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Aussie working dogs should eat like elite athletes

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As a former Australian Wallaby Tom Bowman knows the importance of nutrition for peak performance for himself and for his working dogs.

Lessons learnt from optimising the performance of leading athletes can be applied to working dogs, according to Australian Institute of Sport Senior Physiologist, Professor David Pyne.

Research has shown that working dogs expend energy in a similar way to human endurance athletes and that feed management practices can directly affect their performance.

“The principles of nutrition, hydration and the timing of meals that we know are so important for elite athletes can also be applied to working dogs,” said Prof Pyne. “A significant amount of international research has been done in this area so we are very aware of the importance of nutrition to the sporting performance of humans and much of this knowledge can be applied to animals, particularly hard working dogs.”

Professor Pyne is speaking at the inaugural Working Dog Alliance conference to be held in Sydney on 4 and 5 November, 2013. The inaugural Australian Working Dog Conference, will bring together over 200 working dog breeders, trainers, handlers, veterinarians, facility managers, research scientists, advocacy and government group representatives from across Australasia. Nestlé Purina Petcare is a sponsor of the Working Dog Alliance conference.

“A working dog’s job involves exercising at low-to-moderate intensity for extended periods of time like an endurance athlete,” says Purina spokesperson, Dr Lisa Chimes.

“Whilst nutrition is obviously important for a working dog, as it is for their human athlete equivalents, it is important to note that humans and dogs have very different metabolisms.

Human stamina improves with high carbohydrate diets but scientific studies show that dogs increase stamina when fed high fat and low carbohydrate diets.”

In fact, dogs are fat burning machines, more efficient at metabolising and mobilising fat than almost any other species. Fat has about 2.25 times more energy than protein or carbohydrate per gram, and high fat diets help meet the energy needs of canine endurance athletes.

Fat provides fuel, but protein, carbohydrate, and vitamins and minerals are also vital to dog’s health and performance. Protein is essential to build and repair muscles (and for preventing soft tissue injuries), while carbohydrates are needed for sprinting, and for digestive health.

“Without the right balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, your dog can’t perform at its best,” said Dr Chimes. “So look for products that have been specifically formulated for working dogs.”

Research has also shown that dogs fed correctly to a lean body condition on a commercially prepared diet can live up to two years longer. The 14-year Purina Life Span* study (whose findings have been published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) found that a dog’s life span can be increased by 15% if they maintain a lean or ideal body condition by being fed an appropriate amount of food.

Purina is a global leader in canine nutrition. Purina Bonnie Working Dog kibble provides hard working food for hard working dogs. It contains high protein levels to build strong muscles and help repair and recovery from strenuous exercise, and high fat to provide energy for endurance activity and to help maintain condition.

*Background information attached about Purina LifeSpan Study, Canine endurance athletes and Working dog nutritional facts.