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Transitioning Your Sporting Dog to an Off-Season Diet

Written by Eukanuba Staff

Sporting dogs burn a lot of calories during the hunting season. To support their elevated nutritional needs, savvy handlers feed them performance kibble. Offseason nutritional needs are often different, and that’s why many handlers shift their dog’s diet to one with lower amounts of fat and calories.

Black Lab resting by the fireplace after a training session

Brett Volmert, Eukanuba’s Pro Development Manger works with professional trainers and large kennels throughout all seasons. Here are some of his thoughts on transitioning to an offseason diet.

Not all dogs should switch diets.

“Take an annual view of your dog’s average activity levels to determine if a change in diet should be considered. Dogs that compete in offseason field trials and hunt tests run just as hard as they do during the hunting season. Their energy needs are the same so changing diets isn’t necessary. But if your dog goes from a highly active hunting season to a low-key offseason you might want to shift.”

When a change in diet might be necessary.

“Performance dog foods are scientifically engineered to provide hardworking dogs with the advanced nutrition they need to support peak performance. Many of these diets have higher levels of fat for sustained energy during long runs and protein to support all body systems while also building strong muscles.”

“If a dog’s activity level is dramatically reduced, those higher levels of fat and protein aren’t always necessary. Due to reduced work levels, dogs’ bodies may convert the extra calories into stored fat which can contribute to an overweight condition. All body systems like the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, have to work harder in overweight dogs. Additionally, the extra weight means handlers may need to increase conditioning time before beginning preseason training.”

“Closely monitor your dog’s body condition score during the offseason to determine if a change in diet is necessary.”

When less is more.

“If your dog works less after hunting season ends then the amount you feed him should decrease, too. To determine how much to feed in the offseason, evaluate his body condition score, establish his daily caloric needs, and review his current activity level. For help with these calculations, review our article on How to Feed Your Dog. Consult your vet if you have additional questions about your dog’s energy needs.”

What to look for in an offseason diet.

“Eukanuba’s new Premium Performance line offers nutrition tailored to the varying activity levels of canine athletes. One shift I see in the sporting world comes from handlers changing from the 30/20 Sport diet during hunting season to the 26/16 Exercise diet in the less active offseason. The reduction in fat and calories helps keep a dog’s offseason body condition in check.”

The benefits of a nutritional chassis.

“Changing dog foods isn’t hard, but it is a gradual process that should take place over 7 days. The Eukanuba Premium Performance line is based on a nutritional chassis. The same core ingredients are used in each diet within the range. The biggest difference in the formulas is the variations in protein, fat and carbohydrates. Those variations are designed to match up with a dog’s levels of activity.”

Maintaining your dog’s ideal weight year-round is important. If his activity levels significantly change seasonally then consider a change in diet, too.

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