Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

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Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby libby the lab » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:15 pm

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Mike Davis. Mike is a veterinarian and exercise physiologist, and is the Director of the Comparative Exercise Physiology Lab at Oklahoma State University.
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I first met Mike at The Dockdog Nationals in 2008 when my dog Hank was presented with Outstanding Canine Volunteer for Chase Away K9 Cancer. Chase Away K9 Cancer Fund is administered by The American College of Veterinary Medicine Foundation of which Mike is the President. I have since tried really hard not to “stalk” him at Dockdog events and pester him with all my questions about sled dogs and sled dog racing.
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Dr. Davis’ other projects into the study of strenuous exercise have included field studies at racetracks, training centers, and even the Alaskan backcountry where he studies sled dogs during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race® and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race®. Mike has been conducting research on sled dogs for over 10 years, using funds provided by the ACVIM Foundation, federal research agencies such as Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health, and in some cases, his own money. These studies have resulted in effective protocols for the prevention of exercise-induced gastric ulcers in racing sled dogs, greater understanding of the short-term and long-term effects of cold air on the lungs’ immune system (which can lead to an asthma-like syndrome in humans known as “ski asthma”), and improved methods of promoting fatigue resistance in soldiers.

These elite sled racing dogs are perfect examples of how the body can utilize glucose-independent processes which are supported during sustained strenuous exercise. Studying the dogs’ unique methods for alleviating or preventing oxidative damage can lead to discoveries that benefit humans as well.

“Sled dog research applies to athletes participating in ultra endurance events,” said Dr. Davis, noting that an Ironman would be considered the shortest event that would apply, “but more likely to people who simply perform significant amounts of prolonged strenuous exercise day after day, regardless of whether or not it is considered a sport.”

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Mike has generously agreed to be our guest for “Ask a Musher” series, renamed “As a Vet” for him. He has worked with many of our favorite mushers including Martin, Karen, Aliy and Seb. Mike will check in on the forum for 2 weeks from January 19th to January 31st and answer our questions. Perfect timing before The Yukon Quest!! Feel free to not only ask about his research but any questions about sled dog races from a veterinarian’s perspective.

Cindy, Libby and Hank
PS here is link to an article written in laymen’s terms about his research
http://outsideonline.com/bodywork/20100 ... rch-1.html

PS Thank you to the ACVIM for parts of the above text.
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Cindy and Anna Banana
RIP Libby and Hank

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http://www.chaseawayk9cancer.org
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby Moose » Mon Jan 17, 2011 5:32 pm

Hi, Dr. Mike! Welcome. And thank you for popping in.

1. First, a silly question: You seem to be drawn to the working dogs. Do you have a dog or dogs? If so, what breed/type?

2. Would you tell us a bit about the development of gastric ulcers in working dogs and how prevelant the condition might be.

3. Can you draw any correlations between the incidence of cancers in working dogs vs. purely companion animals? How about "purebreds" vs. dogs of mixed ancestry?

Thank you!
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby MelanieGouldFanBrian » Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:41 pm

Hi Dr. Mike:
As Iditarod fans, our greatest sorrow comes from the obviously good hearted animal lovers, who insist that running dogs is cruel and barbaric, that the dogs are forced to run against their will, and are run till they are exhausted and die.
Of course we know otherwise. We are dog lovers ourselves, and we would never be fans of the Iditarod or any mushing races if such treatment of dogs were true. No matter what race fans or mushers say on the matter, the animal rights people never believe it.
As a Vet, what would, or do, you say to these people who insist that everything about dog mushing is cruel to the dogs?
Thanks
Brian
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby libby the lab » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:47 pm

Just an FYI I told Mike to start checking in on WED :D .

CIndy, Libby and Hank
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby Leaddog » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:36 am

Shows how well I follow instructions - started checking in early. Mostly because I've got stuff to do that I don't want to do.

I've got 2 Golden Retrievers (a.k.a. swamp collies). Jake (full name Jacob McCandles) is a 10 yr old cancer survivor, 25 months and counting. Gus (full name Augustus McCrae - do we have a theme going here?) is 18 months or so. Both compete in Dock Dogs, Jake hunts birds until he drops, Gus is getting there (light bulb finally went on last October: "Oh, so THIS is what all these strange urges mean!").

Gastric ulcers: We don't know precisely what causes them. We do have a pretty good indication that the dogs are more likely to have them, and they tend to be more severe, the harder/longer they work - up to a point. I'm working on a paper right now showing that field retrievers have some of the same problems as sled dogs - not as severe, but it is there. For sled dogs, 150 miles/day (aka Copper Basin, Kusko, etc) tends to be worse than 100 miles/day (Quest, Iditarod, end-of-season training). We know that stomach acid is required because when we block stomach acid effectively, the problem almost completely disappears. My best guess right now is that exercise makes the lining of the stomach/intestines leak, and whatever happens to be in the GI tract leaks into the tissue. In the stomach, it is acid. In the lower intestine, it is bacterial by-products. The dogs have "learned" to deal with the latter - the by-products are not toxic unless the dog's body overreacts to them, so the dogs downgrade the normal responses to that sort of stuff during training and exercise. The stomach acid is more directly damaging, so we have to block it. When we do, the dogs do pretty well.
Prevalence of ulcers in sled dogs depends on the situation. Rested, untrained (i.e., August) dogs are like any other dogs. About 2% of trained rested dogs will have "clinically significant lesions". We presume that these are dogs that developed problems during racing that haven't healed - racing-induced ulcers heal on their own with 3-4 days of rest. Exercise intensity around 150 miles/day will produce lesions in about 75% of the dogs; about 65% of the dogs at 100 miles/day. Interestingly, if you do lots of 100 mile days in a row (i.e., Iditarod), the prevalence drops AND the microscopic appearance of the tissue improves. In other words, the dogs seems to adapt even to that. With effective acid suppression, the prevalence drops to less than 10%.
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby Leaddog » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:03 am

I'm really not a cancer specialist, but as far as I know, there is really no difference between the rate of confirmed cancer in sled dogs vs dogs in general (I had a colleague that was interested in the apparent increase in cancer in human athletes, but when we poked around, we didnt find anything that would suggest a similar issue in dogs). Certain breeds of dogs are cancer-prone (Boxers and Golden Retrievers are the best known).

Is sled dog racing cruel? I've heard folks equate sled dog racing with bull-fighting. Certainly, there have been instances when the treatment of racing sled dogs has crossed the line, but the important point, illustrated nicely by the inappropriate comparison of sled dog racing and bull-fighting, is that sled dog racing is not inherently cruel and bull-fighting is. It is not, by definition, cruel or inhumane to ask a dog to run 1000 miles in 9 days because we have solid evidence to prove that the dogs, if properly conditioned, fed, and cared for, can do it without illness or injury and will be clearly enjoying it by anyone's definition of a happy dog. Furthermore, it is clear that when the dogs are properly conditioned, cared for, and fed, they enjoy it just as much as my dogs enjoy retrieving - which they will do relentlessly even in the face of fatigue, injury, etc. Injuries do occur in any athletic event, and the fact that the dogs get the occasional sore wrist etc is no more a case for the accusation of cruelty than it is in high school sports. Similarly, the fact that dogs get tired and have to be dropped is not evidence of cruelty. The key point, in my opinion, is the belief that the dogs (just like the mushers) derive some satisfaction in racing, even if they are tired, sore, or frustrated. I believe that and it is not limited to sled dog racing. If someone is not capable of believing that, then you will never convince them that sled dog racing is not inherently cruel.

I guess the way to start a conversation with a skeptic is to first ask them if they feel that, similar to humans, dogs are capable of deriving satisfaction from doing something difficult. If they are willing to agree to that, then I think you can convince them that sled dog racing is not inherently cruel.
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby libby the lab » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:11 pm

Mike- First off a huge thanks for joining us. We ar a small be truly addicted group of sled dog enthusiasts!! I will try not to ask too many questions and leave afew for my fellow Iditabuddies ;)

Would you tell us what your current research is and more specifically what stage of the research you are in? I have seen you on video with SP Kennel dogs on a treadmill with a breathing device in last few months. What is that measuring? What other mushers are you doing active research with and what are you measuring?

Cindy, Libby and Hank
PS To everyone: Mike will taking the dock at DockDogs event in Tulsa the first weekend in Feb so he can get titled with his dogs!!
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RIP Libby and Hank

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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby flowerpower » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:30 pm

Many thanks Dr. Mike for visiting with us and answering our questions! A big hearty Howdy from Texas! What part of the state do you hail from?

I was interested to read that there had been some 'small atainables' for humans, especially this statement
Lance Armstrong has been drinking a sports supplement based on quercetin, a plant-based flavonoid that's supposed to increase production of mitochondria.


Do the dogs have anything to do with quercetin, or was that separate research from athletes using the increase in mitochondria in sled dogs as a theory that an increase in humans would be equally beneficial? Besides that and the body cooling, are there other human applications being worked on?
"No matter how little money and how few possesions you own, having a dog makes you rich." - Louis Sabin
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby Leaddog » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:59 pm

HI Cindy.
The main project right now is a VERY technical investigation into what fuels the dogs' exercise. A quick tutorial: Muscles (theirs, ours, whatever) harvest the energy contained in a carbon-carbon bond to power contraction (and everything else). That bond is contained in either fat or carbohydrate (sometimes protein, but that's not a very good way of going about things so we try to avoid it). There is a limited supply of those fat or carb molecules inside a muscle cell, and if that was all the cell had available, exercise would not last long at all. To keep going, an athlete has to move those fat or carb molecules from the blood stream into the muscle. For endurance exercise, that is generally the limiting factor: As long as you are moving it into the muscle as fast as you are burning it, you can keep going indefinitely. If you start burning it faster than you are moving it into the muscle, then you are using the reserves stored in the muscle to make up the difference, and that intensity of exercise is not sustainable indefinitely. It is possible to increase the capacity to move fat or carb into the muscle through conditioning, and the greater the capacity, the faster the muscle can go without tapping into reserves. But increases of any serious magnitude take time - weeks to months of conditioning. Or so we thought.
We discovered about 6 years ago that sled dogs are capable of rapidly increasing their ability to move fat and/or carb into the muscle cell virtually overnight. They will begin a multiday exercise session (i.e., a race) burning through those carbon-carbon bonds at a rate that rapidly depletes the reserves inside the muscle. In you or I, that causes us to hit a wall and we can't exercise anymore because we don't have the fuel to do so. Instead of hitting that wall, the dogs rapidly increase that capacity so that in 2-3 days time, the exercise that was too intense to be sustained is now sustainable indefinitely.
With all that background, the goal of our current research is simple - we want to find out exactly what is being mobilized inside the muscle in that 2-3 day period of adaptation, and what exactly is the trigger. The device that you've seen on Aliy's dogs while running on the treadmill is a gas collection mask. The big-bore tube leading away from it goes to an instrument that measures how much oxygen the dog is burning and how much carbon dioxide they are producing. The ratio of the two measurements tells us WHAT they are burning (fat or carbohydrate) and by inference, WHAT is being moved into the muscle at an increased rate. By determining whether it is fat or carb or both, and how much of each, we can home in on what inside the cell is being manipulated to make the dogs virtually fatigue-proof.
Last edited by Leaddog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ask the Vet with Dr. Mike Davis 1/19-1/31

Postby Leaddog » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:12 pm

HI FlowerPower
We investigated using quercetin in the dogs as part of the larger project with Dept of Defense and, in an indirect manner, supported the resulting human products. The first step was to see how much quercetin was in the dogs already, since quercetin is found naturally in a number of veggies like onions, garlic, beets, etc. What we found was that dogs normally have very high levels in their body - about the same as the highest concentrations in humans taking the supplement, either because the dogs are better at absorbing it or they excrete less of it. Same for horses, by the way. So we dropped the idea of giving the dogs more since they already had maxxed out the benefit. Interestingly, across species the inherent mitochondrial density correlates well with the natural amounts of quercetin (dogs and horses are high in both, humans are low in both), so in a way, the human supplement is really just helping humans be as good as dogs and horses.
The other benefits have been indirect as well. For example, the work with sled dogs helped underscore the importance of thermoregulation in sustaining exercise. Sort of an exception to the explanation I gave Cindy - exercise is generally limited by the rate at which we supply the stuff we are burning UNLESS we are not getting rid of the waste. The three main wastes of combustion are water, carbon dioxide, and heat. The first two are easy to get rid of and never limit exercise. The last one most definitely can. We were also able to show in sled dogs that not all heat is equal. Sled dogs routinely crank their body temps to 106, and most of them do fine. Take the same dog and lock him in a closed car in the sun until they get that hot and a large number of them will go into shock. There is something about exercise that also confers heat tolerance that other forms of hyperthermia lack. We don't know yet exactly what it is, but we do know that if you are going to study it, there is no substitute for exercise.

As for Texas, I've lived and worked in just about all of it. I grew up in the Houston area, worked in El Paso, the Midland/Odessa area, and the Hill Country. I wish Austin and the surrounding area had remained a better-kept secret - way too many people there now.
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