Keeping Retrievers at a Healthy Weight Helps Prevent Joint Disease

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Photo © Geoffrey Williams

Waterfowling is a demanding, high-energy sport, even for well-conditioned retrievers. Proper nutrition directly impacts a dog's performance in the marshes. By keeping your retriever at a healthy weight, you help prevent joint disease so that your dog can give you his or her all from the duck blind.

When hunting, overweight retrievers can become susceptible to joint injuries, which worsen over time due to extreme wear on a dog's joints during weight-bearing exercise. Eventually, a dog could develop osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, during which a dog's joint cartilage progressively and permanently deteriorates. It can be severely painful and cause lameness.

Because degenerative joint disease is a long-term wear-and-tear condition, many dogs do not show signs until they are older. Abnormal gait, bunny hopping when running, thigh muscle atrophy, pain, low exercise tolerance, reluctance to climb stairs, and an audible click when walking are common signs.

To prevent degenerative joint disease and other joint or soft-tissue injuries, it is crucial to keep your hardworking retriever at a healthy weight. Monitoring dogs for ideal body condition, described as having an hourglass shape, should begin with puppies. Puppies should have a body condition score of four or five using the nine-point Purina Body Condition Score System.

The importance of keeping dogs in a lean body condition was shown in the 14-year Purina Life Span Study, in which Purina scientists followed Labrador Retrievers through their entire lives, revealing that feeding these dogs to a lean or ideal body condition from puppyhood throughout life extended their healthy years by 1.8 years and significantly delayed the need for treatment of chronic conditions compared to the moderately overweight dogs in the control group.

Keep your retriever at a healthy weight by feeding a high-protein/high-fat performance dog food year-round, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula, and continuing to monitor your dog's caloric intake and his or her body condition.

"Switching to a maintenance diet in the off-season is like metabolically detraining your dog," says Purina Research Nutritionist Brian Zanghi. "Maintenance dog foods contain higher levels of carbohydrates, which decrease the metabolic capacity to use fat, ultimately resulting in reduced endurance. It is best to reduce the portion fed in the off-season and monitor a dog's body condition to keep your retriever healthy and fit."

A complete and balanced formula, Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 can help your retriever stay properly conditioned and fuel him or her with the right nutrients to optimize performance and give big results from the duck blind.

Do you feed Purina Pro Plan SPORT dog food? Take a moment to tell us about your experience feeding the brand. How has Purina Pro Plan helped your retriever stay in tiptop shape?