Feeding The Working Dog
Edmund R. Dorosz, BSA, DVM

Feeding the working dog takes more effort and knowledge on our part. Our working dog is not only a laborer but a superbly fine tuned athlete. Sports medicine, both man and animal, is a new and exciting field with nutrition playing a large role.

For our dog to work tireless hours with bursts of great speed and stamina his or her fuel tanks must be filled with the best of " High Octane " fuel.

Food is that fuel. The right food and enough of it will supply all of the necessary nutrients so that our dog is " firing " on all cylinders with lots of torque. Proper nutrition is a very important part of our dog's well being and performance.

Our dog, like any other working individual or athlete, excels to his full genetic potential only if he has a favorable environment. His food requirements are a big part of this equation.

Our working dog , being a carnivore, thrives and works best on animal proteins and animal fats. Cereals and vegetables, carbohydrates, play less of an energy role for this individual.

Harris Dunlap, in the publication, Feeding and Training Dogs for Hard Work, by the ALPO Pet Center discusses training and feeding racing sled dogs. "Dunlap Dogs run distances up to 15 to 30 miles per day. They cover these distances as a team harnessed to a sled with driver at nearly 20 miles per hour."

In this publication Dunlap talks about some problems that he had with his dogs and how a diet change solved the situation.

Initially he was feeding mainly a dry dog food which was predominately starch from cereal grains, supplemented with meat meal and corn oil during the winter. Problems such as poor stamina, rectal bleeding, and metacarpal fractures were common.

Researching this further he went to a more animal fat and protein diet with less carbohydrate. " The ideal canine diet for hard work and stress established by these studies indicates caloric proportions of 50 to 60 % fat, 30 to 40 % protein and 10 to 20 % carbohydrates. " Remember fat has 2.2 times the amount of calories.

Diets based on meat, poultry and their by-products with less amounts of vegetable fiber foods "almost eliminated" the problems.

Dunlap also discusses what he calls " fat adaptation " an alternative strategy to carb-loading popular in human athletes. Here he gradually increases the fat in his dogs' diet - a more concentrated source of energy - so that they can call on their body reserves during long periods of work. Their tanks are filled with " High Octane " fuel.

How would we describe a working dog in peak condition? A working dog should be " hard ". The large working muscles of the legs and back should be firm with a light covering of fat. Stomach tucked up and firm. We should feel a light covering of fat over the ribs and his hair will be thick and shiny. His eyes will be clear and attentive. Pads of his paws should be tough and pliable not cracked and bleeding. Stools will be small, well formed and relatively odorless.

From studies such as those of Harris Dunlap and others on working dogs we are reminded that our dog is a carnivore and that we should feed accordingly.

The working dog is a special individual requiring special attention to nutrition if his full genetic and athletic potential is to be achieved.

Don't forget the fat.

[ for copies of the publication write;
the ALPO Pet Center, P.O. Box 2187, Allentown, Penn. 18001, U.S.A. ]

About Edmund R. Dorosz, BSA, DVM

This article was originally published on the Our Pets Inc. Home Page.
Reprinted here by permission.

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