Measuring body temperature and respiration
in running sled dogs

Sled dogs can experience drawbacks from their high-intensity endurance training. For example, since they primarily dissipate heat through panting, exercise can lead to dehydration. This dehydration can impair their ability to cool down, resulting in multiple issues such as decreased respiratory rate, overheating, and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Like athletes, the diet of sled dogs can be adjusted for optimal health and performance. Considering the beneficial impact of soluble fibers on water retention through their fermentation by certain types of microbes, augmenting the ratio of soluble: insoluble fibers in the diet of trained sled dogs could prove to be an interesting way to prevent dehydration.

To explore this hypothesis, researchers at the University of Guelph (Thornton, 2021) observed in sled dogs the impact of a diet rich in soluble fibers on multiple physiological parameters. Amongst them were the dog’s respiratory rate and body temperature while exercising, which were both important on their own as well as indicators of dehydration.

To overcome the challenge of measuring these while the animals were running, the researchers used the emkaPACK jacketed telemetry system. The respiratory rate was obtained by respiration inductance plethysmography (RIP), which consisted of placing a respiratory band around the animal’s chest and connecting it to the emkaPACK transmitter (figure 1), which was held in place by the jacket. In the IOX software, detection thresholds were set to isolate breaths from artifacts, and mean values were produced for every 5 breaths. The body temperature of the animals was measured by making an emkaPACK skin thermometer hermetical, inserting it rectally, and fixing it with tape. The mean temperature for every minute was then calculated and used for statistical analysis. The receiver was secured in the back of a hatchback car while the operator collected and monitored that data (figure 2).

emkaPACK respiratory Inductive plethysmography
Figure 1. emkaPACK Jacketed Telemetry transmitter
emkaPACK receiver and iox software
Figure 2. Data collection in real-time, while sled dogs are running
(in the background)

Their results showed that the diet enriched with soluble fibers was linked with lower body temperature during and after exercise, which could indicate better hydration, but would have to be further investigated. On the other hand, the diet did not seem to influence the respiratory rate. This discrepancy with the observed impact on temperature could mean that the dogs’ dehydration levels were low, and that temperature is more sensitive than the respiratory rate to small deviations in hydration level.  

Overall, the data of this pilot study are encouraging and indicate that a diet with increased soluble fibers may have beneficial effects in trained sled dogs.


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