Canine athletes don’t stop when they’re tired; they stop when they’re done. But the intensity of a dog running 3-minute coursing drills is different from a dog that is herding sheep all day. Athletic dogs need to be fueled by the correct type of energy. Nutrition tailored to support these different types of activities helps dogs work at their peak potential. Carbohydrates serve up immediate energy; fat supports power for long, sustained runs; and protein helps strengthen all body systems.

Popular activities like agility drills, dock diving and flyball require immediate energy that comes from carbohydrates. As sprint activities are intense for a short period of time, calories must be easily converted to mechanical energy to fuel their movement. Sprint activities require more power per second since their drive is focused and intense. These short bursts of speed and fury are followed by periods of rest before the dog is called to run again. The immediate energy found in carbohydrates comes from a wide variety of sources such as corn, wheat and sorghum. When digested they become energy known as glucose. Some of the glucose is used immediately and what remains is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles to be delivered to the body when needed. No oxygen is required to break down glucose, which is why these sprint-based activities are anaerobic.

Carbohydrates also fuel the nervous system, which supports brain activity and muscular response. Fiber, a type of carb, helps stool move efficiently through a dog’s system and helps maintain blood sugar levels. If you have a dog that likes to run, then he’ll need energy to support his aerobic work. Fat fuels dogs that accompany owners on trail runs, while hiking and on mountain bike rides. Energy conversion for long runs requires oxygen, which is used to turn calories into power. The longer the dog’s activity, the more fat they will need. Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids, which are grouped according to their chemical structures. In Eukanuba’s Premium Performance line, omega-3 fatty acids come from fish oils, while omega-6 fatty acids come from chicken fat, as well as plants and vegetables. Fats are highly digestible and are among the first types of energy to be metabolized during aerobic exercise. Energy from fat is concentrated and helps pro­vide dogs with lasting energy.

“When most people think of fat, they think of stored fat,” says Russ Kelley, the Science Lead/Service and Working Dog Research manager at Eukanuba’s Pet Health & Nutrition Center. “Dogs metabolize stored fat at a differ­ent rate. Stored fat is a reserve that is utilized by the dog’s body when he has engaged in significant workloads over an extended period of time. As the dog metabolizes more read­ily available energy from fatty acids and carbohydrates, the fat reserves offer additional energy. But metabolizing stored fat is hard on other systems, and that’s why it’s preferable to have fat in their diet.”

Protein provides energy, but it’s mostly used by many of the dog’s body systems. Everyone notices a dog with ripped muscles, and protein helps build them. Protein delivers essential amino acids to aid in strengthening and oxygenating exercising muscles. But it does a lot more. Protein provides the building blocks that help support the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and other systems. The skin and coat, which is the dog’s first line of defense, uses the highest amount of protein.

Dog food contains varying amounts of carbohydrates, fat and protein for good reason. Tailored diets like those offered in Eukanuba’s Premium Performance line help enable owners and handlers to match a type of energy to their dog’s activity levels. Providing the right source and amount of energy helps dogs perform at their peak.