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Searching for secrets within the Alaska sled dog ^ | March 18, 2012 | Ned Rozell

Posted on 03/18/2012 2:06:43 PM PDT by Altariel

FAIRBANKS - Mike Davis lives in Oklahoma, but he travels to Alaska all the time to work with our greatest athletes.

“I’m up here about once a month, about half around Anchorage and half around Fairbanks,” the Oklahoma State University veterinarian and exercise physiologist said on the phone from Wasilla. “If I could settle on a single address, I could get a Permanent Fund dividend.”

Davis was in Wasilla for the start of the Iditarod. There, he cheered on Aliy Zirkle, Martin Buser, Jake Berkowitz, Rick Swenson and other mushers who over the years have entrusted Davis to take blood and muscle samples from their dogs. His goal is to discover the magic within a sled dog that allows it to keep going and going. While we humans tend to fade after exercising just a few hours, sled dogs are somehow able to avoid that crash.

“Dogs will go from using their reserves to not in 48 hours,” Davis said. “They gain fitness that fast.

Their response is to change their metabolism so they don’t use up their reserves anymore.”

Finding the trigger to that change is Davis’s big quest. He is funded in part by the U.S. Army Research Office Division of Life Sciences, which is interested in improved performance of human beings.

Musher Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers, runner-up to Dallas Seavey in the 2012 Iditarod, again showcased the amazing ability of sled dogs — a majority of dogs that pulled her from Willow to Nome in 2012 were the same dogs that raced her husband Allen Moore to second place in the Yukon Quest less than three weeks earlier.

“They don’t just continue to perform, they perform a lot better,” Davis said of dogs that run both races. “There’s a good argument that nothing prepares a dog better for a 1,000-mile race than a 1,000-mile race. They can do it indefinitely, as long as you have trail and they’ve got food. They get tired, but they don’t fatigue in the biochemical sense.”

The key to a sled dog’s endurance is its ability to get energy it can use immediately. Davis and others have found that dogs are much quicker than us at moving energy into their muscles.

“The faster you can get stuff into a muscle cell, the faster you can use it,” Davis said. “They may get better at pulling fat out of the bloodstream on the fly.”

The key to this ability is in a sled dog’s “transporters,” proteins that allow it to pull carbohydrates and fats through cell membranes and into muscle cells. The proteins we use for that job also exist in dogs, but Davis and other researchers found decreased numbers of the human-style transporters within dogs at a time when the measurements showed the dogs were moving more fat.

“Something is transporting the fat into dog muscle, but it isn’t the transporter that we use,” Davis said.

The mystery protein that ushers energy molecules across cell membranes might be hiding from researchers not only because it’s different than the one we use, but because it might be so efficient that there are fewer of them to be found. It appears sled dogs are pulling Davis and other physiologists into the frontier of animal performance.

“We have to be more creative in our ideas so we don’t miss something,” Davis said. “It’s like a treasure hunt.”

Before the 2012 Iditarod was decided, Davis was back in Oklahoma, where he was busy with two tasks. One was analyzing sled dog muscle tissue and other samples so graciously provided by top dog mushers. The other was following the race as most people do.

“I’ll have my computer open (to an Iditarod website), hitting refresh every 10 minutes,” he said.

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

TOPICS: Pets/Animals
KEYWORDS: alaska; dog; doggieping; sleddog

1 posted on 03/18/2012 2:06:50 PM PDT by Altariel
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To: Altariel

The Gub’mint will be very anxious to isolate this doggie protein, so that they can force feed it to the taxpayers so that they will work harder and longer in order to support the ‘Entitled”./s

2 posted on 03/18/2012 2:48:08 PM PDT by left that other site
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To: Altariel
I had a red siberian husky years ago. I'd put him on a long lead and get on my kids bike and off we would go..he loved to pull, that is part of the breed...they also love to dig foxholes in the back yard...that is also part of the breed you cannot stop...they dig into snow for warmth, no snow, the yard would be good for digging...FOXHOLES. I'd look out the window and all I could see of the dog was his butt. Tried several things to get him to stop and nothing could break him of that..after reading up on the breed, I found out that is instinct with them...

He had amber eyes and looked quite intimidating when looking at you, but was a sweetheart. The inside of my house took a beating but finally had to give him away when he learned to climb the cyclone fence and I'd run from the back door to the front and he'd be in the front yard already....ate snowdrift fence to sit in the middle of the pool (covered for winter) and covered with ice and snow..he loved doing that also...he almost looked like he was smiling sitting on the pool cover....GG

3 posted on 03/18/2012 2:52:47 PM PDT by goat granny
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To: goat granny

I have always told people the worse thing you can do for a working dog is not work them.

4 posted on 03/18/2012 3:03:58 PM PDT by riverrunner
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To: left that other site

“force feed it to the taxpayers”..They had to pass it to find out what’s in it...who knows what else “lurks in the shadows”.

5 posted on 03/18/2012 3:59:51 PM PDT by radioone
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To: radioone

I would not be surprised at what we find.

6 posted on 03/18/2012 5:09:00 PM PDT by left that other site
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To: Joe 6-pack

Doggie ping

7 posted on 03/18/2012 7:15:18 PM PDT by Altariel ("Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!")
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To: AnAmericanMother; Titan Magroyne; Badeye; Shannon; SandRat; arbooz; potlatch; ...

The Doggie Ping list is for FReepers who would like to be notified of threads relating to all things canid. If you would like to join the Doggie Ping Pack (or be unleashed from it), FReemail me.

8 posted on 03/18/2012 7:21:11 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Joe 6-pack

We are raising our fourth Siberian Husky. I am always amazed at how little they eat for their activity and body size. My 10 lb. Shitzu eats nearly the same amount as our 75 lb. husky.

9 posted on 03/18/2012 7:32:00 PM PDT by Rushmore Rocks
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To: goat granny

The northern breeds _love_ being *naughty*. I think of it as *dog jokes*. I know that *smile* well!

They also dig those foxholes as a place to hide while watching for prey or guarding the pack. In summer, they do it to keep cool.

We buried the bottom of the pen fence to stop the Akita from digging. Luckily, he never was much of a climber and now, with bad rear knees, it simply isn’t an option. Besides, as a geriatric dog, his main interests are naps, food and attention. He still takes walks, but not as far and he prefers being on the flat.

I love all the northern breeds, but we are seriously thinking that after one Samoyed and one Akita, the next dog will be more trainable and less of a knucklehead, not to mention drama queen.

10 posted on 03/18/2012 8:49:57 PM PDT by reformedliberal
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To: reformedliberal
I love all the northern breeds, but we are seriously thinking that after one Samoyed and one Akita, the next dog will be more trainable and less of a knucklehead, not to mention drama queen*********

Yep, they are stubborn, knucklehead is a good description of the huskys also, but they are loveable as the dickens :O)

11 posted on 03/19/2012 2:04:00 PM PDT by goat granny
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