We spend a lot of time thinking about how to fuel up for our next adventure. Whey or soy protein in our green juice? How do I choose an energy bar with a low-glycemic index? Should we be ingesting those weird gel pack thingies?
But what about your four-legged activity partner? Active dogs can benefit from a few key supplements in their diet, too. We consulted some experts to find out what you can do to help your dog fuel up for his next big adventure.
Build healthy joints.
Every pup - from athletic to couch potato, young to senior - can benefit from added joint protection in his diet. Whether you want to support your running buddy’s knees or stave off hip dysplasia in your older dog, we’ve got you covered with these supplements.
- Glucosamine/chondroitin - the most commonly used joint-supporting combo is and with good reason - this chondroprotective compound packs a double whammy for dog joint health, providing the building blocks for new cartilage and preventing destructive enzymes from destroying tissue. If it’s good enough for the Iditarod pups, it will do a world of good for your budding sled dog, too.
Take a tip from Dr Matt Brunke, DVM, and start your dog on glucosamine and chondroitin as young as 8 weeks old, especially in larger breeds. If you’re nervous about dosage or choosing a supplement brand, it’s always best to ask your vet for guidance that’s customized for your particular pup.
- Omega-3 fatty acids - particularly DHA and EPA, compounds that are commonly found in fish oil, seaweed, and flaxseed. These supplements are nutritional powerhouses, not only for staving off arthritis, but for supporting cognitive, heart, skin, eye, and immune health. Dogs are unable to create omega-3’s on their own, and most traditional pet food on the market falls far short of the amount your dog needs. Dr Brunke recommends 100 mg of a combined EPA/DHA supplement per kilogram of your dog’s weight every day to keep joints healthy.
- Fat - not so much a supplement, but worthy of mentioning. Yes,this dense nutrient gets a bad rap, and sometimes with good reason - nobody wants an obese dog. However, for an active dog, it is the single most important compound in his diet. Fats increase stamina, maximize energy production, and help conserve body fluid.
If your pup is exercising rigorously on a daily basis or a working dog of any kind, bump up that fat content. These dogs need their diet to be 25-32% fat to keep their engines running smoothly. Lean meats, coconut or fish oil, and flaxseed are all good sources of fat for an active dog’s diet.
- Carnitine - for the dog who is a true athlete - think working dogs, sporting dogs, and other heavy exercisers - carnitine can help your pup build the muscle he’ll need to sustain activity and recover faster. In fact, one study of Labrador Retrievers found that a carnitine-supplemented diet led to “improved exercise performance, as well as higher lean mass, improved muscle recovery and less oxidative stress during strenuous exercise.”
If your running buddy could use some extra energy, try adding 250 mg of carnitine to his daily diet. Senior dog owners should also take note - although no formal studies have been performed, some researchers think that carnitine may be able to combat decreased muscle mass in dogs of advanced age.
- Boswellia - better known as frankincense, this resin packs an anti-inflammatory punch. Ancient Egyptian texts noted its use for healing wounds, and in modern times, ayurveda practitioners began giving it to their patients after observing elephants ingesting the plant. Studies have shown that boswellia significantly reduced “clinical signs of intermittent lameness, local pain and stiff gait after six weeks” of supplementation.
Vets recommend giving your pup 400 mg a day (based on a 50 lb dog). The best part? Researchers haven’t noted any adverse side effects with boswellia, making it a safe addition to your feeding regimen.
Curcumin - you can’t walk within a mile of a health food store these days without hearing about the benefits of turmeric, and research on dogs has been as promising as it is with humans. The little orange root’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to dramatically reduce inflammation - one study in dogs showed that the compound can be nearly as effective as NSAIDs.
The devil is in the dosing, however - vets recommend 15 to 20 mg per pound daily, and caution against over-administering, which can cause blood thinning, stomach upset, and even ulcers. Curcumin is also difficult to absorb on its own, and needs to be given with a fat, like coconut oil, to be effective. As always, when in doubt, consult your vet for recommendations on bioavailable curcumin supplements that are both safe and effective for your pup.
Never endeavor hungry.
Before you head out on an epic adventure, be sure to pack some nutrient-rich snacks for both you and your dog so no one bonks out there on the trail.
We devised these energy bites that contain a few of the healthy supplements listed above, and - bonus - they’re awesome trail fuel for humans, too.
Atlas Trail Bites
- 1 ½ cup oat flour
- ¼ cup flaxseed meal
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- ⅓ cup xylitol-free peanut butter*
- 1 cup pumpkin puree, canned
- ¼ cup applesauce, unsweetened
- 1 Tbsp molasses
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl with a whisk.
3. Mix all wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir well with a spatula until mixed. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
4. Scoop on baking sheet coated with cooking spray using small cookie scoop or spoon. Flatten with a wet fork.
5. Bake 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to hit the trail.
* Xylitol is a sweetener found in some peanut butters that is extremely toxic to dogs. Double check the label before baking!