I wanted to end my 4th year of vet school with a bang. Not just a high note too; I wanted to end it with a challenge unlike anything I had ever done before. How would I do that? Perhaps I would do a really cool, rare case study. But I plan on spending my whole career in a clinic, so I will see plenty of oddball cases. Why not step out of my comfort zone? I figured I would do a research project to learn something totally new. I am not really a research-minded vet student. I am always inquiring and doing my own research in my own mind based off of hundreds of clinical cases and animal experiences, but I have little patience for the time-consuming nature of true scientific research that is published regularly. I leave that to the real research experts while I cover the clinics that those researchers can’t bear to spend time in. So I decided that I would plan a research study for my senior project during this upcoming year. I asked for help from a professor in my favorite subject: nutrition. To combine my other primary personal interest with this project would be simply perfect, so I made it happen. I would do a project on sled dog metabolism. Moreso, I would go to the source of the best sled dogs in the work by doing this project at the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
At the moment, the project focus is one sled dog water metabolism. There is a lot more to this topic than meets the eye. For starters, sled dogs can go through about 5 liters of water in a single racing day. Further, they have to consume a very large amount of calories to maintain their activity as well as keep their body weights at adequate levels. Topped off with a large amount of waste from their working muscles, resulting in a large volume of urine that must be eliminated from the body. Unfortunately, this leads to a large loss of electrolytes. Even though the dog’s body needs these electrolytes, they cannot help losing them in urine. This results in a salt deficit that must be replaced, especially during intense exercise.
We hope to find out some new information about the levels of certain hormones that help regulate water. A lot if unknown about how these hormone levels change throughout long distance exercise. We will look at hormones such as anti-diuretic hormone, renin, angiotensin, and aldosterone. All of these hormones regulate levels of salt and water for mammals. It will be a challenging research project, but it should be fun.