Dog Health: What to Feed a High-Energy Hunting Dog
The Importance of Conditioning and Proper Nutrition
Hunting dogs are very powerful dogs often asked to perform at high levels of intensity, especially when hunting season approaches. Problems, however, seem to arise when these dogs are required to perform without much preparatory conditioning. This often results in overexertion and exercise intolerance, an occurrence common in out-of-shape weekend hunting dogs.
Another problem seen in hunting dogs is a condition known as 'hunting dog hypoglycemia', a cause of weakness and exercise intolerance in predisposed dogs. The most affected dogs are young, highly excitable hunting dogs, often belonging to pointer and spaniel breeds. Symptoms include disorientation, weakness, and, in some cases, seizures taking place generally after one or two hours of vigorous exercise.
This condition can be avoided by feeding hunting dogs in the morning, some time before a hunt, and then feeding protein-rich foods during the hunt, according to veterinarians Kevin L. Cosford, and Susan M. Taylor. The use of energy boosting snacks for hunting dogs is therefore a good idea to prevent the insurgence of hunting dog hypoglycemia and providing hunting dogs with the energy they need to cover large amounts of ground when sent to work.
Important Considerations About Hunting Dogs
If you own a hunting dog and want to bring the best out of him while keeping him healthy, you cannot go wrong with providing healthy dog food. A good food for hunting dogs must provide nutritional support while also helping your dog maintain good health during the hunt or under any stressful conditions.
In the past, hunters were usually feeding their dogs every twenty-four hours and then over loading them with work. This often resulted in exhausted dogs that lost weight and looked gaunt, explains Jim Reiser, veterinarian and upland gamebird hunter from Franksville, Wisconsin. Today there is new recognition that feeding a dog more during hunting season will not hurt. If your dog is hunting every day and working hard, doubling, or even tripling the rations and adding more highly digestible protein, more calorie-laden fat, and some energetic carbohydrates may help.
Some dogs may be so excited or worn out during hunting season they will refuse to eat their daily meals. In these cases, it may help to pour on top of the dry kibble some meat based canned dog food along with cooked vegetables. To make it even more tempting, pouring some hot water will help release meaty odors and entice the dog to eat.
If you are considering adding supplements, it is important not to start them cold turkey. Rather, Reiser suggests to experiment with some nutritional supplements at home before briging them along to the field. This way, you will know how your dog responds to them. Each dog has a different metabolism and palate and, therefore, may respond differently.
For instance, you can experimentally try feeding some meat and potatoes or eggs and cheese perhaps a couple hours before or thirty minutes after running in the fields or swimming in a pond. If the dog responds well and likes the food, it is important to allow the dog to cool down before feeding anything once in the field. After feeding, it is also important to give time for the dog to digest before continuing working. Dr. Rieser believes that by following such guidelines, the risks for bloat or stomach tension are minimized for those concerned about those conditions.
Commercial and Homemade Energy Snacks
If you are looking for commercial energy boosting snacks for hunting dogs, there are a handful out there. XTremFuel Booster Bars and XTremFuel Booster tabs are products designed with hunting dogs in mind.The XTremFuel Booster Bars, for instance, make an ideal snack for when your hunting dog is in the field. It contains high-quality proteins and fats to aid in recovery and a blend of carbohydrates to improve endurance while increasing energy. The booster tabs, which are made of a high-calorie, high-energy formula, help increase stamina and are helpful for training, conditioning, hunting, and trials.
K9 Restart Energy Bars by Tech Mix are another choice for canine athletes and are supposed to be fed before, during, and after hunting. Gander Mountain also produces a line of energy bars called Retrieve Tri- Energy All Natural Nutrition Bars which provide immediate and time-released energy for working dogs.
If you like to make your dog your own energy bars, you are welcome to.
Best Dog Treat Recipes
Here's an energy bar recipe.
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar or raw sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oatmeal (quick or old fashioned)
1 cup chopped peanuts
- Mix shortening, brown sugar (or raw sugar) with two eggs.
- Then add to the mixture whole wheat flour, baking soda, teaspoon salt, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, oatmeal (quick or old fashioned), and chopped peanuts.
- Drop the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Turn the oven off and let the energy bars dry in the oven overnight. Keep refrigerated to prevent the build up of mold.
Owners of hunting dogs should also always carry with them a half-pint of corn syrup in their pockets just in case they are to deal with hypoglycemia, recommends veterinarian Charles A. Hjerpe. A couple of ounces of corn syrup should be given immediately in case the dog appears weak or starts to stagger.
So, basically three rules of thumb to follow for owners of hunting dogs: experimenting nutritional supplements at home well before hunting season begins, conditioning to exercise well in advance, and finally, feeding your dog right throughout the season, making sure to give him time to rest and digest before heading back to work.
Do you properly condition your hunting dog prior to hunting season?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.