©L. Phillips Brown, D.V.M.
Athletes understand that nutritional factors, or the lack thereof can play
a significant role in performance. Certain naturally occurring nutrients
can also reduce inflammation, stimulate the renewal and rebuilding of
stressed tissue and, in the case of injury, promote healing. Little
information, however, has been published on nutrients that can enhance the
performance of working, running or hunting dogs.
The following is a review of some of the important natural substances
available that can impact performance.
Vitamin C - Although ascorbic acid may not be required for most
dogs during growth and reproduction, dietary vitamin C is beneficial
during times of stress and heavy exercise. In fact. vitamin C is now
considered to be a very important ěconditionally essentialî nutrient by
many veterinary clinicians.
The role of vitamin C in maintaining the integrity of connective tissue is
well documented. It plays an important role in the cross-linking of
collagen; acts as a signaling agent to favor connective tissue synthesis;
and, as an antioxidant, scavenges free radicals. Ascorbic acid also
enhances the synthesis of carnitine, considered to be an endurance
enhancer. Ester-C®, a non-acidic form of vitamin C, is used by many
Glucosamine is a key building block for the synthesis of
proteoglycans, one of the components of articular cartilage and connective
tissue. Proteoglycans are large molecular complexes composed of
Proteoglycans, GAGS and glucosamine have been termed ěchondroprotective
agents.î When administered orally, they act as precursors for rebuilding
damaged or stressed connective tissue; as joint lubricants; and as agents
that scavenge the free radicals thought to be responsible for tissue
In running and hunting dogs, oral glucosamine supplementation should
provide cartilage the desired flexibility, resiliency and resistance to
Manganese (Mn) is required for proper formation of bone and
cartilage; for normal glucose metabolism; and as part of superoxide
dismutase (SOD), and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant enzyme produced in the
body. SOD helps protect against joint inflammation.
In physically active dogs, bone and connective tissue are continuously
remodeled. Low levels of Mn could result in weakened bones and skeletal
defects. Manganese deficiencies can impair the synthesis of sex hormones
and reduce reproductive performance.
Complex Carbohydrates are now a mainstay of athletesí training and
competition diets, because they deliver sustained energy without the ěrush
and reboundî of complex sugars. They are broken down slowly by the
intestine, absorbed steadily into the bloodstream, and reach target cells
without stimulating excessive insulin production that can actually impair
Guarana is a high-energy stimulant that increases the use of free
fatty acids for furl (i.e., more energy); fights fatigue and muscle
soreness; and increases mental alertness.
Properly used in hunting dogs, caffeine, the natural derivative contained
in guarana, may boost performance without the side effects of diuresis,
increased metabolic rate and elevated body temperature.
Ginseng has been used by athletes to increase endurance, hone
reflexes and improve concentration. Some athletes have noted that guarana
allows an increased amount of training without physical injury. Ginseng
has been slow to reduce the buidup of lactic acid, a breakdown product
resulting from muscle activity. Excess lactic acid decreases performance
and causes post-exercise stiffness. When used judiciously in racing and
hunting dogs, ginseng may maximize oxygen usage and increase energy
The following table lists actions supported by some common nutrients.
Antioxidant / Anti-inflammatory CoQ10, Ester-C, ginseng, polyphenols
(green tea, rutin, hisperidin), vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc
Stamina / Energy Bee pollen, carnitine, ginseng, guarana, iron
Chondroprotective Chondroitin sulfate, Ester-C, glucosamine, hyaluronic
acid, manganese, vitamins C and D
Complex carbohydrate Whole grains (rice, corn, wheat) --not simple sugars
Active dogs must be conditioned properly and fed diet formulated with
biologically available amino acids, vitamins and minerals as well as
sustained-energy complex carbohydrates. Hunting, running and working dogs
have additional needs for cellular regeneration and renewal of energy
stores. Also, joints must remain flexible and resilient to exaggerated
physical demands. Finally, the sheer volume of oxygen used can overwhelm
muscles with free radicals, resulting in fatigue and soreness. Balancing
the correct diet with nutrient supplements formulated for dogs' specific
nutritional needs will enhance condition and performance and may even
promote a longer life.
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