Correct feeding is crucial to keep hunting dogs fit and well and protect them from sickness, suffering, and premature death. All hunting dogs need to eat twice a day but on the eve of the hunting trip, most dog owners prefer to reduce their dog’s food intake. After all; too full stomachs can cause vomiting, lethargy, and could even slow down the dog in the field. Many hunting dogs are actually fed just once a day before the trip since overfeeding tends to slow down their speed on the trip.
What do hunting dogs eat?
Apart from normal daily meals, hunting dogs do best on meat, offal, blood soup, broth, milk, butter, eggs, and cheese. High-performance hunting dogs have higher protein needs. Hard work destroys muscle tissues which are made from amino acids and proteins. Therefore, the optimal diet for hardworking hunting dogs is about 30% protein and this protein should ideally come from chicken, chick by-products, or other meats.
Hunting dogs also need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates mainly include starches and grains. While other house pets and low-activity dogs do not need too many carbs, hunting dogs thrive on this food group. Thankfully, many commercial dog foods are loaded with carbohydrates. After all; it gets very expensive for dog food manufacturers to only use fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins in their foods.
Carbohydrate sources tweak the dog’s response to meals and optimize their glycemic response. In layman terms, what this means is: active hunting dogs need carbs to maintain their blood sugar levels. Corn, rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, potatoes, and oats are good sources of carbohydrates for dogs that hunt. When cooked properly and combined with other food groups, carbohydrates provide tons of energy to dogs that spend all day on the hunt.
Naturally, this group should not be the primary source of energy in any performance food. Secondly, the kind of grains you choose is also important. This is due to the fact that grains vary in their ability to gain a blood sugar response. A grain like rice gives a quicker blood sugar response called glycemic response. This can be advantageous to a dog during his hunt.
Hunting dogs also need healthy fats. A study was conducted on sled dogs that were divided into two groups. One group was fed a high-fat diet while the other was fed a high carb diet. After 30 days, the group on the high-fat diet had a higher blood level of free fatty acids. Free fatty acids are primary pathways for converting fats into energy in the muscle cell. In another study, Labradors that were fed high-fat diets showed an increase in VO2 max-a measure of the dogs’ ability to utilize oxygen for energy conversion. As a result of these studies and observation of hunting dogs, the recommendation is clear: feed hunting dogs a high fat (20%) food that also contains 30% protein and a carb source such as rice or other grains.
Keeping the dog off food the night before the hunt
Wild canine predators rarely eat large meals on a daily basis. If you look at the energy metabolism of hunting dogs, it is all about carb replenishment. Human athletes often go carb bumping on the night before the game. But this doesn’t work for dogs. A typical dog cannot eat a high carb meal but he will do well on high-fat food and get the same results.
You should never take your dog on a hunt two to three hours after he has had his meal. After all, when he is fed, his body needs time to digest the meal. The pancreas also gives out an insulin spike. This slows down the release of fats and in hunting-dogs fat is the primary source of energy in muscle cells.
If, on the other hand, you feed your dog 24 hours before the hunt, then he is emptied out and does not spend time in emptying out bowels or on digesting a heavy meal. For young dogs and puppies though, it is best to feed twice a day but at least leave a gap of 3-5 hours between the meal and the hunt. If you are on a multi-day hunting trip, you may feed the dogs right after the hunt so that you give them at least 12 hours rest before the next day’s outing.
High-performance dog food reviews
Purina Pro Plan Performance Sport
Purina has many varieties of dog foods for hunting dogs. You can choose from grain-free as well as grain-based foods. Purina Pro Plan Performance Sport food is grain-free and contains glucosamine that helps support healthy joints. It is also enriched with tons of minerals and vitamins. Main sources of protein in this food are chicken and eggs. The fact that this food contains 30% protein and 20% fat makes it optimal for high-performance dogs.
Victor dog food
Victor dog food classic is mainly made with active dogs in mind. This nutrient-dense recipe contains selenium, Vitamin E, and other antioxidants and is formulated for sensitive dogs as well. Dogs with a gluten allergy can safely eat this high-performance food. Main protein sources are beef, chicken, and pork.
Victor also makes Nutra Pro dry dog food with the highest protein and lowest carbohydrates for all life stages. Nutra Pro food is also great for lactating bitches, puppies, and sporting or hunting dogs with high physical energy demands. Gluten-free grains in this food make it ideal for dogs with gluten sensitivity.
Taste of the Wild dog food for hunting dogs
If you are wondering whether the Purina Pro Plan and Taste of the Wild are similar, then the answer is that there is a slight difference: Purina Pro Plan usually contains corn. Taste of the Wild, on the other hand, makes grain-free food for hunting dogs. Pro Plan is cheaper than Taste of the Wild. Many hunting dog owners swear by the Taste of The Wild for their pets.
Eukanuba dog food
Eukanuba dog food for active dogs is made using a high-quality animal protein that helps in repairing damaged or worn out tissues. The brand also makes breed and age-specific food, so you can also choose from weight management food or special food for senior dogs. Eukanuba also contains calcium, which is an important mineral for hunting dogs.
Hunting dogs have different calorie and energy needs. But no two dogs are the same. So always check with your vet if you are planning to switch formulas. Also, always start with any new diet slowly. Make sure your pet shows no signs of allergy or gastric issues to the new food.