It’s so important to feed your hunting partner the right performance dog food to keep energy levels up, especially during hunting season. Yet, beware feeding performance dog food, or any kind of food, right before you go hunting with your dog. In fact, experts recommend feeding hunting dogs just once a day during on-season.
The best time to dose out their daily meal is around 10 to 12 hours before their next burst of exercise. In most cases, that’d be the night before you go hunting, or around the time you return from hunting in the afternoon or evening. This gives dogs enough time to eat, digest, and get ready to go at it again the following day.
Are you worried your ravenous dog will never last this long without food? We guarantee he’ll survive, in fact according to scientific research this is the best way to utilize your dog’s natural energy resources. Plus, you can give snacks while working in the marshes and fields (more on that later).
What if you feed your hunting pal high performance dog food six hours before a hunt—is that enough time? The problem with feeding a dog 6 hours before exercise is that it changes the way your dog’s body burns fat and metabolizes energy. As a result, dogs are unable to reach the same energy or endurance levels.
How Canines Digest Performance Dog Food
After your dog eats, insulin levels go up. If your dog goes to exercise shortly thereafter, he/she is unable to use fat—which is the most productive form of energy dogs can utilize. In fact, fat is the primary energy source dogs rely on. When dogs cannot rely on fats to produce energy, they end up less energized and with decreased endurance.
But Why 12 Hours?
12 hours might seem like a long time, but keep in mind it takes dogs anywhere from 20 to 24 hours to fully digest a meal. Undigested food can result in a buildup of fecal matter in the colon. This adds more weight to your dog and can slow him down.
During exercise, the gastrointestinal transit time can fluctuate, altering the level of nutrients your dog absorbs and digests. Therefore, blood flow and oxygen to the gut decreases and your dog reaps fewer benefits from performance dog food. Additionally, a full stomach increases the risk for a potentially fatal condition known as gastro volvulus, or a stomach twist.
Some of the same overall principles ring true for humans as well. Studies have shown humans with a full stomach perform slower, and are less agile than humans with an empty stomach.
As the intestines strive to work at the same time a dog outputs energy to run, jump, retrieve, etc., performance problems become more likely. Even if you can’t wait 10-12 hours to exercise, you should, at the very least, give dogs enough time to produce a bowel movement after eating before exercise.
If you’re still in doubt, the inner fuel your dog utilizes during a hunt is typically derived from food that was digested 12-18 hours beforehand. Feeding your dog right before a hunt is NOT going to boost energy or make them feel better. After all, energy, moisture, and other inner resources should go towards running and working, not digesting food. Plus, dogs are natural-born scavenger-predators, which means their bodies are designed to feast and then fast.
Never Wait Longer Than 12 Hours to Feed Your Hunting Dog
A good training diet shouldn’t border on abuse. Make sure your dog NEVER goes more than 12 hours without getting a solid meal in his belly. The moment your dog cools down, make sure his food is waiting and ready. Not only is he sure to be ravenous, but if you’re embarking on a multiple day hunt, your dog needs plenty of time to digest dinner before going back at it the next morning.
What if Your Hunting Dog is Losing Weight?
With so much exercise and only one meal a day during hunting season, it’s not uncommon for hunting dogs to start to show signs of weight loss. If you notice your dog dropping weight, increase portions of high quality performance dog food. Also, make sure the food you’re feeding is high in fat—at least 18-20% fat content and around 28-39% protein. You may also want to consider adding high-fat snacks into your dog's diet.
The Best Performance Dog Snacks for Hunting Dogs
Some hunters bring high-fat, low-volume snacks along and hand them out every hour or so. It’s not uncommon to use cooking oil or butter as a snack, but these options are messy.
One alternative mess-free option is a Lakse Kronch Oemmikan Energy Bar for dogs. Shaped like a chocolate bar, it easily breaks off into small pieces that pack a lot of fat.
Avoid Performance Dog Foods Loaded with Carbs
Overloading on carbs isn’t good for humans, and it’s even worse for your dog. Dogs can’t utilize carbohydrates the same way we can. Carbs offer little more than an empty cheap filler for dogs. Hence why many cheap dog foods are high in carbohydrates.
If your hunting dog’s diet is high in carbohydrates it could lead to a condition known as “exertional rhabdomyolysis” (aka, tying up). This condition can cause cramping, watery stools, dehydration and muscle pain.
Don’t Forget to Add Balance to Your Hunting Dog’s Diet
Give your dog even more stamina by adding the right probiotic to his diet alongside high performance dog food. Balance by Alpha Dog Nutrition is specially formulated for hunting dogs and other hardworking canines.
When given once a day, it balances the billions of bacteria living in your dog’s stomach and helps aid in the digestion of food. When gut bacteria get out of balance, it can result in stomach issues. On the other hand, a well-balanced gut leads to greater performance and overall health.