(Editor's Note: This is a transcript from an Ask the Pros session with Dr. Eric K. Altom, Canine Nutritionist and Sporting Dog Expert for P&G Pet Care)

Dr. Eric K. Altom - Folks, I greatly appreciate the opportunity for our team to share some thoughts on sporting dog nutrition. Here is how I have gone about addressing the questions. I have grouped the questions together in general categories based on the topic of the questions. This will allow you to focus on the topic area that you are most interested in reviewing. The answers are not meant to be the "end all, be all" on the topic. Therefore, I have listed some additional references you can review. These publications can be obtained free from the Eukanuba Consumer Relations team. So here we go...


Introduction & Feeding Athletic Dogs | More Feeding & Product Application
Allegeries & Skin & Coat | Skeletal Injuries & Food Storage
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PERSONAL

What does Cricket eat?
EKA - Like her parents and grandparents, AFC Cricket is fed Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20. Over years this product has changed names, but the base matrix has remained consistent in quality and performance. At age 10 Cricket is still very active and is hunted extensively, so we continue to feed Eukanuba Premium Performance Sporting.

What was it that got you into dog nutrition?
EKA - Like most sportsmen, I grew up with hunting dogs. I attended Tennessee Tech University as a Pre-Vet major. During my junior year, a small group of students toured the research facilities at Purina Farms (then Ralston Purina) in Missouri. I greatly enjoyed the nutrition courses in my undergraduate program. The visit to Purina Farms changed the direction on my program. We develop a plan to focus on nutrition and obtain a Master's degree in Nutrition from Clemson University. I was given the opportunity to work on my PhD at Auburn in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. The personal interest in sporting dogs and academic interest in nutrition is the fuel for my career.

How many dogs do you own?
EKA - We have 3 living with us right now. We recently had to say good bye to one of our dogs, AFC Sky Watch Live Wire. Shorty was given to our sons as a hunting dog. AFC Cricket is retired from competition and is used for hunting. Sugar is a young prospect that is looking really good in training. Chica is an English Setter we have for upland hunting (quail / grouse). Kelly and I are looking to add another bird dog this year and we are looking at some additional retriever prospects for field trials.

Who was the best Lab Animal Technician during your graduate research?
EKA - While some may think this question is a joke, truly R. Cray Stephenson was a huge asset to our program at Auburn. Animal studies are very similar to retriever training. It takes a lot of dedicated people and resources to do a good job. Cray was one of the "go to people" on the team for health care. It is always an asset to have a second set of eyes looking at the dogs every day so something is not overlooked. To do the type of work we are asked to complete, it requires a lot of talented people with different skill sets (nutritionists, veterinarians, process engineers, lab technicians, chemists, food scientist, surgeons, trainers, and handlers). Anyone that indicates they are able to conduct this type of research by themselves......... well, I would like to see it in action. Many of our studies require as many as 25-30 people to conduct. This is one reason why when the phone rings and it is Cray, his name goes to the top of the Call Sheet.

FEEDING ATHLETIC DOGS - Reference(s)

• GA Reinhart and EK Altom. Feeding for Endurance and Performance of Sporting Dogs. In: Nutrition and Care of the Sporting Dog. pp. 31-38.
• M. Docton. Fueling Performance Inside and Out. In: The Pet Expert. No.6. 2008.
• Martin Coffman DVM and Eric Altom PHD. Does Diet Affect Field Trial Performance? http://www.working-retriever.com/library/dietper.html
• Nutrition and nosework. Provided by: Cheryl S. Smith, Dogs in Canada.

How important is the protein for a working dog?
EKA - Protein provides amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for muscle tissues and other key systems in the body. We use predominately animal-based proteins to ensure all of the essential amino acids are available for hard working dogs. Our research also indicates that a specific level of protein is needed to help prevent injuries in working dogs.

What about fats?
EKA - Fat is the preferred source of energy for dogs. One unit of fat contains 2.25 times more energy then the same unit of a carbohydrate or a protein. By using fats for energy, protein can be reserved for muscle maintenance and other essential body systems. The right type of fat is important as well. A balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids are important in maintaining a healthy skin and coat and supporting a balanced response to inflammation.

What ever happened to the high protein snack/bars for the active dog for a boost in the field? Is this idea not effective?
EKA - We did not commercialize the energy bars, so you would need to review this with the Purina reps. The feedback I received was the bars worked well and people liked using them. I am not sure why this product was pulled from the market.

FEEDING LARGE BREED PUPPY - Reference(s)

• AJ Lepine. Optimal Nutrition for the Growing Retriever Puppy. In: Nutrition and Care of the Sporting Dog. pp. 17-22.


EKA - Fast growing large breeds, like Labradors, tend to have developmental skeletal problems. These issues include OCD and Hip Dysplasia. Over nutrition can play a role in the expression of these issues. Large Breed puppy foods are designed to help control the rapid growth rate of large breed puppies and control mineral balance. Eukanuba Large Breed puppy has lower calcium and phosphorus levels to help with the developing skeleton. Most puppies are maintained on Eukanuba LB puppy food for 1 year.

FEEDING SENIOR ATHLETES

What is the best nutrition and exercise routines for an older dog...let's say 9+ years old.
EKA - This depends on the exercise program and the dog. Training 3 days per week, an older dog can be maintained on Eukanuba Sporting. This will provide the energy for exercise and help maintain good body condition. It is critical that annual exams are conducted by your vet to monitor blood values including liver and kidney function. Do not let the dog become overweight and be sure to maintain good body condition. Water work is always good for older dogs providing low impact conditioning for aging joints.

FEEDING STRATEGIES AND METHODS - Reference(s)

• M. Coffman and EK Altom. Feeding Frequency in Pointng Dogs. In: Field Trial Magazine. Spring 2001

Is Euk Sporting only for highly active dogs or can you feed smaller portions to dogs that aren't as active? Is it better to switch to a lower protein/fat content food during summer or feed the high protein/fat content food all year round?
EKA - You can successfully feed either way. Eukanuba Sporting can be fed in smaller amounts during periods of inactivity, but careful attention must be given to the body condition. Huge swings in body condition can occur if body condition is not monitored and feeding portions controlled. We feed Eukanuba Sporting year round to our dogs.

If I were to transition from Large Breed Adult to Sporting, do you have some suggested ratios for the transition?
EKA - ¼ new, ¾ old for a few days; ½ new ½ old for a few days; ¾ new and ¼ old for a few days. This should provide an easy transition.

We feed our dogs 1 meal a day in the evening, but they typically act like they haven't been fed for a week. Is it better to stick with one meal per day versus splitting into 2 feedings?
EKA - both methods have been used successfully in managing sporting dogs. Kelly and I feed 2x per day; 1/3 in the AM and 2/3 in the PM.

Is a dogs breath related to the food they eat? IF not what works well to keep there breath from smelling like my dog went on a week long bender without brushing her teeth?
EKA - A dog's breath can smell like food shortly after eating, but persistent bad breath may indicate an oral health concern.sometimes caused by bacteria associated with plaque and tartar. Some dog have worse breath than others. Good oral care should help with reducing the odors.

SPECIFIC PRODUCT APPLICATIONS

Could you please explain the difference between breed specific Eukanuba and regular Eukanuba, particularly Labrador Euk. While I understand what the bag says; is this for middle and older age Labs or can you start at a year? I don't recall the bag giving recommendations.
EKA - The breed specific diets are formulated for adult maintenance and for those dogs expending low to normal energy. The Eukanuba Labrador Retriever Formula combats possible weight issues by providing; a controlled fat and calorie content, a carbohydrate blend providing even energy, and L-carnitine to assist the Labrador in maintaining an appropriate weight and lean body composition. Eukanuba Labrador Retriever Formula also provides joint support with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the building blocks responsible for joint cartilage resilience and strength. A retriever puppy could be transitioned to the diet at approximately one year of age.

Why is there so many types of Euk.? Do you feel this can and will become confusing for the consumer? example Lab food, PP sport dog, PP active dog, Wild Venison???????
EKA - It is true that we have a lot of formulas. That is part of the design for Eukanuba. As we learn more about nutritional needs of companion animals, Eukanuba will be more customized for specific dogs than any brand on the market. At times, it may be confusing and we try to provide as much information about the products and application as possible. When you think of super premium brands, you will see a lot of customization and specialization in the product lines. Just think about shot guns, decoys, duck calls, goose calls, waders, blind bags, etc. I would encourage folks to share their thoughts and suggestions with our Consumer Relations Team.

What is the purpose for the "wild" food?
EKA - Many pet owners want to provide variety in their pet's diet. The Eukanuba Naturally Wild formulas are adult maintenance diets (not for puppies or athletic dogs) and provide nutritional alternatives for pet parents wanting to provide variety. There are also pet owners that do not want to feed a by-product ingredient, such as chicken by-product meal, or corn and these diets contain neither of those ingredients. While these ingredients are great for dogs, some people have different opinions.

What are your thoughts on the no grain foods?? In particular Taste of the Wild?? I am a Euk sporting fan but have alot of friends feeding the no grain diet.
EKA - "No grain" diets are another nutritional option for dog owners. However, there are no studies to suggest they would be nutritionally superior to diets containing grains. Grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which are important for quick energy. Many pet owners believe the diets with no grain are more meat based which is inaccurate as these diets replace grains with other carbohydrate sources, such as potato, tapioca, or fruits/vegetables.

FOOD ALLERGIES

Situation: almost 4y/o bitch out of Patton x full sibling to NFTCH ORylee Factor (Chavez bitch). I'm about at my wits end with bad ears and scratching/biting between the toes and I hate having to give my dog prednisone on a semi-regular basis. These problems disappear for the most part during the winter months but rear their ugly head in the Spring/Summer/Fall. I fed Proplan for the first year or so, then switched over to Euk. I feed sporting formula during the fall and winter months but ween off of it in the summertime. Do you guys have a formula that helps with dogs with what appear to be skin allergies? Or do you have any other recommendations? We've finished up our HRCH/MH and I'm really working towards getting QAA with this dog now because she is really running well and coming into her own but the monthly trip to the vet is getting old and frankly there are no vets in my area who are experienced with sporting breed dogs.
EKA - The clinical signs you described can be seen in flea, inhalant (grass, mold, etc) and food allergies. Your historical perspective suggests flea or inhalant allergy with the problems being seasonal - a food allergy would be present year-round. Controlling these types of allergies depend on eliminating exposure, which can be extremely difficult, especially with inhalants; therefore, drug therapy becomes a mainstay in decreasing clinical signs. If there is a food allergy component you could try some of our diets containing ingredients she may have not been exposed to in the past. Eukanuba Naturally Wild products, Custom Care Sensitive Skin or Iams Veterinary Formulas Response diets may be dietary choices. All of these diets have moderate kilocalorie content per cup (260-320 kcals/cup).

Just a follow up question for Eric in the light off Chuck's question. While feeding Euk PP, my BLF consistantly got ear infections and skin irritation on her belly. I switched to Purina ProPlan Adult and have not had near the problems w/ her ears as I was having when feeding EUK. Would the increased fat and protein % cause increased cases of ear infections? I'd rather be feeding Euk especially to gain the teeth cleaning crystals but I'm having success w/ PP and enjoying less ear infections. Any insight?
EKA - Persistent ear infections and skin irritation can be clinical indicators of a food or environmental allergy. If your dog has an environmental allergy (weeds, mold, fleas, etc) and you switched to Purina at the same time these allergens were reduced, then you could have seen improvement. If it is a food allergy it would be associated with the protein or carbohydrate (protein fraction) components of the diet, not necessarily the protein or fat percentage.

I see a lot of people saying that wheat, corn, gluten etc. are bad for dogs. I have even been tempted to look for some kind of food that doesn't contain them. Could you shed some light on what are the type of quality ingredients we should be looking for in a premium food? Should I be concerned about corn and wheat in my dog's food? I am mainly concerned about skin issues.
EKA - There is no reason to exclude any of these ingredients in a diet unless your dog has a specific sensitivity to them. In most instances wheat and corn are criticized as a cause of allergic response in the dog. Dogs can develop allergies to protein ingredients in their food; however, of the many dogs that regularly eat a food containing wheat or corn, only a very few will develop an allergy. Approximately 10% of all canine allergies are due to a dietary ingredient. Glutens are a form of vegetable proteins that can be used appropriately in a diet to meet the amino acid needs of the animal. We use predominately animal-based protein sources for Eukanuba diets (chicken, lamb, CBPM, Chicken meal, fish meal, etc.)

SKIN AND COAT

I have a 75 lb, 11 year old CLM that has not been shedding out his coat in the summer months. He is on Euk large breed adult currently, and still active. Is this a food issue? If so what can I do to promote a better coat?
EKA - We would not expect nutrition to be the issue. Unfortunately, at 11 years of age there can be medical conditions that are secretly affecting multiple areas of the body. If this dog has not recently had a complete blood panel then it would be in order.

WEIGHT CONTROL

My mom has a lab that is overweight and we can't seem to find a way to drop the pounds and get him to a slim fighting weight. We've had him on Euk weight control, but it isn't helping at all even at smaller portions and feeding once a day. What do you recommend we do to get him down to a fighting weight and a healthy one?
EKA - Weight loss can be challenging at times. If your dog hasn't been to the veterinarian you may want to arrange a visit as other conditions, such as hypothyroidism can be contributing to weight loss failure. Your veterinarian may also recommend a therapeutic diet which further targets weight loss.

DENTAL HEALTH - Reference(s)

• ER Cox and AJ Lepine. Nutritional Influences on Dental Health in the Field Dog. In: Nutrition and Care of the Sporting Dog. pp. 57-63.

Eukanuba raves about the foods teeth cleaning ability which is one of the biggest reasons that I switched to it. I have been feeding it since March and I have noticed that instead of my dogs teeth getting cleaner they have actually gotten worse. They are not bad but they are worse than what they were when I started feeding. Is the teeth cleaning ability of the food something that only tends to work on some dogs or does it tend to be an absolute (every dog on it had cleaner teeth) during Euks research? Would this be something that I should be concerned about considering Euks track record with keep a dogs teeth clean?
EKA - I am sorry to hear about your dog's teeth - that is an unusual finding with our products. There are multiple factors that contribute to the oral environment of the dog's mouth. For example, the shape of the head, the type of bacteria present, the saliva pH and the chewing pattern differ between dogs and can have effect on the degree of tartar build-up and oral health.

SKELETAL INJURIES

In the Labrador retriever breed; How many knee injury's do you come across? This hits close to home. My 8yr. old CLF has had both stifle joints replaced & my 2 yr. old YLM has had one replaced. I know these animals are athletes just like any human athlete and they must train and maintain proper diet to help prevent injury. Any advice or specific regimen you would recommend to help prevent stifle injury?
EKA - The best advice is to keep your dog conditioned (for the work being requested of them) and at an optimal weight.

I was wondering if it is a good idea to give my dog Chondroitin / Glucosamine supplements? I know there is some in the food however, is it enough?
EKA - In general, supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin (beyond diet) is not required for the normal dog. If the dog has joint concerns your veterinarian may suggest supplementation.

I like to run. I was wondering if I should wait to have my dog run with me because he is only 7 months. Could running on pavement/concrete cause future problems?
EKA - There are no set rules for exercise restrictions on puppies. Some suggest "forced exercise" should not be instituted until growth plates have closed, which would be over a year of age in large breeds.

DIETARY PROTEIN AND KIDNEY FUNCTION - Reference(s)

• DP Carey. Dietary Protein and the Kidney in the Field Trial Dog. In: Nutrition and Care of the Sporting Dog. pp. 39-41.

What is the deal with high protein and a dogs kidneys?
EKA - Dietary protein level has traditionally been thought to play a primary role in the development of chronic renal failure in dogs, which resulted in the recommendation for protein restriction even in normal senior animals. Studies have shown feeding high protein levels in healthy senior dogs has no detrimental effects. In fact, reducing protein in senior dogs may do more harm than good as protein is key in immune function and muscle mass maintenance. Protein levels should be maintained to support decreased immune capability and muscle mass loss, as both naturally occur in aging dogs.

DOG FOOD STORAGE

I would like to know the BEST way to store an open bag of Euk. I've read to keep it in the bag, to pour it out into a sealed container, to keep it in a certain range of temperature, and so on. Right now, we put about two weeks' worth in a covered container in the kitchen, then roll the bag down and store it in the garage in another covered container. My dog isn't crazy about the contents as the bag gets low, so I am wondering if the oil is going bad in it, or something else isn't aging well. What do you recommend?
EKA - Here are bullet points about food storage.

• High quality diets required for sporting / working dogs (regardless of brand) contain increased levels of dietary fat and a portion of this fat is coated on the outside of the kibble. Fat on the outside of the kibble greatly increases palatability (taste), but can also "rub off" on the inside of a container.
• When product is poured out of the commercial bag into a container, a "film" will build up on the inside of the container over time (trash can, rubber container, etc.)
• This "film of fat" can become rancid and is a place for bacterial growth. This "rancid fat film" can become mixed with the "good product" and cause digestive upset in working dogs. Remember, you may not smell anything, but the inside of the container will feel "greasy". This film will build up over time.

So what should you do for kennel feeding / at home?
• Keep the product in the original commercial package; this package is designed to protect the product and maintain freshness
• Place the food (product in the package) in a weather tight container with a closed lid to prevent anything / anyone from getting into the container
• Keep the container in a relatively "cool and dry" place
• Be sure to roll down the top of the bag to reduce "head space" in the bag; this process will greatly help maintain freshness.
• As you get to the end of a bag of food, open a new bag, pour the remaining few cups from the old bag on top of the new bag and keep feeding

What about traveling? Can I use the Avery Dry Storage Dog Food bags?
EKA - Kelly and I use these bags every time we take a trip with the dogs (vacation, field trials, training trip, hunting trip, etc.); these bags hold up much better in the truck and keep the product dry as well.
• Place the food in the bag and be sure to roll down the top to reduce air and head space
• When you return home, place the unused product in the "feed bin" bag.
• Turn the Dry Storage Bag "inside out" and wash with warm water and Dawn dishwashing liquid (I know Dawn is P&G product, but it is the best stuff I have found for cutting the fat film in containers); Be sure to rinse the soap off really well; hang the bag up to dry. Do not put food in a wet / damp bag (therefore having a couple of extras is a good idea; No, I am not trying to sell them for Avery. The quality of the bag will sell itself.)


Introduction & Feeding Athletic Dogs | More Feeding & Product Application
Allegeries & Skin & Coat | Skeletal Injuries & Food Storage