November 7, 2016

The Physiological Response of Siberian Husky Dogs to Exercise: Effect of Interval Training

In this study, researchers wanted to investigate the effects of different training methods on racing Siberian Huskies. They originally tested five dogs with three types of exercise, and took blood samples in order to test changes in levels of white and red blood cell count, hemoglobin levels, the ratio of red blood cells to total ratio of blood (hemocrit), average volume of the red blood cells (mean corpuscular volume), lactate dehydrogenase, creatine phosphokinase, and a few other proteins found in blood. These physiological parameters were measured before and after each physical test. These measurements have been found useful to provide insight into the health of adult athletes, so researchers were interested to see if they would find similar results in dogs. There were two phases of the experiment. The first examined the physiological responses of Siberian Huskies to three exercise tests of varying intensity levels. The second wanted to determine the changes in these physiological responses after the dogs went through a 12-week interval training program.

            In the first phase of this experiment (Experiment A), five dogs were used. Three were male and two were female, and their ages ranged from one to seven years. All of the dogs were fed the same diet, and had to participate in three forms of exercise: a 7.5 km free run, a 6 km team sled run, and a 90 second sprint. Blood samples were taken before each run, and then following. In addition, each dog’s heart rate was recorded immediately after each test.

            The second phase of this experiment (Experiment B), included the three male dogs from Experiment A who were referred to as the Interval Training Group (IT), and three other huskies of similar ages were chosen to act as controls (light exercise group, LE). Before the 12-week period began, all six dogs had their heart rates measured, and blood samples were taken to record the initial levels of each of the physiological parameters being tested. Each dog in the IT group went through treadmill training of increasing intensity over the 12-week testing period, and each dog’s temperature and heart rate were measured throughout each testing session.

            The initial heart rates and levels of the blood factors being measured in all of the dogs in Experiment A were in normal range for canines. Based on comparing the changes in each factor after each respective form of exercise, the researchers found that the most significant changes occurred after the 6 km sled run. In Experiment B, there was little difference between the heart rates of the IT and LE groups after the 12-week program. Lactate dehydrogenase levels and mean corpuscular volume were significantly higher in the IT group after completing the program, whereas resting hemoglobin, hemocrit, and red blood cell counts were higher in the LE group.

            After examining the data, researchers found that the 6 km sled run was the most intense form of exercise tested, but that maximum heart rates were not reached in any of the tests. This showed them that the other two tests, the longer free run and the sprint, may not serve as adequate training programs for racing sled dogs. The effects of Experiment B were less conclusive. The testing protocol made it difficult to distinguish the differences in heart rate due to nervous excitement in the dogs, as opposed to an indication of an intense workout. They also realized that the lower hematological measurements in the IT group may indicate overtraining, and that further tests should be performed to test the relationship between some of the physiological parameters and their usefulness in training racing sled dogs. 

Reviewed by Sarah Slayton