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What to Feed a Sporting Breed Puppy

Featuring Russ Kelley, M.S., Eukanuba and Royal Canin Pet Health and Nutrition Center

The puppy stage is over in what can seem like the blink of an eye. That means you have only a short window to support a puppy’s development. Feeding a puppy food that provides nutrition with comprehensive benefits from the start is key. What you feed your puppy today can impact their future performance in the fields and waters where they will work.

English pointer puppy eating Eukanuba Puppy Pro

Nutrition Designed Specifically for Growth and Development of Highly Active Puppies

In general, puppy diets are typically more nutrient-dense to meet the demands of growth. However, with sporting breed puppies there’s a lot more to consider beyond growth rates. Russ Kelley, Eukanuba’s Scientific Services Nutritionist says, “Active puppies that will develop into working and sporting dogs have greater demands placed on their developing bodies. From early exposure to the environments in which they will work, more comprehensive training and their high activity levels, these puppies have elevated nutritional needs.

“Sporting breeds benefit from a performance puppy food with an optimal balance of energy, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and other key nutrients formulated with their future work in mind. We designed our latest puppy formula, Eukanuba Premium Performance Puppy Pro, specifically for an active lifestyle to help fuel growth and activity, support digestion and a healthy immune system, and promote trainability.”

What to Look for in a Puppy Diet for Sporting Breeds

Protein and Fat

Sporting breed puppies need an optimal ratio of protein and fat to support a steady, lean growth rate whereby muscles can develop in synchrony with bones. “A puppy’s muscular development changes rapidly,” Kelley says. “The rate and structure of the change are important for sure, but of equal importance is the connection of the muscle tissue to the skeleton. A puppy diet with optimal protein provides amino acids to support this muscle tissue development. An optimal level of fat provides dietary energy for daily activities, while helping promote a healthy body weight. Our formula is designed to have a ratio of 28 percent protein and 18 percent fat to help active puppies develop at a healthy pace.” It’s important to regularly check in with your veterinarian to assess the progress of your puppy’s growth, body condition, and weight.

Calcium, Phosphorus, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin

“A highly active sporting breed puppy will have significant demands placed on his developing bones and joints. To support healthy bone growth rates, it’s important that his diet provides a balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio,” says Kelley. For large sporting breed puppies in particular, an inadequate ratio can lead to weak and abnormal bone growth. Kelley continues, “Eukanuba’s Premium Performance Puppy Pro formula contains a targeted calcium-to-phosphorus ratio for optimized growth. In addition, the diet contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to help support healthy cartilage. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is also included, as it benefits joints by supporting cartilage.”

Fiber and Prebiotics

An active puppy’s digestive health is integral to his overall health. Feeding a highly digestible, nutrient-dense puppy formula can help a puppy’s developing digestive system put vital nutrients to work with optimal efficiency. According to Kelley, “Fiber is important for supporting and promoting digestive health. For our Premium Performance Puppy Pro formula, we developed a unique fiber complex including fructooligosaccharides (FOS), mannanoligosaccharides (MOS), dried plain beet pulp, and psyllium. Dried plain beet pulp and FOS are excellent prebiotics that help promote digestive health and serve as nutrient sources for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Psyllium is important in a puppy diet because it helps form a proper stool.”

Kibble size and shape can also have an impact on a puppy’s digestive system. Eukanuba’s Premium Performance Puppy Pro is cylindrical in shape with a hollow center to help promote chewing which may slow the rate of consumption and help optimize intake and digestion.


Starting a puppy off on the right nutritional path is an essential part of supporting his immune system. It’s especially important for sporting breed puppies, which often have higher environmental exposure. These environments often contain pathogens that can challenge a young puppy’s immune system. Selecting a nutrient-dense diet with a fortified antioxidant complex can help support a puppy’s developing immune system and natural defenses. Consider feeding your puppy a diet such as Eukanuba Premium Performance Puppy Pro, which utilizes an advanced antioxidant complex of vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, taurine, and beta glucan. Antioxidants can also help protect against the negative impact of free radicals, which are the byproducts of metabolism and age-appropriate activity.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

“A puppy diet with clinically proven levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, helps promote neurocognitive development,” says Kelley. “Healthy neurodevelopment is what allows a puppy to process information and learn. Given that sporting breed puppies have a lot to learn, feeding a DHA-enriched diet can help support a puppy’s ability to master a variety of tasks. DHA is initially provided via the dam during gestation and lactation. Post weaning, it is important for a puppy to continue to obtain optimal levels of DHA in his diet to support the rapid growth of his brain and nervous system during the formative 2- to 8-month period. DHA also has other beneficial impacts, including supporting healthy heart function and normal visual development.

Compared to a dog’s adult life, the puppy stage is brief. Make the most of this time by establishing a strong foundation for growth and development through nutrition. What you feed your puppy today will directly impact his health and performance tomorrow.

Eukanuba Premium Performance Puppy Pro

eukanuba™ premium performance puppy pro


You have only one chance to support a puppy's development. Providing nutrition with comprehensive benefits from the start helps unleash the potential of active sporting breed puppies. That's why we've expanded the Premium Performance Range to help give your active puppy an advantage with Eukanuba™ Premium Performance Puppy Pro, our best puppy nutrition yet. Fuel growth and activity, support digestive health and promote trainability.

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