Bird Dogs & Training  |  06/25/2019

How to Choose Performance Nutrition Dog Food

Performance factors typically tip the scale when it comes to choosing the best food to feed an individual dog. Does the food in your dog’s bowl provide the nutrition and energy needed to power a hardworking bird dog? 

“When choosing a food, it’s best to determine your dog’s energy needs, the most critical part of his or her diet other than water,” says Purina Research Nutritionist Christina Petzinger Germain, PhD. 

Energy fuels a dog’s performance. When a dog food provides the right levels of energy nutrients — carbohydrates, fats and protein — a dog is more likely to achieve a high VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake. When maximal oxygen uptake combines with maximal fat oxidation, it produces the best performance during hard work. 

“The higher the VO2 max, the more intense a dog can exercise,” Dr. Petzinger Germain explains. “This is due to the supply of energy from fat to the muscles, sparing the liver and muscle glycogen stores, and the body’s use of amino acids, or protein, to provide glucose and delay fatigue. The longer you can spare glycogen, the better.” 

Glycogen, the storage form of glucose in the muscles and liver, is needed during intense work. However, it is limited in the body, and its depletion may affect a dog’s performance or capacity to work optimally. When glycogen stores are fully depleted, this leads to exhaustion.

A diet that is high in protein promotes high-circulating red blood cells, which have a crucial role in carrying oxygen to the cells, including muscle cells where oxygen is used to burn fat to produce the energy needed by a dog during work. Increased oxygen in muscle cells results in the increased capacity of the muscles to use fat as an energy source. 

Fat is an important concentrated source of energy. The gross energy of fat equals 9 kilocalories compared to 4 kilocalories for both protein and carbohydrates. The digestibility of fat is generally higher than protein or carbohydrates, and fat is highly palatable and improves the texture of dog food. 

“During recovery, particularly at a field event in which a dog may have run multiple times in one day, glycogen stores are replenished via carbohydrates in the diet,” says Dr. Petzinger Germain. “Dietary carbohydrates are important because they help maintain glycogen stores, enabling repeated episodes of exercise and work on a long-term basis.”

Understanding energy balance and determining whether your dog receives the nutrition he or she needs can be as simple as evaluating the dog’s performance to help ensure that he or she performs optimally with energy, drive and enthusiasm. 

At a Glance: Purina Pro Plan SPORT Nutritional Platform

Whether hunting or competing, your dog faces unique challenges. You can help your dog meet those challenges with targeted nutrition from the Purina Pro Plan SPORT nutritional platform. The various dry formulas — including Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice Formula, Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Salmon & Rice Formula and Purina Pro Plan SPORT Grain Free Performance 30/20 Chicken & Egg Formula — are all great choices for hardworking hunting dogs. These foods offer fine-tuned protein-to-fat ratios to match a particular dog’s level of activity and also help maintain lean muscle mass. Purina Pro Plan is sold exclusively at pet specialty and through online retailers. For more information, visit