Factsheets - Sheep & Beef
The following fact sheets have been prepared by Anexa FVC Veterinarians as a guide to topics of interest. For specific information please contact your local vet.

Dogs lacking energy, struggling to keep weight on?

Dogs lacking energy, struggling to keep weight on?
By Katrina Crowe, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Huntly

A good working dog is said to be like having an extra person on the farm, that doesn’t need to be paid a wage; so it is very important that they are fed to optimise their potential, ensuring they receive the appropriate amount of energy and nutrients they need to do the job we require. The amount of money and time invested into buying and training a good farm dog means we need to do our best to make sure they are able to continue to work until retirement age without injury, and a huge part of this is correct nutrition. There are many options for working dogs available in today’s dog food market, however not all foods are created equal, and often, like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

A working dog uses a lot more energy on a daily basis than the average dog. It’s like comparing a marathon runner and sprinter in one, to a person who walks around the block 2 or 3 times a week. Many research studies have shown that a diet high in protein and fat, and lower in carbohydrate, is ideal for a working dog that needs both endurance and speed.

Muscles need energy to function. High fat, low carbohydrate diets increase muscle endurance, and high protein diets help with oxygen delivery to muscles, reducing muscle fatigue. Dogs with reduced muscle fatigue are less prone to soft tissue injuries, and therefore less prone to orthopaedic injuries. Protein also helps maintain muscle mass. The minimum amount of dietary protein recommended for a working dog is 24%. Fat is the preferred fuel that muscles like to use. A lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet means that muscles resort to using their carbohydrate stores, which results in muscle exhaustion.

The digestibility of a diet is also important. Digestibility refers to the amount of nutrients the dog is able to absorb from its diet. Many commercially available “working dog” diets are high in carbohydrate and fibre, with low digestibility, meaning that a lot of the food cannot be absorbed by the dog’s digestive system, and instead comes out the other end as an increased volume of faeces. Often these diets seem cheaper than premium diets, based on cost per kilogram of food, but in reality a greater amount of these diets must be fed to match the nutritional requirements of the dog, compared to that provided by a premium working dog diet, such as Royal Canin Endurance 4800.

Home kill diets are another option commonly fed to working dogs, but this lacks the energy levels and essential nutrients required for a complete and balanced working dog diet. If choosing to feed home kill to your working dog, it should always be fed in conjunction with a premium working dog food.

Royal Canin Endurance 4800 is a highly digestible, high protein, high fat kibble food, formulated specifically for working and sport dogs, with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, glucosamine, and chondroitin for joint support, helping to delay the onset of osteoarthritis as dogs get older.

Click on the photo to see the table that compares Royal Canin 4800 with a non-premium working dog diet.

Although the recommended daily feeding amounts of each diet are about the same, the dog eating Royal Canin 4800 will be getting significantly higher levels of protein and fat than the dog being fed the other “working dog” diet. The majority of the remainder of this non-premium diet is made up of cereal and cereal by-products, which act as “fillers” and are mostly unable to be absorbed by the dog, leading to an increased amount of faeces.

Although it seems cheaper to feed the non-premium diet to your working dogs, the extra $1.10 per day spent on a premium diet (based on a 20kg dog) will ensure your working dog has enough energy to complete its daily work, maintain muscle mass for the following day’s work, carry out tissue repair (meaning faster recover from injury if it occurs), and have protected joints for a longer working life.

The superior nutrition provided by a premium working dog food like Royal Canin 4800 is a valuable investment in one of your most important pieces of farming equipment, and your lowest paid staff member, the NZ farm working dog. If you would like to find out more about a premium diet for your working dogs, please give us a call, pop down to one of our Anexa Clinics, or have a chat to one of our staff members next time they are out on farm.


Date Added: Friday, 10th May 2019


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