Feeding Active Dogs and Canine Athletes
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.
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.