorly Hills ranked. I was also wondering if I had not just over-reacted to the first bout of colitis and rushed to the vet and never gave the dog a chance to recover herself. After the second time on antibiotics, I though I have to try to get this dog healthier by food rather than rely on medicine. She was then on a home made diet, and we noticed that she started to eat poo when on a walk. So I figured she must be missing something in her diet and began to introduce the Markus Muehle.
About 2 or 3 weeks ago she developed diarrhea again and we decided to go back to full home made and keep her well hydrated and see how she fared. This diarrhea was sometimes bright yellow in colour. But she got better, my husband decided I was cossetting her too much, so he took her off the home made food and onto Markus Muehle (with occasional apple or banana) and she is doing really well. Only now I have noticed the rusty patches on her skin around her chest, and she does seem to be itching a bit more than she should - no broken skin or anything, but just want reverse this. She is still trying to eat poo if she gets the chance. I am getting a bit lost with all of this. Thanks for your patience!

It is thought by some that dogs eat faeces as a way of obtaining some missing nutrition. I’m just a pet owner but I reckon that if there is a cause we haven’t yet found it. However, I do have a suspicion that (in some cases) there may be a link between coprophagia and colitis because I have known a few dogs (one of my own included) who have had both of these problems. I think it is important to stop it though so you need to be double quick and clean up before the dog does. Also use a muzzle when out walking, particularly in high risk areas. I know of no cure for this and it is unlikely to stop so you need to be one step ahead and manage as best you can.

As you like cold pressed food and you feel that over all she has been OK on it, why not telephone the company and ask for a sample of Gentle? It is pretty much the same as MM but without the maize. Not saying it will work but it might be worth considering.

Hi Dottie
Had wondered about a muzzle when in areas with undergrowth - do try to get to the poo before Daisy does so that does not establish as a habit. Thank you for your suggestion regarding Gentle, will give it a try. Thanks for all your help. Barbara

Colitis can be caused or at least triggered by eating noxious substances so that’s why I suggested the muzzle (needs to be a basket one BTW). Trouble is, dogs are so fast and more often than not it’s too late by the time you get to them. If you do try the Gentle remember to weigh the food accurately with a digital scale. It’s 1% to 1.2% of the dog’s body weight. Try not to give anything else so that you have a good idea if it is suiting or not.

It might be worth trying a pre/probiotic. There are quite a few on the market. Alternatively, plain, natural yoghurt such as Yeo Valley organic might be useful. I do understand how troublesome this is, particularly as one of my dogs had it for some years. Please let us know how you get on.

Unless you have reason to suspect fish as an intolerance then I would suggest you try a grain free fish only food like Orijen 6 fish or Eden Catch of the Day. This eliminates most of the common ingredients that cause colitis, and in addition fish is a natural antiinflammatory. If this succeeds you can then try adding other protein sources, if not you may be better going with raw and introducing one protein at a time.

As to protein levels and the risk of stones in a small percentage of Dalmatians, the foods I mentioned should, due to their natural balance, maintain a neutral pH to the urine which minimises the risk in those that are susceptible. You can get pH test strips so you can regularly monitor pH and adjust diet if required

I would avoid youghurt and other dairy products as that contains lactose, and dogs are generally lactose intolerant, and that in itself can cause colitis,

Pro-biotics should only be given when needed due to a flare-up or antibiotics, as giving them regularly can stop the body maintaining the bacterial balance on its own, Eden has pre-biotic built in the formula, I’m not sure about the Orijen.

Hi Dottie & David
Thank you for the advice on the muzzle Dottie. Since my last posting, I think I have found a good source of raw food. I have to work out the logistics of buying it fresh or frozen and once I have that done, I will get one packet and trial it teaspoon by teaspoon! Also, I will stick with chicken and maybe duck occasionally for variety, but with possible sub-acute pancreatitis might avoid beef for the moment. I realise we will have to have a slow transition to raw.
David, it is comforting to know that the risk of stones is relatively low with a high protein dry food. I presume the same goes for a raw diet. Thats a good tip about the pH of the urine, something I could test for and monitor relatively easily. Thanks for the advice re yoghurt. I had been giving her either yoghurt or kefir to help the good bacteria, when she got sick I mixed some with slippery elm which I had heard might help, but I will now only give this when she has a flare up. I am trying to avoid repeated courses of antibiotics, and build up the dogs own immune system, but that may be a bit too much to hope for, given the bad start I guess she had.
Thank you for all your support. Barbara

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Yes, raw should also help keep a good balance and neutral pH. Please let us know how you get on :slight_smile: