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The following article is an excerpt from the book,

It's For The Animals! Natural Care & Resources

by Helen L. McKinnon 


How Did You Like The Seminar?


Ever wonder if going to a seminar is worth your time, trouble and expense?


Like to read the 'Review' before going out to a movie or restaurant?  Well, it would probably be very helpful for folks to do just that when it comes to deciding to attend seminars and related events having to do with our companion animals. We regularly read about how other doggie things in magazines such as Animal Wellness Magazine.

By reading the promotional advertisements for various seminars, it may be possible to decide whether or not to take the time and make the investment in determining if it will be worthwhile.

One helpful article appeared in Spot News, the Chicagoland Dalmatian Club's monthly newsletter, in March of 2003, by Carroll H. Weiss.  He was the Director of the Dalmatian Club of America' Study Group on Urinary Stones for 11 years.

Mr. Weiss was "alarmed" about some of the seminar presenter's recommendations regarding urinary stones.  He then wrote an excellent rebuttal article.  With his kind permission, and that of Spot News', it is reprinted here:



PO Box 257

Marengo IL, 60152-0257





Carroll H. Weiss

Former Director, 1991-2002

DCA Study Group on Urinary Stones


“Urolithiasis, Bladder Stones and Crystals,” an article by Lew Olson appeared in the January 2003 issue of Chicagoland’s excellent newsletter, SPOTNEWS. A few of the author’s recommendations about urinary stone disease have credibility. However, other generalities, statements and recommendations for canine stone disease are scientifically incorrect, some misleading and most lack any supportive medical evidence. Applying some may not adversely affect Dalmatians so long as the dogs are accurately confirmed with struvites, nicknamed “infection stones.” And “accurately” because up to 85% error in stone assay was reported.

 Tangible veterinary data in one report linked to the DCA homepage on almost 3,000 Dalmatian stones showed almost 2,700 were purine/urates, the breed-specific type. In stark contrast were a scanty 29 struvites, the type occupying most of the SPOTNEWS article despite struvites, as in this data study, not being Dalmatian-prevalent at all. Urates are barely discussed. Readers who incorrectly or carelessly follow the article’s recommendations can seriously worsen Dalmatians with the breed-prevalent urate stone disease.

The science compelling my challenges exists via a now extraordinary clinical database gathered from 11,000 stone-forming dogs by the two world-famous U.S. veterinary medicine centers specializing in canine urolithiasis. Anyone may read and evaluate decades of their scientific evidence as published in accredited vet journals, in veterinary medicine textbooks and on the DCA home page. The purpose of this rebuttal is to provide readers with canine stone disease information only from veterinary medicine so any unquestioning acceptance of the SPOTNEWS article can be balanced with authenticated scientific facts. Readers can then make at least an informed choice.

The author’s introductory byline states, “PhD. Natural Health.” This immediately alerted me her thrust probably would be, as her article indeed confirmed, to so-called “natural” foods, herbs and alternatives. I have learned to approach their health allegations with disbelief unless documented with scientific evidence. The article was no exception. So, please start with:

1. Dalmatians are the only breed of dog with the genetic defect in their livers and kidneys leading to possible urate stone disease. All Dalmatians have the defect. The absolute worst-case-scenario of canine stone disease is the life-threatening “urinary obstruction” produced by one or more stones blocking the normal pathway of urinating. When obstructed, ongoing urine production backs up into the Dalmatian’s body. Untreated or unnoticed, the obstructed dog can be dead within two or three days by bursting its bladder or kidney malfunctioning.

2. So-called “natural” remedies are not legally required to provide scientific evidence for their promotional claims nor to announce side effects, because they are not classified as medications. Not surprisingly, therefore, most provide no proof nor cautions yet do not hesitate making extravagant health allegations. Laws currently governing the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) do not permit the agency to enforce a “cease-and-desist” on alternatives’ allegations in order to protect patients, human or canine. In fairness, I happily acknowledge that one or two of these unregulated chemicals are nonetheless accumulating doctors’ support of their health claims, such as clinical data by rheumatologists in accredited journals of the chondroitin-glucosamine formulations for certain musculoskeletal problems. In contrast, shark cartilage was repetitively proven worthless for cancer in several clinical studies by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Still others are being flagged by mass media because of alarming dangers as their widespread but indiscriminate use increases. It seems only when deaths or life-threatening side effects occur that the public starts learning of possible harmful aspects of alternatives and “natural” remedies, but rarely from those who profit from them. As I write this, prime time news media are reporting a campaign against ephedra, championed by a New York State mother convinced it was responsible for her son’s death. Nonetheless, it is only when proponents of alternative medicine target Dalmatian stone disease with medically incorrect, scientifically misleading, or unproven allegations which veterinary evidence indicates will endanger breed-specific urate-forming Dalmatians that I step forward to challenge. The dreaded specter of urinary obstruction, alone, compels me to warn Dalmatian owners in an “equal time” mode, such as this retort.

I approached the article with admitted prejudice. I started reading by being surprisingly relieved with its responsible mention of the importance (1) to accurately identify the type of stone, (2) the influence of copious water drinking, leading to (3) the need for the dog to frequently urinate and (4) the value of monitoring urinary pH. Continuing on, however, I quickly became dismayed as some of my admitted prejudices were reinforced. I first booted up the websites her article recommended.

Item - Of several, one boasted, “Alternative Medicine [is] A multi-million dollar business;...”

This web site went on to offer readers “A Complete Retail Store [merchandising alternative medicine] Yours For a Minimal Investment ... $20,000...”

This to me is a revealing sign, namely seductive profits appear to be the major underlying motive to popularize expensively-priced alternatives even though promoting them rarely if ever includes volunteering information about their known side effects. The SPOTNEWS article ends with the author’s own seminar notice and the stipulation it costs $65.00 per person to attend. I personally find that fee expensive to hear medical claims few if any of which have the slightest scientific evidence to support their truth for Dalmatian stone disease.  

Item - “DOCTOR YOURSELF!” is the dramatized name of a self-diagnosing, self-prescribing website recommended by the article. I burst out laughing after reading to the end and finding

its legal disclaimer: “Persons needing medical care should obtain it from a physician. Consult your doctor before making any health decision.” So much for its medical credibility. Case closed.  

Item - As another contradiction, the author’s seminar notice states, presumably as enticement to pay the registration fee, “...learn ABOUT...THE USE OF A RAW DIET...” Contrary to the seminar’s emphasis, another website recommended by her article emphatically warns, also using solid capitals, 

 “...For uric acid/purine stones (gout), STOP EATING MEAT! Nutrition tables and textbooks indicate meats as the major dietary purine source.” 

Again, I’d find $65.00 expensive to sit and be told such contradictions. I also doubt the seminar will volunteer how anecdotal evidence against a raw diet was started when two reports by pet owners last year to a BARF online list told of their stone-forming dogs going into urinary obstruction after being shifted to the raw diet.  

The recommended websites prompted only the beginning of my objections. Some of the article’s statements also require cautioning if readers casually apply them to any stone-forming Dalmatian, even though the article spotlights struvite stone disease. 

 “...they [urinary stones] can fill the bladder in some cases, resulting in the need for surgical removal.”  

Emergency surgery is required not by stones “filling” the dog’s bladder but by life-threatening obstruction of the normal urinary stream, regardless of how few or how many stones cause it.

Obstruction in stone-forming dogs mostly occurs within the penis at a dam-like cartilage, the “os penis,” not within the bladder. Further, many stone-forming Dalmatians have been obstructed by merely a single stone or only two or three without any others seen in the bladder at all.  

“Struvites are almost always accompanied by bacteria that create a high alkaline pH.”  

The medical perspective is wrong. Stone-forming bacteria are the predominate cause of struvite stone disease. It is not coincidence that bacteria “almost always accompany” the stones - the bacteria create them! Innumerable dogs, Dalmatians included, develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) but never struvite stones if the infecting bacteria are not stone-forming species. The three bacteria usually causing UTIs are Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and E. coli. Of the three, E. coli-caused UTIs are the most common but, happily, E. coli is not a stone-forming bacterium! (The other two are stone-forming species.) Whether for infection stones or for just a UTI, acidifying urine - without antibiotics - cannot kill bacteria nor cure a confirmed UTI nor dissolve struvites. Feeding cranberries or cherries, as cited in the article to “prevent” chronic UTI and struvites, is conjecture; there is no scientific confirmation they do. Even then, any indiscriminate acidifying of Dalmatian urine is to be avoided because abnormally acidic urine accelerates the onset and progress of the breed-specific urate stone disease. Besides, reversal of struvite disease is by primary treatment with an effective antibiotic, not by urinary acidifiers considered only a secondary adjunct, albeit helpful. The world-famous Minnesota Stone Center cautions, as struvites are slowly dissolved by antibiotics, they usually release embedded bacteria from within the stones back into the urine, keeping the UTI “alive.” Accordingly, the antibiotic should not be discontinued prematurely or the UTI will recur, unchecked. With this said, any altering of the abnormal alkalinity by only urinary acidifiers or acid-producing foods again would have little or no effect without, first, antibiotics continued until the struvite stones are totally dissolved.  

“...many dogs can have struvites present in the urine...with no ill effects, so if a routine urinalysis shows a pH of 8.0 and a few struvite crystals, but your dog has no symptoms of any kind, there is no need to be concerned.”

This dangerous reassurance reveals a lack of serious facts about canine stone disease, and alarmed me the most. Life-threatening urinary obstruction often occurs in Dalmatians who previously reveal no warning symptoms to their unsuspecting owners. The Minnesota Stone Center uses the term “silent stone formers” for such dogs. It takes only one stone (of any type) slowly increasing in size in a silent stone former abruptly to finally obstruct its urinary stream one day, immediately jeopardizing the dog’s life and without any prior alert to its owner. With simple, inexpensive tests (like urinalyses and dipsticking for urinary pH) to regularly monitor warning signals well-in-advance, why complacently wait until the Dalmatian obstructs and then requires emergency surgery - or is euthanized if the cost cannot be paid to save its life?  

“Some people have had feeding acidic foods and avoiding alkaline foods. A raw, natural diet is high in acidic foods.” 

The author needs to revisit her recommended website, cited previously, to refresh her memory on their trumpeted contradiction to her statement. Urate-forming Dalmatians show very acidic urine because urate-forming thrives in acidic urine. As the only breed of dog with their inborn defect for urate stone disease, any food worsening the breed-typical Dalmatians’ acidic urine is to be avoided or minimized as one of several procedures preventing the breed’s stone disease.  

 “Alkaline pH and struvite crystals are...usually caused by bladder infections. Therefore, trying to make the urine more acidic will not get rid of the infection.”

“...acidifying the diet, along with treating the infection, can help dissolve the [struvite] stones. Ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C)...can help with this.”  

More seeming contradictions. Using urinary acidifiers for struvite stone-formers (or the reverse, urinary alkalinizers for urate stone-formers) are helpful adjuncts but only secondary to more definitive treatment. As a glaring example of how limited knowledge not-in-context of known anti-stone programs can worsen Dalmatians with urolithiasis, note the longtime but now-to-be-avoided use of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Why do veterinarian specialists in sone disease stress sodium bicarbonate should not be used to neutralize Dalmatians’ acidic urine and replaced by other alkalinizers? Answer:- chemically, the sodium in it can combine to form “sodium urate” stones, complicating the treatment of whatever other types of stones are already being formed. Another example of dangerous claims not-in-context:- the article neglects to warn vitamin C is a chemical precursor for calcium oxalate, a stone it cautions against but which could have its onset or be worsened by the conflicting recommendation to use the vitamin.  

I sincerely hope alternatives one day can start to provide tangible medical evidence so their unsupported allegations can begin to earn scientific credibility. If that ever takes place, I will be the first to publicly applaud, welcoming the data. Until then, and after 11 years of being contacted by hundreds of worldwide owners of stone-forming Dalmatians (many in emergency obstruction), I remain suspicious and distrustful of what I perceive as irresponsible and ill-informed allegations to use anything except authenticated veterinary protocols for Dalmatian-specific urinary stone disease.  

Readers are reminded of the series of online teaching articles about our breed’s urate disease on the DCA homepage. Unlike alternatives’ allegations without medical evidence, these articles were written using clinical data from the two U.S. veterinary stone disease centers.



(Important note! The latest version of the Acrobat Reader is required plus legal-size paper.)

















Page 14 March 2003 CDC

* * * * *   End of Article  * * * * * *







The promotional seminar advertisement which Carroll Weiss rebutted is here:

[PDF] Spot News File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat

January 2003 CDC SPOT NEWS PO Box 257 Marengo IL, 60152-0257  - (pages 6-9)

Please Note:  That is a download document in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. 

If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer,

 you may get it free by clicking here:







From other information sent to me, another person didn't really care for a seminar about feeding dogs and truly felt that she couldn't recommend it to others. Turns out that, on top of paying to attend, traveling several hours each way, what really peeved her was that about half of the seminar was the Presenter "pitching" items such as supplements for sale.  At least that attendee felt like an unwilling captive in an infomercial.


Free Speech and all that, there's nothing wrong with stating your opinion, right? --- WRONG! Turns out that when this attendee opined, as a reply post on an Internet  Discussion Group, afterwards she received an intimidating note from that Seminar Presenter, threatening to sue her for slander!   Furthermore, all of the 9 posts on that topic mysteriously disappeared from the Group Archives.


But wait!  We live in America where we have the RIGHT to FREE SPEECH. So, I've decided to do A "Review of Seminars, Conferences, Events, etc."  -- similar to a Guide or Review for movie goers.  Of course, one of the best Seminars to attend, in my opinion, is presented by Dr. Jean Dodds.  I've been to many and they are very worthwhile. Perhaps hers could be the standard by which all the rest are compared.


The experiences you folks have had -- good, bad, or ugly, really do matter. Remember, the point is to share our experiences. There is no obligation to have your name publicized with your critique, but verification may be necessary.  My sense is that this will benefit others, and some of these events are getting pricey, too. So, it's again -- about Making Informed Decisions.



How would you Grade

 the Seminar, Conference, Workshop?


A+ or F, or somewhere in between?


Or, how would you RATE it on a scale of 1-10?


What was the best part and what would you suggest for improvement?


I welcome all comments and suggestions.


Please e-mail Helen:

CompanionAnimals at ItsForTheAnimals . com (change the "at" to @ and omit spaces when typing in address)



Copyright 1995 Helen L. McKinnon All Rights Reserved

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