Feeding working dogs

At this time of year working dogs are working long and hard hours. Feeding a high quality diet formulated for a high work load has been proven to increase endurance and decrease both soft tissue injuries and stress fracture of bones.

Studies have shown that dogs who constantly work and have to perform, unlike household pets, require a nutrient rich diet that is high in calories. Calories in dog food come from fats, carbohydrates and protein. Fat is the most calorically dense of the three sources. Carbohydrates provide quick energy suited for short bursts of energy. Protein, particularly that from animals, not only provides calories for sustained energy but also the essential amino acids for muscle building and tissue repair.

Farm dogs have traditionally been fed either meat (farm kill) or cereal based carbohydrate biscuits such as Tux® and Pedigree®. An average diet (60% whole carcass and 40% Tux®) has 19% protein, 32% carbohydrate and 48% fat. This level of protein is far from ideal. Consequently, working dogs on these types of diets need to consume relatively large quantities of food to meet their energy requirements, and lack the energy to work and perform for sustained periods of time.

Feeding a calorie rich animal protein based diet will have significant benefits to their working performance and their body condition. A diet that is high in protein (at least 25%), high in fat (at least 20%) and has an energy content over 4000kcal/kg is ideal for a working dog. Higher quality performance diets also have other ingredients that enhances the efficiency of fat metabolism, thereby lowering the heat production of the body which allows a dog to "run cooler" when performing heavy work.

Whatever you are currently feeding, be sure to check the label and that it fits the criteria outlined in bold above. Additionally check that it has been tested and approved by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) so you know that it is a complete and balanced feed source.