Unsurprisingly a working dog’s energy requirements are at least two to three times higher than pet dogs, and on some farms and in some weather, considerably more.
A recent survey showed most dogs are fed a mix of commercially prepared biscuits and farm-kill meat. Many dogs flourish on this diet, and while home kill is high in fat and protein, which is needed for energy for extended periods of work and muscle repair, it does have it’s disadvantages. Freezing is required to prevent the spread of sheep measles and neospora but this can reduce the quality of the meat and the vitamins in it. It isn’t a complete diet either, lacking in many vitamins and minerals such as iodine, calcium, Vit E, Vit A, Vit D and Vit B12.
Bones, while a good source of calcium, are a health issue in that dogs can swallow large chunks. Often these can’t pass through causing blockages or constipation or even intestinal perforations. Bone can also break teeth causing chronic mouth pain.
Symptoms such as poor healing of the skin, susceptibility to fractures, joint problems and a lowered immune system have all been linked with poor nutrition. Dogs in poor condition are also much less able to cope with serious illness or injury.
A mix of meat and a commercial diet is most commonly fed but is still not balanced and we often hear concerns from our farmers that their dogs are underweight and struggle to put weight on. This is why a high fat, high energy, easily digestible and balanced diet formula is best, and these diets also mean smaller meal volumes can be fed.
Dogs fed high protein diets (>25%) have been shown to have eight times fewer injuries and recover from injuries faster also. Feeding your working dog straight after exercise can improve muscle repair and energy storage for the next day.
Commercial working dog diets also often have antioxidants (vitamin E, lutein, beta-carotene) added to reduce cell damage, and joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin to keep joints in good condition.
Have a think about what you are feeding your dog, and do not hesitate to give us a call about your dog’s diet. We want to ensure you get the best performance out of one of your hardest working members of staff.