How to Replenish Your Dog’s Energy

Photography: David Stover, Faith In the Point Bird Dogs

When it comes to feeding your dog, you won’t find one option that holds for all dogs across the board. Active dogs burn high amounts of calories through the course of a hunt, race or day at work. Their food must provide energy dense enough to replenish lost calories and fuel them for the following day. As a sporting-dog owner, you want a food that best suits the activity level, age, breed and desired performance level of your canine athlete.

Start by assessing the intensity and duration of the required activity and adjusting the diet to match the nutritional demand. This is done most effectively by matching the levels of macronutrients in the diet to the activity. Macronutrients are the nutrients that contribute calories and include proteins, fats and carbohydrates.


Not all protein is created equal. Diets rich in animal-based protein offer a range of readily available essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Diets that include more than one protein source allow for the body to select what is needed from a range of natural sources. The level of protein required for performance and recovery varies by activity and individual. Activities that are moderate in intensity and longer in duration are likely to cause more muscle damage than those that are less strenuous. A good general rule for active dogs is to seek out foods that are greater than 25% crude protein.


Multiple fat sources are also something to look for. Many ingredients will provide small amounts of fat to the diet, but look for named fats, oils, lards, and tallow, as these are the largest contributors of calories and essential fatty acids. Having a range of fats allows the body to select which fatty acids are most necessary for recovery and fuel. While protein and carbohydrates provide energy to the diet, on a gram-to-gram basis fats provide over 2X the calories. Generally, the higher the level of crude fat listed on the dog-food bag, the higher number of calories per cup of food. This is particularly important when feeding “hard keepers” or extremely active dogs. Often these two traits go together (think Belgian Malinois, German shorthaired pointers, Border collies, etc.), whose drive to work is often greater than the drive to eat. Higher-calorie diets allow for more nutrients in a lesser volume of food, increasing the chances of the dog getting what it needs to perform day after day. More fuel = better energy and a better likelihood of weight maintenance. Remember that the metabolism of your dog will play a role here, so adjust the fat level of the diet or the quantity of food accordingly. Feeding guidelines on bags are just that: guidelines. Some dogs will require more and some less. Adjust accordingly.

Depending on the fat source, higher-fat diets may increase olfactory performance in dogs. Dogs fed high quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have shown an increase in fluidity of the membranes that connect the nose to the brain, which is a promising link between olfaction and diet. An easy identifier of fats rich in PUFAs is their consistency at room temperature. Those that are liquid at room temperature are likely to contain a higher level of PUFAs. These often include fish and vegetable oils, chicken fats, etc.


Although there is research to suggest that dogs can survive without carbohydrates, there are a few advantages to having some carbs in performance diets. Similar to human sprinters, who use carbohydrates as quick and accessible sources of energy, canine endurance athletes use carbohydrates as initial fuel, but then they transition to burning fats to sustain the activity.

As mentioned earlier, there is no one size fits all when it comes to feeding your dog. You’ll want to find the food that best suits the activity level, age, breed and desired performance level of your canine athlete. The team at Inukshuk can help find the right formula for your dog. Click here to view formula options, or contact Inukshuk directly at 1-800-561-0072 or

Photography courtesy of David Stover of Faith In The Point Bird Dogs.

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