How Fat Affects Your Dog’s Performance
Diet and Performance
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Diet plays an important role in the endurance potential of canine athletes. The Alaskan sled dog might be considered the ultimate canine athlete, sometimes pulling a sled more than 1,000 miles in subzero temperatures. Providing a well-balanced diet is essential to meet the special needs of dogs in such nutritional-stress situations. Not only should the diet fed to these dogs be high in protein, but it also should be high in fat, which serves as the major energy source for exercising muscles.
High Nutrient Demands
Dietary Effects on Performance
A high-fat diet can help muscles burn fat more efficiently. During sustained exercise, fatty-acid oxidation is the primary source of energy for the muscles. Increasing the efficiency of fat metabolism spares the body’s use of carbohydrates, and because most dogs have in excess of 10 to 50 times more energy stored in fat than in muscle glycogen (carbohydrate), this might boost the animal's exercise performance.
IAMS™ studies1 have shown that in trained sled dogs as in ordinary dogs, exercise performance was enhanced by switching from a low-fat to a high-fat diet (from 25 to 65% of calories from fat), as indicated by increased:
- Mitochondrial volume—Increasing the volume of the muscle cell's 'power houses' increased the capacity for fatty-acid oxidation.
- Aerobic capacity—Muscles were better equipped to utilize fatty acids for fuel because of increased ability to utilize oxygen.
- Fatty-acid oxidation—By increasing fatty-acid utilization during exercise, more energy was released for the muscles to use.
When dogs were switched back to a low-fat diet, all of these criteria decreased to their previous values.
These results indicated that by increasing the availability of fat stores and capacity to metabolize fat for energy, a high-fat diet promotes exercise endurance in canine athletes.
1 Reynolds AJ, et al. “The effect of diet on sled dog performance, oxidative capacity, skeletal muscle microstructure, and muscle glycogen metabolism.” Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutritional Research: Proceedings of the 1996 IAMS International Nutrition Symposium. Carey DP, Norton SA, Bolser SM, eds. Wilmington, OH. 1996. 181–198.
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- adp_description_block497Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs
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Healthy joints and proper weight are especially important for dogs that grow to be more than 50 pounds. But not all large- and giant-breed adult dogs have the same nutritional needs. Is your dog getting proper exercise? Is she about to have puppies? Special conditions can dramatically affect your dog’s nutritional demands. Giving her a food specially formulated for her large size, life stage and activity level is the easiest way to make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs.
Choosing a Food for Overall Health
To address the special needs of your large- or giant-breed dog, look for these features:
- Less fat to help maintain an ideal body condition for less joint stress
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for healthy skin, shiny coat and overall health
- Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help maintain good health
- High-quality animal-based protein sources to help maintain muscle tone
- A moderately fermentable fiber source, such as beet pulp, to maintain intestinal health, enhance your dog's ability to absorb nutrients, and reduce backyard cleanup
- A carbohydrate blend to help sustain energy by maintaining normal blood sugar levels
These components are key to good nutrition. Look for them in treats, wet dog food, or dry dog food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Large Breed.
Maintaining Healthy Joints and Cartilage
Joint health is a big concern for owners of large- and giant-breed dogs. A large- or giant-breed formula that contains high-quality protein can help nourish healthy joints. Vitamins and minerals help promote the production of cartilage. Also, keeping your dog at a healthy weight will help minimize joint stress.
Guarding Against Weight Gain
Dogs with lower activity levels and dogs that have been neutered or spayed are all prone to weight gain. Controlling your dog’s weight is an important step toward protecting against the health effects of excess weight, such as diabetes or joint health problems. If you use a weight-management food, look for these characteristics:
- A reduced fat level that still offers essential nutrients for skin and coat health
- L-carnitine, a key nutrient that helps burn fat and maintain muscle mass during weight loss
- Special carbohydrate blends that help maintain energy while managing weight
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for overall health
Providing Nutrition During Pregnancy
Pregnant dogs have substantial nutrition requirements. Starting in the seventh week of her pregnancy, a mother dog will need to increase her energy intake up to 50% by the time she gives birth and increase it even more when she starts nursing her puppies. Because she may lose her appetite at times, it's important that she eats a nutrient-dense food. A complete, balanced puppy formula can give her the extra nutrients she needs. But avoid puppy food created for large and giant breeds; these formulas contain specially adjusted levels of energy and minerals that may not be sufficient for a pregnant or nursing dog.
Switching to a Mature Diet
Dogs who grow to be more than 50 pounds are considered mature or senior at age 5 or 6, which is earlier than small-breed dogs. So, it’s critical to make a proactive transition to a specially formulated mature diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Mature Adult Large Breed, to help keep your dog healthy and active as she ages.
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