A Risk for Top-performing Sled Dogs
Heat Build-up during Intensive Exercise
build-up occurs during exercise. Muscles are able to convert on the order of 20-30 percent
of the chemical energy they use into mechanical work.  Thus, 80-70 percent of the energy production of an intensively working
dog ends up creating body heat. During intensive pulling, or even high-speed
"going along," there is, therefore, a large quantity of heat generated by sled
dog muscles that must be dissipated.
When muscles get too warm, they function less
efficiently. When a dog's body warms too much, its non-muscular body functions not
only work less efficiently, but actually may fail entirely, thus presenting a
life-threatening situation to the dog. 
Normal rectal temperature for Canis familiaris is
considered to be 38.7 degrees Centigrade plus or minus 0.6 degree. That is a range
of 100.6 to 102.7 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. 
Temperatures below 100F are considered to be indicative of systemic hypothermia [low body
temperature]. Rectal temperatures greater than 41.4C or 106.5F may be displayed by sled
dogs after intensive exercise, especially after sprint racing, but within 15-20 minutes
those rectal temperatures should have returned to normal. 
Early signs of exercise hyperthermia for
sled dogs are increased respiratory rate, excessive salivation and bright red gums.
What's called pathological exertional hyperthermia
[exercise-induced heat exhaustion or heat stroke] is life-threatening. Sustained
rectal temperatures above 41.4C or 107F signal the latter condition. It has most
typically been found to occur with sled dogs as a result of over-exertion when air
temperature was great than 20 degrees F. 
Early signs of exercise hyperthermia for sled dogs
include the following: increased respiratory rate, excessive salivation, and bright red
gums. The hardest working dogs are the most at risk. If caught early, exercise
hyperthermia can be halted by merely stopping the exercise and allowing the dog to drink
However, if the condition advances, collapse and
shock will result and these situations are immediately life-threatening. Body
temperature must be lowered immediately. Cold water immersion is the recommended way
to lower body temperature. 
Thus, the hardest-working dogs in
a team should always be considered those most at risk for hyperthermia effects.
Sled dogs can't sweat. If they did, they
could improve their rate of exercise-created heat dissipation through their skin surface.
Instead, it is by increasing their breathing rate and the discharge and evaporation
of water from their mouth area that sled dogs can increase the amount of heat dissipated
during exercise -- short of running into or through cold water, or stopping and taking
If the air temperature dropped 10 degrees F, this
temperature change should result in at least an order of a 10 percent increase in heat
dissipation PER BREATH for the dog! 
It would also result in roughly a similar percentage
increase in the amount of heat lost through the dog's coat. HOWEVER, the rate of
heat loss through the dog's coat is much less than the rate of heat loss that results from
a three- or four-fold increase in respiration rate [number of breaths per minute] due to
-- Richard Petura, Racing Editor,
of Part One
 In the past half century, numerous approaches have been taken in
trying to estimate the mechanical efficiency of muscles. The essential conclusion is
that muscles are about as efficient as the average auto engine at turning chemical energy
into mechanical work. The average auto engine, on a good-engine day, operates in the
20-30 percent range in converting chemical energy to mechanical work.
 The biochemical reactions within a sled dog's body are
temperature sensitive. In addition, cell damage starts to occur at body temperatures
above 42 degrees C [108 degrees F] when oxygen delivery can no longer keep pace with the
oxygen demand. The magnitude of cellular damage depends on the degree of temperature
elevation and the length of time it is experienced.
When the oxygen demand so exceeds its delivery rate, cell function and integrity break
down. Severe hyperthermia causes multiple organ dysfunction: kidney failure,
liver failure, intravascular bleeding and clot formation, intestinal breeding and cell
sloughing as well as endotoxin absorption, metabolic acidosis, heart rate dysfunction,
skeletal muscle tissue death, heart failure and mental dysfunction. In humans, at
least, there is evidence for permanent derangement of the thermoregulatory function and
greater risk for future heat exhaustion/stroke episodes.
In addition, with exertional heat stroke, attempts to treat hypocalcemia (calcium ion
deficiency) tend to result in only transient Ca plasma elevations with the added calcium
tending to end up in the DAMAGED muscle. this may later dissolve out and be
reabsorbed. , leading to severe hypercalcemia (calcium ion excess). Exertional heat
stroke is also associated with a much higher incidence of renal (kidney) failure than
conventional (non exertion caused) heat stroke.
Source: S. J. Ettinger and E.c. Feldman, Textbook of Veterinary Internal
Medicine, Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 1995, Vol. 1, 4th edition.
 Body temperature of a homeotherm [warm-blooded animal] is affected by time of
day, age, sex, activity, and adaptation to climate extremes. The normal rectal
temperature and range of variation noted represent diurnal [24-hour] measurements.
they also assume a normal statistical distribution with 95 percent confidence interval set
at two standard deviations.
Source: P.L. Altman & D.S. Dittmer, "Metabolism," Biological
Handbooks, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 1968.
 Source: Stuart Nelson, DVM, "Thermal Injuries," Vet
Check, International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1995.
 An exercising dog's lungs also act much like a heat pump. Cool
atmospheric temperature air is drawn into the nose and mouth and -- via the air passages
-- ends up in the lungs. The cool, dry air is warmed to body temperature traversing
the air passages to the lungs. The air exiting the nose and mouth from the lungs is
warm, moist air close to body temperature. If all the air inspired at each breath
were to heat from 20 degrees F to 103 degrees F, rather than from 30F to 103F, a 13.6
percent increase in heat dissipation would have occurred.
Since water produced by the body [water thus originally at body temperature] also exits
from the mouth with each expiration, an estimate of 10 percent increase in heat
dissipation for a 10 degree F air temperature DECREASE is quite likely to UNDERESTIMATE
what would actually occur.
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