This is the second article on Wildrose and Purina’s partnering on a nutrition program for our dogs. Dr. Brian Zanghi, a Ph.D. research nutritionist at the Nestle Research Center, visited Wildrose and shared his findings on a number of subjects pertinent to sound canine nutrition.The first article in this series (published in last month’s Journal) shared Brian’s knowledge about determining a dog’s appropriate body size and employing the best feeding strategies. A key point in that article was scientific evidence from dog nutrition studies showing that feeding the dog 17 or more hours before exercise results in a much greater use of fat as energy; this is compared to feeding 6 hours before exercise, which results in a much greater use of carbohydrates for energy generation.
In this article we will discuss the recommended type of food for optimal sporting dog activity and we will explain the dog’s process of metabolizing fat and protein during aerobic activity.
Dog food contains six basic nutrient ingredients: water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. In general, the varying proportions of these ingredients determine whether it is a maintenance food, a senior food, a weight management food or a performance food. For the working dog, Brian recommends a performance food, a formula with 28-30% protein and 18-20% fat, as compared to 24 -26% protein and 12-16% fat in a maintenance food. This nutrient range for performance delivers greater proportions of the nutrients used for exercise metabolism and physiology, which also enables the dog to maintain a good body condition while sustaining greater endurance and better mental alertness when working afield.
How does the performance food formula work with the dog’s metabolism to optimize its hunting performance? Food with higher levels of fat result in more fat nutrients being present in the blood, which in turn promote endurance metabolism because a dog’s exercising muscles “prefer”to burn these nutrients. The energy production of “burning” fat into muscle energy takes place in mitochondria (“furnaces” of the cells), where oxygen is also metabolized, which is why it is referred to as aerobic exercise. Canine muscles adapt to eating higher fat diets, even in the absence of exercise training, which leads to greater mitochondria content. This ultimately translates into the dog having a greater capacity to metabolize oxygen, which means higher aerobic ability or endurance performance. In a complementary process, protein need accelerates during exercise, and this coincides with muscle conditioning and mitochondrial biosynthesis. Greater protein delivers more amino acids (protein building blocks) that support and promote muscle growth. Simply put, both energy and building blocks are needed to support improvement.
In summary the higher fat and protein nutrients in performance food promote increased metabolic capacity, enabling the dog to have increased energy production and efficient oxygen use, resulting in optimal endurance during physical exercise.
[The information in this article is synthesized from research reports by Nestle Research Scientist Brian Zanghi, Ph.D.]