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Feeding Performance Dogs


Top Dogs need a top performing diet. During training or working periods, working and performance dogs engage in intense physical activity that requires extra energy compared to adult dogs that are not as active. This article highlights the key dietary components of a canine athlete.

Sources of Energy

Fats and carbohydrates are the main sources of energy during exercise. The energy requirements for canine athletes varies with the duration, frequency and intensity of the exercise.


In addition to exercise intensity, dietary fat requirements are affected by the TextPullout.png
duration of exercise. The longer the canine athlete exercises, the more dietary fat it requires. A study of sled dogs showed that when the dietary fat increased from 15% to 60% of the calories, the VO2 Max increased by almost 50%1. A high VO2 Max and maximal fat oxidation means better performance during the exercise.


Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars like glucose and are stored in the muscle and liver cells as glycogen. These stores provide energy for canine athletes during periods of increased intensity in exercise. Once glycogen stores are depleted, the body will shift to fat as an energy source. It is important to find a complete and balanced diet to help meet a hard-working dog’s carbohydrate needs when it comes to exercise.

Additional Dietary Factors


Fat and carbohydrates aren’t the only important components of a balanced diet for performance and working  dogs. Increased protein in the canine athlete’s daily diet supports healthy muscles and more efficient use of fat as an energy source.

Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are used to build new muscles and repair damaged muscles. As tissue mass tends to increase with training, this increase must be supplied by extra protein in the diet. Increasing dietary protein has also been shown to decrease injuries2.

Amino acids are also used to make red blood cells which carry oxygen to the cells. An increased level of oxygen in muscle cells means there is an increased capacity of the muscles to use fat as an energy source. This allows for a more efficient use of fat during prolonged exercise and a delayed onset of fatigue. Endurance dogs should be fed a formula with high protein for best results. If protein is consumed in excess amounts, it can be used as an energy source so be sure to find a formula that is complete and balanced for your dog’s needs.


Feeding working and performance dogs requires more than increasing the quantity of food in a canine’s daily diet, especially where stomach capacity is a factor. A highly digestible diet provides the necessary calories more efficiently than a lower digestible diet, supporting canine athletes with the necessary energy sources in smaller volumes.


Always provide adequate amounts of water for hard-working dogs. Small amounts of water should be offered throughout exercise to maintain hydration.

Complete and Balanced: Performance Formulas

Feeding performance and working dogs for optimum performance during exercise requires a deep understanding of the canine athlete’s needs both during exercise and for recuperation. Support your canine athlete with a complete and balanced formula, tuned specifically to the needs of the Top Dog in your life.


Stacy Lynn Fernandes, Nutritional Communications Manager, Nestlé Purina Pet Care Canada.

  1. Reynolds A, Hoppeler H, Reinhar, G. et al. Sled dog endurance: a result of high fat diet or selective breeding? FASEB J 9:A996, 1995.
  2. Reynolds A: Effect of diet on performance. In Proc Perform Dog Nutrition Symp, Fort Collins, 1995 Colorado State University.
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