Nutrient Supplements for Working, Running and Hunting Dogs


©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 veterinarians.

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 glycosaminoglycans (GAGS).
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 degeneration.
In running and hunting dogs, oral glucosamine supplementation should provide cartilage the desired flexibility, resiliency and resistance to compression.

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 performance.

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 potential.

The following table lists actions supported by some common nutrients.

Action 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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