Why a performance food is better for an active dog
The first thing about a dog to understand in feeding them correctly is that their metabolism is not the same as that of human. Their metabolism is built to be fueled by fat, not carbohydrates, like it is with a homo sapien.
At the very basic level, the cellular structure of a canine is fueled by fat. This can shown by an analogy of how a house is heated most efficiently by a furnace. The furnace can be run with either fuel oil (fat) or wood (carbohydrates). You can heat that home much more effectively utilizing fuel oil, and it requires much less space to store it. Relating this to a dog, the fuel oil would be fat and the wood would be carbohydrates. Also, it has been shown that by offering a high-fat diet to a dog, over time they will adjust to needing even less of the fat to do the same job. They adapt even more efficiently being exposed to a high fat diet and actually perform better via a mechanism that improves their VO2 max. The VO2 is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use.
Next is how that house is built, i.e., the actual structure or framing. The majority of this “framing” would be the protein. This daily protein requirement is for the building and maintenance of the framework, not as a fuel source for the so called “furnace.”
As to carbohydrates, dogs have a very low need for these to be included in the diet, but they can utilize them as a fuel source, if needed. The most common problem with using these as the primary fuel source is the large amount that needs to be consumed to meet these needs as activity increases, and the digestibility of many carbohydrates not always being high.
As a dog increases their daily level of exercise, they will need a proportional increase in the amount of fat and protein in their diet. The dogs can also only digest at a certain rate, so the amount fed can be a limiting factor, depending on several factors. These factors include the digestibility of the fed item or items, transit time of the gastrointestinal tract, palatability (tastiness) of the food, available water and exercise timing, to name a few.
So, as we ratchet up the activity of a dog, many diets that are available start to fail in their performance for the animal. This can be seen by poor endurance, soft or loose stools as the exercise progresses, poor palatability, muscle injuries and poor weight maintenance. Thus, we need to find a food meant for that level of activity.
Much research has been put into this arena and foods that are formulated for the different levels of activity are available. Higher fat (often 20-25%) along with higher protein (30-35% range) are what is needed for these high end athletes, even if working in warmer climates. Combined with certain types of fiber to aid in digestion, lower levels of ash in the diet (which are the minerals, and dogs only need about 2% minerals in the diet). High digestibility of the fat, protein and carbohydrates are required in athletic dogs, as they have a faster gastrointestinal transit time due to activity, and volume of food is a must so they can utilize the food offered, and not just fertilize the lawn with the groceries.
Water is not to be forgotten here, as it is the most important nutrient a dog can take in. Fresh, clean water timed accordingly with exercise is very important. Routine is important with this idea, so that in training you get the dog used to taking in water before and after exercise.
Lastly, the more “in shape” the dog is, the better that canine is going to utilize the food. The foods meant for a high performance dog can definitely have a positive effect on improving a dogs’ athleticism and recovery, but is not a replacement for proper training. Following a gradual exercise plan, based on what you are looking to do with your dog, combined with a proper diet will lead to success.