There are several reasons why a dog might require a low-purine diet. The dog might have kidney stones, be prone to urinary stones, have certain types of liver disease, Cushing's disease or the canine version of gout. A low-purine diet shouldn't be low-protein. It is about using the right proteins to control purine levels.
Purines are nucleotide bases found in cells. They comprise an important part of DNA and are essential to life. Purines break down into uric acid. If the dog's body isn't properly clearing uric acid levels, urinary-tract stones form. It can also cause crystals to form in the joints and synovial fluid of the dogs, which can cause inflammation and pain. Certain breeds, like Dalmatians and English bulldogs, are more likely to have trouble processing purines.
Purines are found mainly in meat, but it isn't necessary to make your dog become a vegetarian. First, eliminate organ meats such as liver, kidneys and brains from the diet. Also avoid seafood, both canned and fresh, because of the high purine levels. Legumes are also high in purine. If you make your dog's food, avoid black-eyed peas and lentils. Garbanzo beans are the safest legume, with the lowest purine levels.
You have two options when feeding a low-purine diet. You can switch your dog to a vegetarian diet, using eggs and cottage cheese as the protein base, or you can feed high-protein, low-purine meats. Chicken and whitefish have the lowest purine levels. Your dog can thrive on a vegetarian diet, as long as the protein levels are high, and the plan is nutritionally balanced. If you do feed meat sources, they should be an occasional addition, rather than the base of the dog's diet.
Some people feed their dogs the biologically appropriate raw foods (BARF) diet. The diet is based on the theory that dogs still have the same basic nutritional needs of their wild cousins, wolves. A BARF diet consists of 80 per cent protein, mainly from raw meats and bones. The other 20 per cent can consist of grains, vegetables, cottage cheese, yoghurt and eggs. If your dog is on the BARF diet when your vet suggests switching to a low-purine diet, it can still be possible to feed the way you have been, but with some modification. For one, you will probably need to feed more puréed vegetables. You will also be adding more eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, yoghurt and peanut butter into the diet. Your dog can still have bones and small portions of meat. The safest protein sources to use are turkey necks, and chicken wings, backs and necks. Uncooked poultry bones are safe, because they aren't prone to splintering the way cooked bones are. Chicken or turkey skin is also safe. You will also need to add some supplements to ensure the dog's nutritional needs are met. Flax seed, vitamins B and E, kelp and cod-liver oil should all become part of your dog's diet. Your dog will also need more water to help flush away uric acid build-up, so make sure you offer fresh water several times daily. If your dog doesn't drink enough water, you can add a small amount of bullion flavouring to the water to pique his interest.