Performance Nutrition For Active Dogs

hunting retriever performance nutrition

Performance factors typically tip the scale when it comes to choosing the best food to feed an individual dog. Does the food in your dog’s bowl provide the nutrition and energy needed to power a canine athlete?

“When choosing a food, it’s best to determine your dog’s energy needs, the most critical part of his or her diet other than water,” says Purina Research Nutritionist Christina Petzinger Germain, PhD.

Energy fuels a dog’s performance. When a dog food provides the right levels of energy nutrients — carbohydrates, fats and protein — a dog is more likely to achieve a high VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake. When maximal oxygen uptake combines with maximal fat oxidation, it produces the best performance during hard work.

”The higher the VO2 max, the more intense a dog can exercise,” Dr. Petzinger Germain explains. “This is due to the supply of energy from fat to the muscles, sparing the liver and muscle glycogen stores, and the body’s use of amino acids, or protein, to provide glucose and delay fatigue. The longer you can spare glycogen, the better.”

Glycogen, the storage form of glucose in the muscles and liver, is needed during intense work. However, it is limited in the body, and its depletion may affect a dog’s performance or capacity to work optimally. When glycogen stores are fully depleted, this leads to exhaustion.

A diet that is high in protein promotes high-circulating red blood cells, which have a crucial role in carrying oxygen to the cells, including muscle cells where oxygen is used to burn fat to produce the energy needed by a dog during work. Increased oxygen in muscle cells results in the increased capacity of the muscles to use fat as an energy source.

Fat is an important concentrated source of energy. The gross energy of fat equals 9 kilocalories compared to 4 kilocalories for both protein and carbohydrates. The digestibility of fat is generally higher than protein or carbohydrates, and fat is highly palatable and impacts the texture of dog food.

Curious as to how kilocalories compare to calories in human food? They are the same, except on human nutritional labels, kilocalories are shortened to Calories. Both represent the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.

“During exercise recovery, glycogen stores are replenished via carbohydrates in the diet,” says Dr. Petzinger Germain. “Dietary carbohydrates are important because they help maintain glycogen stores, enabling repeated episodes of exercise and work on a long-term basis.”

Understanding energy balance and determining whether your active dog receives the nutrition he or she needs can be as simple as evaluating the dog’s performance to help ensure that he or she performs optimally with energy, drive and enthusiasm.

Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Salmon & Rice Formula

  • Made for all life stages
  • 484 kcal/cup
  • Real salmon is the No. 1 ingredient
  • 30 percent protein/20 percent fat
  • High-performance dry formula crafted with 30% protein and 20% fat to fuel metabolic needs and maintain lean muscle in canine athletes. Delivers concentrated nutrition to optimize oxygen metabolism (VO2 max) for increased endurance.

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula*

  • Made for adult dogs
  • 429 kilocalories per cup
  • Real salmon is the No. 1 ingredient
  • 26 percent protein/16 percent fat
  • Specialized dry formula that nourishes skin and coat and supports the digestive health of adult dogs. Made with omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat as well as rice that is easily digestible and gentle on the digestive system.

*Although Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula does not provide the protein, fat or carbohydrate levels needed for a dog to reach VO2 max, it does provide benefits that are important to sporting dogs and may be ideal for dogs that require fewer calories or have sensitive skin or stomach.

Purina Pro Plan is sold exclusively at pet specialty and through online retailers. For more information, please visit