Whether you have a Labrador retriever, a coonhound or a German shorthaired pointer, you know that your hunting dog loves to work and uses lots of energy. Extra energy requires extra calories. The best dog foods for a hunting dog are nutrient-dense foods with high fat content.
Nutrient-dense dog foods are higher in protein and fat, but lower in carbohydrates. Your dog will eat less nutrient-dense food to get the needed calories. Some commercial dog foods have 70% carbohydrates -- some used as fillers. Even though a hunting dog needs energy from carbohydrates, he also needs lean protein to protect his body against injuries and maintain muscle. The higher content of fat provides the additional energy your hunting dog needs for optimal performance.
Fats supply energy and essential fatty acids as well as transport vitamins. They also help maintain your dog's coat and keep the skin healthy. Fats are a "metabolic source of water," according to Sabine Contreras, canine care and nutrient consultant. Fats provide 2 1/4 more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, so dogs can eat and get more energy. For those dogs that are on long hunting excursions, fat provides additional energy. Omega-6 fatty acids (soybean, corn and safflower oil) can cause inflamed and irritated skin. Omega-3 fatty acids (cold-water fish oil, flaxseed and canola oil) keep the skin healthy, so look for omega-3 fats. Fat content should be at least 20 percent.
Proteins are the building blocks for your pet's body. They supply 10 of the 23 essential amino acids necessary for proper body metabolism -- your dog manufacturers the other 13. Protein comes from meat and plant sources; however, meat has a "higher biological value" than vegetable sources such as soybean and corn meal, according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Hunting dogs need more protein for body maintenance and to avoid injury. Look for dog food that lists meat as its first three ingredients. Avoid meat by-products, which are the necks, stomachs, feathers and other remains of the animal. High protein dog foods contain 32 to 40 percent protein.
Carbohydrates are sugar, starches and fiber. They provide energy but can also raise blood sugar. For a hunting dog, the increase in blood sugar provides quick energy. Rice raises blood sugar levels; whereas, wheat causes lower blood sugar levels. Corn and sorghum offer slower rising levels.
Too much fiber can cause intestinal gas and too little can cause constipation. Fiber in the food should be four to seven percent and preferably from a source like beet pulp, according to Martin Coffman, sporting dog veterinarian.
Vitamins, Minerals and Water
Vitamins are needed for the dog's chemical reactions. Vitamins A,D,E and K require fat in the diet for absorption. The B-complex vitamins easily absorb in the body. Vitamin C is not needed in the canine diet because dogs can make it themselves. Minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous, are necessary for structural building as well as chemical reactions. If the dog food is complete and balanced, it should have all the vitamins and nutrients essential for the health of your hunting dog. Water is the most important nutrient for your dog and is especially important for the hunting dog that runs.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.