Sporting dogs don’t stop when they’re tired; they stop when they’re done. But the intensity of a flushing dog working for three minutes is different from a bird dog that runs all morning long. Sporting dogs need to be fueled by the correct type of energy, one that gives them drive at the breakaway and enough juice to swim against the current for that 15th retrieve. Nutrition tailored to support these different types of activities helps dogs work at their peak potential.
Rigorous workloads require sporting dogs to convert energy from calories into mechanical energy, the kind that fuels their movement. 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 breakdown glucose.
Carbohydrates serve many other purposes, too. They fuel the nervous system which helps dogs make jam-on points. Carbs 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 along field edges and casting through grasses work aerobically (requiring oxygen). They need sustained energy that comes from fat. Fat provides energy used during longer runs. 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 plants and vegetables. 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.
“When most people think of fat, they think of stored fat,” says Russ Kelley, the Science Lead/Service and Working Dog Research manager 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.
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.