Dietary effects on urinary physicochemistry in Navy bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) for the prevention of ammonium urate kidney stones

Jennifer M. Meegan, Amanda J. Ardente, John R. Poindexter, Mark Baird, Brittany Novick, Celeste Parry, Eric D. Jensen, Stephanie Venn-Watson, Khashayar Sakhaee, Cynthia R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Bottlenose dolphins are susceptible to developing ammonium urate (NH4U) kidney stones. The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that diet influences the urinary physicochemistry risk factors associated with nephrolithiasis in dolphins. A comprehensive nutrient analysis was performed revealing that the baseline diet (BD) commonly fed to dolphins under professional care had a greater purine content and a more negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) when compared with a model diet consumed by free-ranging dolphins. A modified diet (MD) was formulated to include free-ranging diet fish species and achieve a more positive DCAD. The BD had a more negative DCAD (_52 mEq/Mcal metabolizable energy) when compared with the MD ( 51 mEq/Mcal ME), which more closely approximated the DCAD of the free-ranging model diet ( 152 mEq/Mcal ME). Six dolphins (with stones) were fed the BD followed by the MD for a minimum of 4 wk. At the end of each feeding trial, a 6-h continuous urine collection was performed to compare urine parameters of dolphins fed the BD versus MD. Dolphins consuming the MD demonstrated a significant decrease in urinary ammonium, net acid excretion, saturation index of ammonium urate, and phosphorous, and a significant increase in urinary citrate and net gastrointestinal (GI) alkali absorption, as compared with urine parameters assessed when fed the BD. Increasing the proportion of free-ranging diet fish species and optimizing the DCAD positively influenced some of the risk factors believed to be associated with NH4U kidney stone development in bottlenose dolphins under professional care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R723-R731
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Diet
  • Dolphin
  • Kidney stone
  • Nephrolithiasis
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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