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The 5 Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs

Dog Food Nutrition November 15, 2019
food hunting dogs

The 5 Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs

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The Sporting or Gundog group is one of the largest and most popular group of dogs registered by kennel clubs. Many of our favorite breeds today come from this group such as the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, the Cocker Spaniel, the Brittany, and others.

However, even if you have one of those sporting dogs, you probably won’t need to feed him a diet for a hunting dog unless you are actually doing field work or other performance work with him. If you are hunting regularly, a hunting dog typically burns a huge amount of calories when he’s out for a day of work. If you hunt with your dog, you’ll need to find the best dog food for hunting dogs.

Quick Look At Our Top Picks For Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs:

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • Promotes strength and endurance
  • Enhanced with amino acids, vitamins & minerals
VIEW LATEST PRICE →
  • Made with high levels of meat protein and fat
  • Complete and balanced nutrition without fillers
  • Reasonably priced
VIEW LATEST PRICE →
  • Contains 81 percent meat protein
  • Added glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Made from gluten-free grains
VIEW LATEST PRICE →
  • Contains plenty of meat and animal protein
  • Contains a natural source of glucosamine for joint support
  • No corn, wheat, soy, or peas
VIEW LATEST PRICE →
  • Good sources of meat protein
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors & fillers
  • This is a 30/22 formula for protein and fat
VIEW LATEST PRICE →

Most hunters will feed their dog a regular dog food during the off-season, when their dog is not working. Hunting dogs don’t need all those calories when they’re relaxing at home. But once it’s time to start training and working again you can make the switch to a food that is formulated to provide your dog with more energy and stamina.

Let’s take a look at the best dog foods for hunting dogs and what you should know about these foods.

Introduction

Most of the companies that make dog food for hunting dogs will label their food “performance” dog food. It’s not unusual to find foods that have about 30 percent crude protein and 20 percent crude fat. These are high numbers, especially the fat percentage, but a dog that works in the field all day will usually need every bit of the calories that come from that kind of food.

Things to consider when choosing the best dog food for your hunting dog include:

  • Activity level. There are some foods that vary from the 30/20 percentages so if your hunting dog needs slightly more or less protein/fat, you can find performance dog foods that have those percentages. (These are crude percentages from the guaranteed analysis of foods so the actual dry matter basis percentages for kibble will be even higher.) If you and your dog only hunt once a month or a few times per season, you can adjust his diet accordingly.

  • Size. According to one source, a 50-pound hunting dog will burn about 1,450 calories just staying home and resting. With moderate activity the same dog will burn 1,800 calories. With a hard day of hunting, the same dog will use up an estimated 2,200 calories. You can see why a dog that is hunting needs more fat in his diet for energy. A dog that is smaller or larger will need fewer calories or more calories, depending on the amount of work he’s doing.

  • Age. Your dog’s age can also affect how much and what kind of food you feed him. Many performance dog foods are all life stage foods so they can be fed to puppies, junior dogs, adults, and seniors. But you may need to adjust how much you feed your dog based on his age, along with his weight and health factors.

  • The weather. Weather conditions can also affect how many calories your dog needs. Cold weather and snow, for example, will mean that your dog will burn more calories when he hunts. For each 10 Fahrenheit drop in temperature outdoors, you should increase your dog’s daily calories by about 7.5 percent.

Remember to dial your dog’s portions back and/or change foods to one with a lower fat percentage when hunting season is over. Otherwise, with less activity, your dog could gain too much weight.

What To Look For When Shopping For Dog Food For Hunting Dogs?

When comparing dog foods for your hunting dog, here are the things you need to look for in the diet:

  1. High protein. The 30 percent crude protein and 20 percent crude fat numbers are often recommended for hunting dogs but these numbers are for dogs doing lots of work. There are many good performance dog foods that have these percentages (from the guaranteed analysis) but if your hunting dog is only doing a moderate amount of hunting, there are some good performance dog foods that have 27/15 and 28/17 percentages. These foods could be a good choice for some dogs. Meat protein is easier for dogs to digest than plant proteins.

    Most performance dog foods use common meat proteins such as chicken or beef but there are some that are made for dogs with sensitive digestion. You can find foods that use fish or eggs as a primary source of protein, for example.

  2. High fat. Fat provides most of the energy for your dog while he’s hunting. Most sources recommend between 16-20 percent fat for a hunting dog. The harder your dog is working in the field, the higher the fat percentage should be. If your dog is hunting one or two days every week during hunting season, go for the 20 percent crude fat. If your dog is not getting enough fat and calories in his diet during the hunting season, he can lose too much weight. Hunting dogs are often very driven to work. Some of them may not be all that interested in food at times so getting your dog to eat calorie-dense food when he eats is important.

  3. Good carbohydrates. Carbohydrates play an important role in a hunting dog’s diet by providing a source of energy. While they have half the calories of fat, carbs provide a stable energy source for your dog so he can work longer without becoming fatigued. Good sources of carbohydrates for hunting dogs include rice, corn, and milo (sorghum). Carbohydrates can make up to 50 percent of a diet for a hunting dog. Even if you don’t normally like these grains, they are recommended during hunting season for the slow-release energy they provide.

  4. Micronutrients. The remainder of a dog food for hunting dogs is usually made up of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, and other ingredients that the company uses. Some of these ingredients can vary, depending on the company.

Mini-Reviews: The Best Dog Food For Hunting Dogs

Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 30% Min
  • Fat – 20% Min
  • Fiber – 3% Max
  • Calories: 475 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • Promotes strength and endurance with lots of real meat protein
  • Enhanced with amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and glucosamine
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Some people won’t like the ingredients but Purina Pro Plan is formulated by veterinary nutritionists

The top dog when it comes to performance dog foods, Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food is widely recommended by hunting professionals. Chicken is the first ingredient and it is high in calories with 475 kcal per cup. With essential glucosamine for healthy joints and mobility, this is a very good food for canine athletes. The formula includes DHA and EPA omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. It contains no wheat or soy; and no added artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Purina Pro Plan also makes other Sport Performance Formulas if your dog can’t eat chicken or needs less protein and fat.

Available in 6-lb, 18-lb, 37.5-lb, and 50-lb bags.

Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 Adult Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 30% Min
  • Fat – 20% Min
  • Fiber – 4% Max
  • Calories: 384.93 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Made with high levels of meat protein and fat to promote lean muscle and sustained energy for your dog’s best performance
  • Complete and balanced nutrition without fillers
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Contains fewer calories per cup than Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 Formula Dry Dog Food, though this could be a pro if your dog needs fewer calories

Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 Adult Dry Dog Food is highly recommended by people with working and hunting dogs. Eukanuba’s foods contain primarily high quality, animal-based proteins. The first ingredients in this food are chicken and chicken by-product meal (natural source of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine). This formula has about 384 kcal per cup. Like many of Eukanuba’s foods, it features the 3D DentaDefense System which has been proven to reduce tartar build-up in 28 days. This is a very good food for canine athletes and it’s also an all life stage dog food.

Available in a 29-lb bag.

VICTOR Performance Formula Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 26% Min
  • Fat – 18% Min
  • Fiber – 3.8% Max
  • Calories: 399 kcal/8oz cup

Pros:

  • Contains 81 percent meat protein from beef, chicken, and pork meals
  • Added glucosamine and chondroitin help with long-term joint health
  • Made from gluten-free grains
  • No corn, wheat, or soy; pea-free
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Adult maintenance formula so it cannot be fed to puppies

Victor Performance Formula Dry Dog Food is another good choice for hunting dogs, especially for large breed dogs. This is a 26/18 formula made for adult dogs with high physical demands that use need plenty of energy and stamina. It’s a good choice if your dog is susceptible to joint problems, even if your dog is young and active.

This formula features beef meal as the first ingredient. It also contains chicken and pork meals so it has lots of meat protein. Glucosamine and chondroitin are added for joint protection. Victor uses gluten-free grains such as grain sorghum and whole grain millet.

Available in 5-lb and 40-lb bags.

Kinetic Performance Power 30K Formula Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 30% Min
  • Fat – 20% Min
  • Fiber – 3% Max
  • Calories: 462 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Contains plenty of meat and animal protein
  • Contains a natural source of glucosamine for joint support
  • Digestible fiber and a prebiotic blend support good digestion
  • No corn, wheat, soy, or peas
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Kinetic is not well-known which may put some people off, but many people with hunting and performance dogs love this food

Kinetic specializes in making foods for active dogs. Kinetic Performance Power 30K Formula Dry Dog Food offers sustainable energy for dogs that engage in lots of high activity. This is a 30/20 protein and fat formula for all life stages. This food is nutrient-dense so you don’t have to feed as much food as with some other dog foods. It has 462 kcal per cup. The formula contains no corn, wheat, or soy; and it’s pea-free. Chicken meal and chicken by-product meal are the first ingredients. The recipe also includes menhaden fish meal for more animal protein.

Available in a 35-lb bag.

Sport Dog Food K-9 Series Project K-9 Hero Multiple Protein Formula Flax-Free Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 30% Min
  • Fat – 22% Min
  • Fiber – 2.6% Max
  • Calories: 542 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Good sources of meat protein
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, fillers, or by-products; no eggs or egg products
  • Uses whole ground sorghum and whole ground millet as carbs for energy
  • This is a 30/22 formula for protein and fat
  • No wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Expensive

Sport Dog Food was pea-free and flax-free before it was popular. Many of their dog foods are high in protein and calories for active dogs. Sport Dog Food K-9 Series Project K-9 Hero Multiple Protein Formula Flax-Free Dry Dog Food is flax-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, and it contains no corn, wheat, soy, or peas. Chicken meal is the first ingredient but the food also contains pork meal for more meat protein. This food has a whopping 542 kcal per cup.

Available in 40-lb bags.

Overview

Hunting dogs work hard and it’s important that these gifted athletes receive the nutrition they need so they can do their job. A Pointer, Setter, Retriever, or other hunting dog needs plenty of good protein, fat, and carbohydrates for energy and stamina. The performance dog foods recommended here should help your dog perform at an elite level.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and is the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
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