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Thoughts On Feeds And Feeding: Dietary Fats And Energy

by Bill Braddock

          Fats, we’re all aware of this essential feed ingredient. It is the precursor to energy  that will be used by our hounds when they are at work. Whereas protein is a minor but essential source of energy, fats are the primary source. With the highest digestibility in regards to nutrients in pet foods, 85% of it contributes to feed palatability and texture. Fat soluble vitamin absorption is also aided by dietary fat.

          Generally speaking, fats are not expensive, but increasing fat content in commercial pet feeds seems to drive the cost of the feed up. Economics of course is what most of us base our feed buying habits on.

Essential Fatty Acids

          Fatty acids are essential to proper growth, healthy skin and the ability of the animal to reproduce. There are three essential unsaturated fatty acids that are required. They are Linoleic acid, lenolenic acid and arachidonic acid. From Linoleic acid we get Omega-6 fatty acids and from Lenolenic acid we get Omega-3 fatty acids.  More Omega-6 fatty acids are needed by the animal than Omega-3. Albeit, both are important. Research has shown Omega-3 has more importance for maintaining health in older dogs. At the time of this article, I have found no set or specific ratio of these Fatty acids. Manufacturers of commercial pet feeds submit that a ration of between 4 and 10 to 1 respectfully (Omega-6: Omega-3) is within some range of usability. I suspect, if the ratio was changed much more a deficiency in Omega-3 would occur.

          All the technical jargon said- What we all are interested in is performance, pure and simply. Without going into metabolic rates of nutrients… Let me say general speaking a ration containing 15 to 35% fat on a dry matter basis is going to supply your hounds with all the energy needed.  Why such a broad spread in the percentage? Amount of use of the hounds and the difference in metabolic rates of each hound. It’s up to the houndsman to observe the condition of his hounds and feed them accordingly. There are really no defined parameters on percent of fat in the hard working hound, other than feed a ration with enough fat in it. Dogs can eat a meat free ration and receive practically all known requirements for fatty acids. I prefer to either use a meat based ration or supplement the meat free ration. High fat diets are needed to both maintain optimum body weight and supply the necessary energy for the hard hunting hound. Energy to hunt and energy to maintain body heat in cold climates. I feel one should change up on feed in the warmer off season to a feed that possesses less fat and protein. This will keep Mr. Hound from putting on too much weight and also stay cooler in the summer months. Also, some studies have shown low conception rates in gyps fed high fat diets.  Hopefully, there hasn’t been to much confusion created in this article.


Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).