If you are a parent to an athletic canine you must pay close attention to their diet and asses whether they are indeed an athletic dog or just one that has high energy. What qualifies for an athletic dog? If your dog does either of the following they are an athletic dog:
- Is a working dog and must stay alert for long hours
- Is involved in high agility sports
- Is a working dog and trains for long hours everyday
- Accompanies you in morning jogs/runs that are more than 30 minutes long
- Has a rigorous training session and often does shows
- Runs/Plays continuously for more than half an hour everyday
If your dog does any one or more of the activities above, they are an athletic dog and therefore need a special athletic diet. However, just like for human athletes, there is no one diet that serves all high agility dogs. Similarly for dogs, their diet should be planned according to their workout routine, the amount of calories they burn and their breed and body type.
Things to Keep Before Outlining A High Calorific Diet For Athletic Dogs
The first step is to find out how many calories they burn in a day. We suggest consulting your vet about your dog’s metabolic energy requirement and basing it to create a detailed calorie chart. The next step is to divide the calories into small equal portions to feed them throughout the day. For athletic canines it is ideal for them to eat small quantities of food frequently throughout the day rather than having two large portions.
Small portions of carbohydrates are good for dogs but instead of grains, try to source their starch from complex carbohydrates like potatoes and other dog safe vegetables. Carb loading is a common practice done by many athletes and though it works well for us, there are various reasons why it is not as effective for dogs.
Research shows that dogs have more mitochondria (small organelles present within cells that provide energy) in their cells than humans do. This means that they do not burn glycogen as their primary source of energy, rather, they burn fat. So, don’t load their system with carbs, weeks before an event. Chances are it will ruin their performance instead of enhancing it. Energy drinks (which many allow their dogs to sip on) and glucose will not help them as much as a hard boil egg will.
Another important thing to keep in mind is how often they are in their peak. Some dogs must maintain a stable agility level as they are working every day in the year. Others must maintain their peak only during certain months of the year and live the rest like a high energy dog. If your dog falls in the latter category, make sure you gradually change their diet to a performance enhancing meal during their training months. Performance enhancers are usually lot more expensive than a regular meal, but since you need lesser amounts of it, it is a reasonable exchange. It is made to keep your athletic dog light and active.
Performance enhancers work well if they are taken for a short period of time. Gradually increase their intake as they are closer to their peak in fitness and decrease it slowly after they have completed the season. Too much of any high protein and fat diet can easily cause obesity if they are not burning as many calories.
To make sure that we provide our athletic canines with the best, we must understand that athletic dogs and highly energetic dog are different from each other. If you have an athletic dog – one that is constantly involved in various canine sports – you will have to specially form a diet that caters to their needs. If your dog does strenuous activities a few times a month, like trekking with you, or going to the beach during the weekends, they largely fall into the second category. This means that though they are not ‘athletic’ their energy levels are above average dogs. They have a good metabolism and you can get away with a few extra (dog safe) fruit pieces and treats in the day. Fruits have antioxidants that help dogs the same way as it helps humans. It nourishes them and supplies the rest of their body. But, because of the increased amounts of mitochondria, it does not provide them with instant energy.
If your dog isn’t a working dog but walks for long hours every day, they will not be considered an athletic dog but will require more calories than an average dog. In this case you need not alter their diet completely, but you can add a small portion of healthy fats to it. Just add half a teaspoon of olive oil, coconut oil or fish oil (like salmon oil), to their daily diet. This will not only enhance the taste, but also help them restore energy from the rigorous workout they had with you earlier.
Lastly, it is important to understand your dog and their needs. High calorie diets are effective only when they are burning that many calories. Otherwise, it just becomes a recipe for obesity. So, watch them closely, keep tabs on their weight and only make changes if it is necessary.