So you’ve watched 101 Dalmatians as a kid and it’s always been your dream to adopt one. As you’re likely already aware, Dalmatians - like every dog breed - are unique in their personalities and needs. You’ll want to take the time to familiarize yourself with the specific health needs of their breed. While every dog is different even within the same breed, there are general need-to-knows for each breed of dog. To help you along your journey, we’ve rounded up five top care tips for both new or potential Dalmatian owners.
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Exercise is key. While all dogs need a bit of exercise, the amount needed varies based on breed, size and age. Like many breeds, Dalmatians love exercise. Not only does it do their body good but it calms and relaxes their minds. An hour or two a day of running in a dog park, going for a hike or playing fetch in the yard will help relieve some of the tension and stress that builds up from loneliness and boredom. A puppy will need less playtime, as they’re still growing and tucker out easier. Since their energy comes in short bursts, consider playing several short games throughout the day to keep them entertained. Having a calm, relaxed pup around the house is better for everyone!
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Consider a low-purine diet. Dalmatians are prone to bladder stones, which can be limited with a specific diet. Stones and crystals can form anywhere in the urinary tract of the dog, from the kidney to the urethra to the most common location - the bladder. The stones can cause mild irritation, or can partially or even completely block the flow of urine in major cases, making urination painful or in some cases life-threateningly impossible. The end result is the need for a specialized diet for Dalmatians that is low in purines – but not necessarily low in protein. A low-purine, high-quality diet can be beneficial both in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract health issues. While Dalmatians uniquely metabolize purine-yielding foods, they certainly do not hold exclusive domain over urinary tract infections and stone-related problems. An ideal diet for Dalmatians is one that's low in purines (components of certain foods – primarily found in animal proteins – that metabolize into uric acid in the body), moderate in high-quality proteins (and devoid of substandard protein sources), high in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and low-purine vegetables help rid the body of extra uric acid), low in fat (fat holds onto uric acid in the kidneys), low in unnecessary fillers (foods that add little in the way of nutrients and for the most part simply result in larger stools for your dog), and low in salt. Nutritional supplements such as potassium citrates (for preventing calcium oxalate crystals) and sodium bicarbonate (for preventing cystine crystals) may also be encouraged for dogs with histories of or genetically predisposed to kidney and/or urinary stone problems. Don't forget to give the treats you feed your Dalmatian the same attention and scrutiny as his or her diet. Many treats contain an unhealthy combination of high purines in the form of substandard meat byproducts or yeast content, as well as chemical preservatives, added salt, and unnecessary fillers.
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Keep fresh water abounding. Urinary stones form more easily in concentrated, acidic urine, so while a healthy dog food diet that helps promote an alkaline urine is step one, rule number two is helping to keep your dog's urine neutral and as dilute as possible by ensuring your Dalmatian has access to and drinks plenty of fresh water each day. This means keeping fresh water in a variety of locations throughout your house and backyard, and ensuring your dog has easy access to each of the water bowls. If your Dalmatian needs a little extra incentive to drink, a helpful tip is to add 3/4 to 1 cup or so of extra water to your Dalmatian’s dry food meals. Adding the water right before setting the food out will help keep your Dalmatian well hydrated while ensuring s/he still receives the teeth-cleaning and gum-exercising benefits provided by the kibble. You can also increase your Dalmatian's water consumption by feeding a canned dog food diet with a high water content, although you'll lose some of the teeth-cleaning benefits provided by a dry kibble dog food and will generally end up spending needlessly on the predominantly water-based content in the can.
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Sweater up! Dalmatians have a short coat so they can become cold if spending time outside during the winter (we’re talking about you Storm Jonas). Be sure to have a sweater for those colder winter strolls! While their fur coats are light, Dalmatians do still shed quite a bit, especially in the spring and fall. Daily brushing during these times will help you keep excess hair off your floor.
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Dalmatians and kiddos. No dog breed was more highly sought after in the late nineties than Dalmatians, stars of the hugely popular kids film 101 Dalmatians. The irony, of course, is that while Dalmatians are gorgeous and loving dogs (and there are certainly exceptions to every rule), they are not known for being particularly great with young children. Known to act reserved or even skittish around strangers, Dalmatians, as a whole, are generally happier in older families or households without children. They are nice by nature, but sometimes spook with surprise attacks and can be too hyper to compete with children in the house for the adults’ attention! However, they do very well with other pets, including horses; so they will thrive in households where they can form bonds with fellow animals. If you’ve got young kids and would love to make it work, be sure to check out our stories on keeping dogs and kids in harmony, and work with your Dalmatian to ensure they’re getting the proper exercise and training to function well within your family.
And there you have it! Five tips for helping your new (or potential!) furry friend live a comfortable and happy existence in your home and wherever your adventures take you. Have some tips of your own to share with fellow Dalmatian owners? Dispense them in the comments below, and together we can establish the perfect Dalmatian-guide-to-life!