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Key Points of a Sled Dog Diet

"Give me the snow, give me the dog and keep the rest", said Knud Rasmussen the polar explorer

Sled dog diet: love for nature, love to dogs

"Give me the snow, give me the dog and keep the rest", said Knud Rasmussen the polar explorer who carried out the longest journey with sled dogs in the human history.

Born out of the need to move of the local people in Arctic territory, the Sled today has become a fascinating winter sport. But for those who practice it, it’s not just a simple competitive sport; it’s actually a real life style. Impossible to give up once you started, with the authentic love of nature and especially love to dogs. There are hard work lies in the beauty of sled, also from the emotional point of view, and building a strong and sincere relation between human and animal, which is made of love and mutual respect. This beautiful relation is based on trust, also involves the daily care of the need of their dogs. In this sense, the daily diet is particularly important for the sled dog. An untouched natural, healthy and balance daily diet are in fact the basis for any musher who wishes to assure his faithful companions of adventure are in a perfect state of health and are having highly functioning of muscles and joints. The adequate diet for sled dogs must ensure a high intake of clean protein, which is essential to improve muscle efficiency, increase physical endurance and contribute to have faster recovery after intense physical effort.

Sled dog diet: canine athletes needs

The nutritional needs of "canine athletes" are unique. The dogs have greater capacity of fat oxidation than humans, both during the rest and during the exercise. During a sled dog race, in fact, most of the energy comes from the lipids, and the second comes from glycogen and as a last source comes from the amino acids. Thus, a high fat content in the diet allows increasing the resistance and maximizing the production of energy. Rich protein content helps to prevent the formation of anemia induced by exercise.

However, there are different types of competitions and it’s important to distinguish the characteristics for the right nutritional approach.

  1. In the long distance races, the production of energy comes from the exploitation of total aerobic metabolism.
  2. In the medium distance races or stages, the team may temporarily increase their speed (in the aerobic and anaerobic transition) and overcome their anaerobic threshold for short periods.
  3. In the speed race, from 7 – 20 km: the anaerobic lactic can play significant role, which is estimated to provide 10 – 15% of total energy costs.

When the length of the race increases, the fat content of the diet takes a significant increment. Most dog sledding professionals recognize the importance of high protein and high fat diet, and both require the use of raw materials with high biological value, high digestibility and ready to use.

It is very important that the daily diet contains a high fat content, as a long term (for more than 1 month) fat diet will increase the aerobic capacity, the maximum speed of fat oxidation, the mitochondrial volume and the physics resistance, providing an explanation to the high aerobic capacity of the sled dogs.

As for proteins, a study showed that the prolonged exercise is subjected to the sled dogs during the training, it requires an increasing need of amino acid; therefore if you give a low protein diet, the dog doesn’t get sufficient amount of amino acids to cover his needs. He would have less capacity to exploit the amino acids for the energy production and protein synthesis. Therefore it is a great benefit to feed the dogs with diet of increasing protein content (over 18%) respecting the intensity and training duration (23% for exercises of medium intensity and 35% during periods of intense training), which helps to reduce the risk muscle injury.

The meat itself is not a balanced food and is lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. A diet with too much raw meat and without calcium supplementation can cause hyperparathyroidism, poor bone mineralization and increased risk of fractures. Oxidative stress in sled dogs is bigger, for this reason it is so important to include nutritional supplements based on antioxidants, which positively affects the quality of the performance.

Sled dog diet: the formula

The formula of FORZA10 "Extreme" is the result of a thorough study aimed to meet the food needs of athlete dogs which are also subjected to prohibitive environmental conditions. When we talk about the sporting dog, it’s impossible not to refer to any nutritional support, or of all substances introduced in the ration, that enhance athletic performance. For example: L-carnitine, inulin, Tribulus terrestris, Saccharum officinrum, Ashwagandha Withania somniferum, calcium, phosphorus.

The EXTREME formula is produced with the AFS patent system, a “cold” treatment that guarantees the conservation effectiveness of numerous natural active ingredients such as policosanol, which increases the use of oxygen in the muscles during exercise; the inulin, a prebiotic substance that optimizes the digestive system performance; the Indian ginseng, a precious source of energy that keeps the homeostatis; different electrolytes, a great help to counter physical fatigue; and finally the Tribulus, which is useful to refill and circulate the endocrine balance.

For the sled dogs, it is fundamental to have an adequate and correct ratio (amount of food, feeding frequency, ratio between diet and training, and the consumption of water). On a practical level, the quantity of food should be reduced in order to minimize the gastric expansion and maintain a high capacity for work during the season. However, it has to be able to fulfill the needs of energy and prevent weight loss. It is very important to level up the additional fat to increase the digestibility. The mushers are fed with various kind of dry food Trike & Bike or EXTREME (which provide respectively 3641 kcal/kg and 4580 kcal/kg). Getting close to the beginning of the competitions, the mushers tend to fatten the dogs, so during the race they will show a grade of overweight (between 1,36kg – 2,3kg) which allows the dogs to reserve energy extra to be drawn later during the race.

Another key issue to consider is the feeding time which has to respect the starting time of the competition; immediately after the meal, the insulin circulation level is increasing which will reduce the mobilization of fat acids from the peripheral fat, while it stocks limited glycogen and reduce the physical resistance. An expert musher should feed the sled dog long time before the race start (at least 4 hours before) and it would also be better to wait till the end of the competitions before the next meal.

The demand for water increases dramatically: 1 liter and even up to 5 liters per day during about 500km race. It is known that, in humans, the level of fluids gastric sediment is used as a proportional parameter to estimate the hydration state. Similar considerations can be made with regard to the dog’s physiology, taking into account that exercise reduces the level of liquid depletion in the stomach; so it is very important to provide an adequate fluid reinstatement through nutrition.

Therefore an essential compliment of sled dogs diet can be done by giving FORZA10 Wet 100% fish, especially in the period just before the race, where only a moist food with these characteristics can provide the dogs a “fuel” which is usable immediately and avoiding the presence of dry food in the stomach and intestines during the race. In fact, any type of croquette tends to create, in all dogs subjected to the effort of running, mechanical injury by rubbing the digestive tract.

Failure intake of sufficient amounts of water can cause dehydration. During the exercise, water losses through breathing can increase 10-20 times. It is especially important for prolonged run sports like the sled. The use of supplements and foods high in salt has to be done in careful way, as they will increase the urine output which often causes diarrhea and consequently increases the feeling of thirst and leads to dehydration. The integration of sodium bicarbonate also has to be carefully weighted: according to some authors, in fact, it leads to ionic imbalances with exaggerated loss of potassium in the urine. A study performed in dogs suggests that the oral addition of sodium bicarbonate which is done two hours before the race, of a dose not exceeding 400 mg / kg, would give an inconsistent performance.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even a sled dog always needs food to enhance their performance. In the summer when they stay at the kennel without doing any race, they would need fewer calories per day. So if you feed them with the same diet during the race, it can seriously trigger an unhealthy overweight.

So, when is the right time to start the “race” diet? Our scientists agree you should start a diet that enhances performance eight weeks prior to the event, which will be subjected to the stress level of the dog. To prevent intestinal disorders, you will initially combine this type of food with normal dog food, for a three days period. If your dog regularly takes part in races throughout the year, there is no reason to subject it to a maintenance diet.

For an athlete dog, nutrition is as importance as the training activities to be carried out. In fact, only when the physical preparation reaches an appropriate level and is supported by an equally adequate diet, the dog will be able to obtain their goals, whether it's a run of only 5 kilometers or the Iditarod.

For these reasons, the FORZA10 specific products provide protein sources which are highly digestible and bio available, with adequate energy support and optimal integration of basic nutrients, it will provide the perfect solution for feeding and preparation of sled dogs.

“To be sure that my dogs are always on top physical form, says Michael Tetzner (professional conductor of sled dogs, who has participated in more than 150 races in Europe and World Championships) - during the workouts and before each race, give them only a small quantity of water and cans of Diet FORZA10 Regular Tuna. With SANYpet I am sure to keep my dogs in good health, free from the risk of food allergies and the many other problems resulting from it. I also ready to give my best during the race to keep winning. It was surprising to get just four seconds from the top of the podium with a product such as FORZA10 EXTREME, designed and built by a company like SANYpet, which is certainly a small company in the face of global giants of pet food. And with pride, I represent a team of research and development of these skills.”

Gilles Elkaim, a solitary explorer, whose next work in progress is to reach the North Pole alone on his boat with his 8 sled dogs. Gilles chose FORZA10 EXTREME among the various brands on the market, so he said: "I have good results with FORZA10 EXTREME, especially during hard working periods for the dogs. I found that they have a higher energy than last year, when I was using another food. Since using FORZA10 EXTREME, dogs have incredible strength. Even too much, while training! They go fast even in deep snow. I have to restrain them with all my strength to make them go slower, to a pace more suited to a regular workout.”

Ararad Katchikian, famous for its mushing school and for doing numerous sporting activities completed with their sled dogs. "As I always say, there is no better way to test the quality of a dry food that you've NEVER given before your dogs, than by giving it out with plenty of water to track and monitor well the feces of the next day. THANK YOU, SANYpet - FORZA10 for creating a range of quality, so incredibly high quality of food for dogs and cats! Try different kind of FORZA10 on their dogs and still achieve the same excellent results mean the TOP of excellence!"

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