Dogs use fat for energy and overall can eat a higher fat diet than humans. They utilize fat in their food before utilizing carbohydrates or protein. A high-energy working dog needs a very high-fat diet, and diets too low in fat even for a couch potato of a dog can have harmful side effects. It's not only the total fat content in the food that is important, it's equally important to feed the right types of fat for energy and health.
Fat can roughly be broken down into two categories: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats include beef tallow and chicken fat, and are solid unless heated up. They provide energy but are not otherwise valuable for good organ, skin and coat health. Unsaturated fats include fish and vegetable oils and are high in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Unsaturated fats are important in boosting the immune system, maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and generally promoting health and vigor. Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories and are vital for healthy gestation and puppy development. Dogs fighting cancer don't metabolize food in the same way as healthy dogs, and benefit from a high fat, high protein diet.
High-Fat Foods for Working and Performance Dogs
While carbohydrate loading improves human strength and endurance, it has little effect on most animals. Dogs have no essential requirement for carbohydrates in their diet but high-fat foods increase strength, cardiovascular performance and better oxygen utilization. Studies on sled dogs fed a high-carbohydrate diet showed an increase of lactic acid in their muscles, which in turn can lead to muscle soreness. Beagles fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet had higher endurance than those fed a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. The typical high-carbohydrate kibbled diet may actually decrease performance and increases thirst because the grains absorb water in the bowel.
Choosing High-Fat Dog Food
Most commercial dog foods contain between 10 percent and 20 percent fat. Budget-priced dog food contains primarily saturated fat obtained as animal tallow and grease as fat sources. Choose a better quality food higher in fat and protein. Look for flax seed oil, fish meal or oil and omega-3 fatty acids listed in the ingredients. Although premium foods cost more per pound, you will need to feed lesser amounts to your dog, so the actual cost may be no higher.
Diet or low-fat dog foods for facilitating weight loss may be ineffective at best, according to Dr Susan Wynn. The combination of high carbohydrates and lower fat can lead to skin problems, dry, dull fur and other more serious conditions like diabetes. Dr Wynn suggests increasing exercise and feeding a higher quality, low-fiber and low-carbohydrate diet for healthy weight loss.
Adding fish oil capsules to your dog's regular diet is an excellent way to boost beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is available at pet stores but the kind sold for people is just fine. Many dogs enjoy these like treats, or they can be sliced open and drizzled on food. Give about 1000 mg per 20 lbs of your dog's weight.