Nutritional supplementation in athletic dogs
Doctor Delphine CLERO (veterinary surgeon, phD) and Christophe CARON (DEJEPS dog team) provide you in this article with recommendations based on scientific studies concerning supplementation in sporting dogs.
Feeding his sport dog in a qualitatively and quantitatively adapted way may seem simple to the practitioner of sport with his dog, in particular when this one uses an industrial food adapted for this type of dog (containing a fat content of 20 to 30% ME , and a protein level of 25 to 35% ME). While the quantitative energy goal may seem straightforward to provide (maintaining correct body condition), the precise amount of macro and micronutrients to provide and when to provide them are just as essential.
Depending on the type of dog, the type of effort, the level of practice, an appropriate food ration may not be identical in all dogs. Specific contributions adapted upstream, during, and downstream are essential to optimize performance, recovery and injury prevention (Wakshlag et al., 2014).
We present here some elements of supplementation, taken from scientific data published in dogs.
Optimizing energy reserves and metabolism
In dogs, lipid metabolism is considered essential in endurance efforts, when the duration of the effort exceeds 45 minutes (Hills, 1998). Before this delay, the oxidation of carbohydrates remains an important part of providing energy to the muscle during exercise. It has been shown, in particular in sled dogs, that an immediate post-exercise carbohydrate intake helps maintain glycogen reserves. The dose studied is 1.5 g / kg of maltodextrin within 20 minutes of the end of exercise (Wakshlag et al., 2002; Wakshlag et al., 2004). In racing greyhounds, a faster pre-exercise intake of carbohydrate (fructose) is recommended by some, but no study has looked at comparing the different types of intake.
For endurance training, intakes of short and medium chain fatty acids were studied (Cléro et al., 2002). If this strategy is of interest in long and not very intense efforts, it should be studied on efforts requiring the effort of endurance speed, as during the sharing of effort at more than 18-20km / h for more than 45 minutes with his dog (with a dog accompanying his master on a bicycle, or medium-distance sled dog).
Indeed, on this type of distance requiring speed, a certain number of practitioners report a decrease in speed performance after this type of intake, which could be linked to a poorer stimulation of the carbohydrate metabolism necessary for the effort of speed.
Support muscle development
The importance of protein in athletic dogs has been highlighted since the 1970s, but the interest in qualitative intakes is more recent. The pathological risks during low protein intake (<20% of the dry matter as protein in the ration), in particular exertional anemia and increased frequency of muscle damage have been demonstrated. Prevention of these problems has therefore included an increase in protein intake and the protein-to-calorie ratio (protein-calorie ratio = 70 g / Mcal minimum) in processed foods.
Beyond quantitative intake, studies have looked at more qualitative protein intake, especially in supplements. While no impact of post-exercise protein intake has been demonstrated on the recovery of glycogen stores, creatine kinases (used as a marker of muscle damage) increase less when the dog receives immediate post-exercise hydrolyzed egg protein (Wakshlag et al., 2014). The value of this type of immediate post-exercise supplementation in weight-pulling dogs, i.e. pulling a heavy load on the ground for a few meters, has been studied (meters (Kim et al. , 2019) .Although no direct impact has been demonstrated on traction time, a preventive effect is suggested by the authors.
Prevent other pathological risks induced by intense physical exercise
The benefit of other amino acids has been studied, in particular due to the high turnover of many amino acids during exercise. Glutamine supplementation has been offered for many years as an essential supplement for active dogs, with intense exertion leading to decreased serum glutamine concentrations (Gamble et al., 2018). This intake would improve the efficiency of the immune system. The precise recommended dosage is however still unknown on this amino acid.
Intakes of chondroprotectors (chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine) may be helpful (Wakshlag et al., 2014), if the dosage used is appropriate. However, this recommendation valid in elderly dogs with osteoarthritis has not been confirmed by any scientific study in dogs to date.
Finally, electrolytes are less essential in dogs than in other species, especially humans. Indeed, not sweating, only the ultra-endurance dog presents a significant decrease in serum and chloremia in post-exercise. However, minerals including magnesium and to a lesser extent iron are reduced during intense physical exertion. An additional contribution is therefore recommended (Franck et al., 2015).
Finally, it is important to remember that hydration is an essential element in preventing metabolic disorders as much as muscle damage. The interest in glycerol in both the hunting dog and the sled dog was presented by Dr. Arleigh Reynolds (Reynolds, 1997; resumed in symposium in 2019), veterinarian, and winner of major sprint races in North America. However, its use should be carried out with caution as excess glycerol can lead to irreversible kidney damage. A good dosage, and a good dilution are therefore essential.
In conclusion, if the use of a complete feed dedicated to sporting dogs makes it possible to cover the quantitative need for macro-nutrients, the coverage of the qualitative need is sometimes more incomplete. Chrononutrition also induces variable assimilation depending on the time of ingestion in relation to the effort of certain nutrients, in particular maltodextrin or even certain types of hydrolyzed proteins rich in BCAAs. While little dog-specific data exists today, the few existing data give a preponderant place to the notion of supplementation in sporting dogs before, during (during exertion of several hours), and after exertion.
The adaptation must, however, take into account the type of effort (a sprint or middle distance dog does not feed like an endurance sled dog), of the type of dog (a Labrador does not feed like a dog). greyhound). While these two elements seem quite logical, there is little data in the literature to date to refine supplementation for all canine sports and all canine morphotypes.
We will therefore retain the well-demonstrated interest of maltodextrin in post-exercise, as well as that of branched amino acids to support muscle recovery. Unlike humans, electrolyte intake will be moderate in pre and post-exercise, the loss being moderate except for certain minerals for ultramarathon efforts (zinc, magnesium, iron).
The practical advice
Christophe Caron and Delphine Cléro have chosen Nutrimuscle to develop nutritional supplements for their dogs. Their Alaskan huskys and Eurohounds, with whom they compete and have daily professional sporting activity, are supplemented during the winter season. The formulation is adapted to the moment of distribution in relation to the effort. Since the Husky-adventure team started using supplements, they noticed:
better maintenance of the performance level over the entire winter season of their athletes, including maintenance of the body condition score and permanent work motivation;
better muscle mass gain during training;
better rapid recovery in particular at the locomotor level of their dogs.
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