Feeding Active Dogs and Canine Athletes

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Much like human athletes and generally active people need to fuel their bodies properly to ensure that they are able to train appropriately or keep up their activity levels, so do active dogs and canine athletes. When it comes to feeding an active body, there are 3 important considerations that should be addressed: overall energy requirements, macro-nutrient profiles, and hydration.


Energy Requirements of Active Dogs

Ensuring adequate energy balance by matching calories burned and consumed is the first thing that a pet owner should consider as their dog’s activity level increases. I have written about this often in the past so I won’t get into a lot of detail here. Suffice to say that more active dogs will require more fuel (in the form of food) than less active dogs and providing insufficient calories on a persistent basis will lead to fatigue, poor performance, and weight loss. Search Slimdoggy.com http://slimdoggy.com/?s=calorie+require for articles on how to estimate a dog’s calorie needs.


Macronutrient Profiles for Active Dogs

Just because a pet owner is feeding their pet the right number of calories does not necessarily mean that they are feeding their pet the right type of calories to support an active lifestyle. For human endurance athletes, carbohydrates are often the nutrient of choice to fuel long or intense workouts. This is because the human body is able to burn glycogen (from carbs) efficiently and these glycogen stores are replenished via consumed carbohydrates.

canine athlete

Dogs, on the other hand, use fat as their primary endurance fuel, and most normally healthy dogs, of any activity level, are able to thrive on diets that are moderately high in fat. Canine athletes would likely perform better on diets higher in fat because their bodies would have ready access to the short-term source of energy when their bodies needed it most (during activity). High carb diets are not appropriate for normally healthy dogs of any activity level, although an active dog would still be able to use carbs as a secondary energy source during activity. And don’t forget about protein. Although protein is last in the pecking order in terms of a fuel source, dogs require diets high in protein and protein is required to keep their muscles strong and functional.


Hydration for the Active Dog

Although dogs don’t sweat like humans do, active dogs will lose water during exercise and thus require more water than sedentary dogs will. A normal dog can require 50-60 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. This means that a normal 50 lb. dog would need around 40 ounces of water each day, and a more active dog or canine athlete would require even more. Luckily, dogs are generally good at re-hydrating themselves, so make sure that they have access to fresh water and refill/refresh their water bowl several times during the day. For those who like to share a sip of your sport drink, don’t. Those drinks are usually high in carbs and sugar and can lead to stomach issues.


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  1. Our boy Buzz is one of those dogs who can get so absorbed in his ball games, that he forgets to hydrate himself on a regular basis. While we always have fresh water outside in the yard with us when we play fetch (every day), we have to interrupt his ball time & walk him over to the water dish to rehydrate himself. He’s slowly starting to catch on to the fact that the ball won’t fly again until he takes several sips of water 😉
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  2. Bailie and I are water lovers, sometimes Mom says we almost drink too much water as she is always having to fill the bowl when we are racing around or if it is warm out, but she likes that we drink a lot.
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  3. I sometimes think that Easy drinks not enough, is there any trick how to fix that problem ( treats in his bowl will be ignored LOL)?
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    • WE always mix their meals with water so that it makes a nice gravy, or how about a little flavored broth instead of plain water? Make sure it’s unsalted.
      mkob recently posted…Feeding Active Dogs and Canine AthletesMy Profile

  4. Really interesting article! Even though we don’t technically have any “athletic” dogs in our house, summer is approaching and it is wonderful to know the recommended water intake! Thank you for sharing this information!
    Daisy The French Bulldog recently posted…Fit Dog Friday: The Battle for the BoneMy Profile

  5. Active dogs…….Siberian Huskies…..nuff said! hahhaa!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  6. Great information, there are also energy bars that are great at helping out in times of great exercise to give to your dog before and after heavy activity to help the body out.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Technical Blind And A BirthdayMy Profile

  7. Hi Y’all!

    Pedialyte, about a quarter cup, preferably unflavored helps with dehydration, especially if the dog isn’t drinking enough. My Human always gives me some when we travel, especially in warmer weather.

    Y’all come on back,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
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  8. Kilo is a very active boy, even just at home in the house. Great post as summer is fast approaching and it’s always smart to up water intake.

  9. Delilah is a gulper, but it is usually just before or just after dinner and I usually slow her down because I don’t want her to vomit. Sampson just drinks when he is thirsty and sometimes I add a little water to his food to make sure he is hydrated.
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  10. I’ve heard of people training their dogs to drink on cue. I’ve considered it. Sage is almost always ready for water but Mr. N tends to drink sparingly. Sage gets hot a lot faster though.

  11. Our weather is just starting to really warm up now, and have had to remember to be sure the dogs have water available. They are pretty good about drinking themselves but Cricket gets so intense about the ball game sometimes I have to be sure she stops long enough to get a drink! We will be getting their pool out soon…it keeps them cooler plus they will just drink right out of it too.
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  12. Came back from SC to find VA with temps in the 80’s. I’m not complaining, but Jax is such an active pup, I’ve got to regroup from my hydrating schedule (bladder training) and make sure there is plenty of water for him. Looks like I will be spending more time outdoors with him and his potty breaks. #ohwell
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