How to Fuel Your Active Dog for Everyday Adventures

Choosing a complete and balanced diet that’s optimized for your dog’s activities is key to helping him feel great and perform at his full potential.


Active dogs need a diet with the right kind of energy to fuel their activities. Dogs who accompany their owners on long trail runs or bike rides need a different kind of dietary energy than dogs participating in sprint activities like dock diving. Choosing a complete and balanced diet that’s optimized for your dog’s activities is key to helping him feel great and perform at his full potential.

Understanding Your Dog’s Dietary Energy Needs

Dietary energy primarily comes from three different sources: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Carbohydrates burn quickly, so they’re the ideal power source for dogs working intensely for short periods of time. Dogs exercising for longer periods of time need a diet with more fat and protein.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise

Throw a dog a disc or bumper, watch him run an agility course, or see him spring from a dock diving platform and you’ll see anaerobic exercise. These short, intense activities require more power per second since their movements are at a higher, more concentrated frequency. That type of immediate energy comes from carbohydrates. When digested carbohydrates become energy known as glucose. With these dogs working anaerobically in a short, intense burst followed by a period of rest, oxygen isn’t used to break down glucose.

Dogs exercising for an extended period of time, like a run or a hike, work aerobically (requiring oxygen). They need sustained energy that comes from fat and protein. The longer a dog’s activity, the more fat and protein he will need. Fats are highly digestible and are among the first types of energy to be metabolized during aerobic exercise.

The Role of Carbohydrates in Your Dog’s Diet

Dogs break down carbohydrates into glucose, which is a sugar. Glucose is easily stored and metabolizes quickly to power short bursts of energy. According to Russ Kelley, the Science Lead Nutritionist at Eukanuba’s™ Pet Health and Nutrition Center, “Carbohydrates are important for dogs involved in sprint activities as it delivers immediate energy for bursts of short, intense activity. With anaerobic exercise, the activity is over before the dog’s body starts to burn fat. Carbs should come from easy-to-digest ingredients. Any energy that is not burned is stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver. That makes it readily available for the next burst of activity. Carbs also help fuel the nervous system along with supporting brain activity and muscular response. Fiber, a type of carb, helps support healthy blood sugar levels. It also helps stool move efficiently through a dog’s system.”

The Importance of Dietary Fat for Active Dogs

There are two types of fat: dietary and stored. Dietary fats come from meats like poultry or fish as well as from plant or vegetable oils. “Dietary fat burns quickly and provides energy when dogs work aerobically,” says Kelley. “Stored fat burns more slowly as it is a reserve used when dogs engage in rigorous exercise over an extended period of time. The longer they work the more stored fat they metabolize. Having dietary and stored fat as energy is important for a dog’s overall health, especially because converting stored fat into energy is hard on other body systems.”

Where Does Protein Fit In?

Protein also provides energy but it’s mostly used by a dog’s other body systems. Protein delivers essential amino acids to aid in strengthening and oxygenating exercising muscles. It also provides the building blocks that help support the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, skeletal and nervous systems. A dog’s skin and coat uses the most amount of protein.

How to Select a Diet for Your Adventure Buddy

Look for a diet scientifically formulated and tailored to your dog’s activity level like those offered in Eukanuba’s™ Premium Performance line. The Eukanuba™ line-up includes three performance formulas with varying degrees of protein, fat and carbohydrates so you can select the diet that best aligns with your dog’s active lifestyle. By matching your dog’s activity to an optimal dietary energy source, you help give him the kind of fuel he needs to perform at his peak.

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