Optimal nutrition for working dogs

Working dogs, from athletes to “search and rescue”, have nutritional and supplement needs that exceed those of the average family pooch.

“Butch is an agility competitor and is on the go all the time,” says Kim of her two-year-old border collie cross. “I learned early on that, just like a human athlete, his body and brain need an extra boost of nutrition so he can perform well, avoid injury and keep up his stamina.” Working dogs cover a wide gamut – from agility and farm dogs to security, service, therapy and search and rescue canines. Their lives are much more demanding – both physically and mentally – than those of ordinary family dogs, and their bodies and brains need to be able to keep up with all the tasks required of them. This means they need extra supplementation to maintain their health, drive, intelligence and tenacity. Whether the dog is a police canine or is helping someone in a wheelchair, the long hours and demanding nature of the job require stamina and perseverance.

Preventing injuries

Most sport injuries occur when an athlete is tired and muscle fatigue sets in. Balance, concentration and foot placement begin to deteriorate. Complete, balanced supplementation works to increase both concentration and stamina. This results in fewer injuries and illnesses, a greater enjoyment of work and play, and longer careers. In other words, excellent supplementation often results in a happier and healthier working dog.

Increasing stamina

Complete supplementation increases stamina by keeping cellular processes working full on during times when concentration and endurance are so very necessary. A full complement of B vitamins for stress, iodine and selenium for the thyroid, vitamins E and C and grape seed extract for antioxidant activity all help keep things running smoothly during times of stress. Phytochemicals provide even more energy and resilience because they remain available in the system far longer than vitamins and minerals. Additionally, bio-research has shown that the phytochemicals in foods such as broccoli, kale, cranberries, blueberries and carrots help prevent cancer as well as many other diseases.

Mental agility

Working dogs have to think things through, and thinking is work. A dog’s nutritional intake affects his brain function. The brain has very high energy and nutrient needs. Nutrient intake affects neurotransmitter levels, which in turn affects memory and problem-solving abilities.
• Vitamin B6 is needed to produce most of the brain’s neurotransmitters.
• Vitamin B12 maintains the outer coating of nerve cells.
• Niacin helps with memory.
• Vitamin D3 maintains the nervous system.
• Boron, a trace mineral, enhances brain function.
• Zinc is called “the intelligence mineral” and is required for mental development. It also helps in the production of about 100 enzymes in a dog’s body, builds a healthy immune system and maintains the sense of smell and taste. It’s also great for the skin and coat.
• Vitamin A is important for sight; a deficiency in this vitamin can cause night blindness.

Repair and regeneration

At the end of a long day, working dogs need to repair and regenerate. Cells run a race against time, disease and aging. And they need specific tools to run this race and win. Imagine if a repairman came to fix your washing machine and you found him leaning against the wall doing nothing. “What’s the problem?” you ask. His answer: “I forgot my tools so I can’t fix your washing machine.” Inthe same way, a dog’s cells must have the necessary tools to create health and stave off disease.

We usually think of food in terms of carbohydrates, fats and protein and duly search pet food labels to find out how much of each is in the dog food we’re buying. But it’s important to keep in mind that as important as these basic food groups are, they act as the structure, and not as the tools to maintain the structure. Choosing healthy tools Let’s look at it this way. To maintain your home you need cleaning solutions, a broom, mop, paint, screwdrivers, a hammer, nails and all manner of other tools. And it needs to be a complete set of tools, too. Imagine that repairman leaning against your dryer, once again failing to fix it: “I don’t have the right tools for this job because I didn’t bring the complete set with me.” Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are the tools needed to keep your working dog healthy.

Several factors should be addressed when choosing a quality supplement:

• The milligrams or international units should be listed on the bottle.

• The composition of the vitamins should be complete and balanced.

• The sources should be from a quality supplier, and bioavailable. As an example, calcium from powdered bone meal or oyster shells is not well absorbed or assimilated, but many vitamins use this as their calcium source.

• The vitamins should incorporate new research on health in their formulations and should be designed with the needs of the species in mind

• Depending on their job, many working dogs are exposed to more toxins than the average dog so a vitamin that helps decrease the toxic load will further benefit health and reduce disease.

Longevity and performance

Hippocrates probably never dreamed that his famous words “let food be thy medicine” would be proven true in laboratories all over the world in the 21st century! And it’s as true of dogs as it of people. Excellent supplementation improves the rate of tissue repair and extends a working dog’s career.

Retirement due to injury, loss of performance or illness is often devastating to both dog and person. But we can’t expect working dogs to stay healthy and ward off disease if they don’t have the necessary tools. Working dogs need to think through situations and handle problems. We put them at a disadvantage if we don’t provide all the tools they need for support. Quality supplements will help your working dog do his natural best and be happier and healthier, creating a perfect win-win situation.