Written by Tom Keer
Hard charging sporting dogs—like English pointers and setters, Labrador and Golden retrievers, English field cockers and Boykins, the dozens of versatile breeds among others — are wired to work. Their work requires fuel appropriate to their exercise level. Some dogs need fuel for quick, intense bursts of activity while others need endurance to help them along their half or full day’s work.
Dog food contains varying amounts of carbohydrates, fat and protein for good reason. Tailored diets like those offered in Eukanuba’s Premium Performance line help enable owners and handlers to match a type of energy to their dog’s activity levels. Providing the right source and amount of energy helps dogs perform at their peak.
Cut loose a cocker for a flush and you’ll see anaerobic exercise. Short, intense activity requires more power per second since their movements are at a higher, more concentrated frequency. That type of immediate energy comes from carbohydrates which are found in ingredients like corn, wheat and sorghum. When digested they become energy known as glucose. Some of the glucose is used immediately. Unused glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and is delivered to the body when the dog rockets out again. With these dogs working anaerobically in a short, intense burst followed by a period of rest, oxygen isn’t used to break down glucose. Eukanuba’s Premium Performance 21/13 SPRINT formula was designed for dogs working anaerobically up to three minutes at a time with a combination of 21% protein and 13% fat and 43% of the caloric energy sourced from carbs.
Carbohydrates serve other purposes, too. They fuel the nervous system and support brain activity and muscular response. Fiber, a type of carb, helps stool move efficiently through a dog’s system and helps maintain blood sugar levels.
A brace of pointers running hard for half a day along field edges and casting through grasses work aerobically (requiring oxygen). They need sustained energy that comes from fat. The longer the dog’s activity, the more fat they will need. Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids which are grouped according to their chemical structures. In Eukanuba’s Premium Performance line, omega-3 fatty acids come from fish oils while omega-6 fatty acids come from chicken fat, as well as plant and vegetable oils. Fats are highly digestible and are among the first types of energy to be metabolized during aerobic exercise. Energy from fat is concentrated and helps provide dogs with lasting energy. Eukanuba’s Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT formula was designed for dogs working aerobically for up to four hours with a combination of 30% protein and 20% fat with 47% of the caloric energy sourced from fat. Eukanuba also has a formula for dogs working aerobically during shorter durations up to two hours at a time. The Premium Performance 26/16 EXERCISE formula has 26% protein and 16% fat with 41% of that caloric energy sourced from fat.
“When most people think of fat, they think of stored fat,” says Russ Kelley at Eukanuba’s Pet Health & Nutrition Center. “Dogs metabolize stored fat at a different rate. Stored fat is a reserve that is utilized by the dog’s body when he has engaged in significant workloads over an extended period of time. As the dog metabolizes more readily available energy from fatty acids and carbohydrates, the fat reserves offer additional energy. But metabolizing stored fat is hard on other systems, and that’s why it’s preferable to have fat in their diet.”
Protein provides energy but it’s mostly used by many of the dog’s body systems. Everyone notices a dog with ripped muscles, and protein helps build them. Protein delivers essential amino acids to aid in strengthening and oxygenating exercising muscles. But it does a lot more. Protein provides the building blocks that help support the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and other systems. The skin and coat, which is the dog’s first line of defense, uses the most amount of protein. The more points and retrieves your dog makes the more protein is required to help fortify those systems.
Feeding your sporting dog isn’t difficult, but it should involve more than just filling up a bowl. To set all their potential in motion, dogs need a fuel that is optimized for what they do. Nutrition tailored to their effort can have a big impact on their ability to reach their maximum potential.
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer and regular contributor to over a dozen magazines and blogs. His favorite time of year is in October and November where you can find him in woodcock and grouse coverts or quail fields with his wife, two kids, and three English setters. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.