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Nutrition for the Racing Greyhound

Finding The Right Balance

 

 

 

All greyhounds require high quality diets to perform at their best. These diets generally consist of a mixture of meat and dry foods from a variety of difference sources and ranges in quality. Feeding for optimum performance is a careful balance between different energy sources, vitamins and minerals.

Energy comes from three sources; carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The delicate balance of these three energy sources could make the difference between winning and losing in greyhound racing. The optimum balance of carbohydrate fat and protein is altered depending on activity levels, breed and individual variance. The requirement of protein for example is very different when comparing racing greyhounds and racing sled dogs.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate requirements of racing greyhounds are usually quite low but commercial dry dog foods often contain high levels of carbohydrates because they are a cheap alternative to meat. Low protein dry foods often contain complex carbohydrates derived from cereal grains. Excessive amounts of carbohydrates in dry foods will increase the risk of cramping in some greyhounds. Limiting these feeds to less than 300g daily is recommended, particularly in cramping greyhounds.

At the other end of the scale, high protein dry foods may not need to be fed at the amounts recommended on their label to maintain bodyweight and condition of the racing greyhound. This reduction in volume fed may decrease the amount of complex carbohydrate or fibre in the diet and in some instances will cause greyhounds to seek extra bulk, developing behaviours such as eating grass or faeces.

Fat

For racing greyhounds fats are a valuable source of energy, although once again finding the optimum balance can impact on performance. Fats are highly concentrated sources of energy, containing almost 2ľ times more energy than an equivalent weight of carbohydrates or proteins.

Fats provide essential fatty acids for transportation of fat soluble vitamins, protect vital tissue and are essential for healthy skin. They also add taste to the meal and maintain and conserve body fluid levels reducing the risk of dehydration. During warm weather, feeding extra fat can provide the energy required for panting and cooling the body, without increasing the bulk of the meal. Diets lacking in fats usually result in dry, dull or scurfy coats and dandruff.

With all the benefits of fat in the greyhound diet it is important to find a suitable balance for optimum performance. It has been reported that greyhounds ran slower when dietary fats increased from 31% to 75% metabolisable energy, although when levels increased from 21% to 32% metabolisable energy, performance was improved.

Protein

The highest sources of proteins are meats, like beef, chicken and fish or eggs. Protein can also be provided by grains, although the proteins provided in grain are of a lower quality and are not readily digested by dogs. Most greyhound trainers feed meat which would provide almost all of the total protein requirements of their dogs. Seven hundred grams of meat will provide approximately 80-85% of the total protein requirements of the racing greyhound4.

Consequently greyhounds fed 70% meat based diets should receive a low protein (12 - 17% protein) dry food to avoid excess protein intake.

For greyhounds fed a 50:50 diet of meat and dry food, a 20% protein dry food should be used. An overall average of 17 - 25% protein on an Ďas fedí basis is sufficient for racing greyhounds.

Excess protein can be used as an energy source, which is particularly useful in some instances but for racing greyhounds is inefficient when compared with fats and sugars. As mentioned above, requirements of protein vary depending on a number of factors. Racing sled dogs benefit from high protein levels (> 30%) in their diet. Whereas studies of greyhounds have shown that high levels of protein and low levels of carbohydrates slowed track times by 0.18 seconds over five hundred meters, equivalent to 2.5 meters at the finishing post. As we know the smallest margin can be the difference between winning and losing in greyhound racing.

As protein levels can impact on performance, careful selection of dry foods is recommended. Commercial dry foods, particularly premium and complete dry foods have high protein contents usually containing 30% protein. Feeding these dry foods in combination with meat may exceed protein requirements of racing greyhounds and could have disastrous effects on performance.

Requirements for protein may also change depending on race schedules. Feeding high levels of protein in some instances can assist performance. Research has shown that very high protein (> 40%) increased plasma volume and feeding dietary protein more than 32% prevented a decline in Hct in racing sled dogs. With this information in mind feeding high protein dry food following a race may aid in recovery and repair of muscle and other tissues.

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