Nutrition by Al Magaw


By Al Magaw

In the early 1980’s, a study about nutritional requirements for racing sled dogs was done by D.S. Kronfeld and T. Adkins and was a big factor in my and other dogsled racers decision to feed raw meat in addition to a good quality kibble – a lot of effort was put in by a group of veterinarians and scientists  to measure various body reactions to different diets on dogs belonging to Harris Dunlap, the top unlimited sprint driver of the time – another related study, done by Kronfield and others at or around the same time is one I missed reading until recently – the study centers on protein content and is as follows —

“Erythrocyte (red cell) counts were depressed significantly during the race, by 15% in dogs fed an experimental diet and by 27% in those fed a commercial stress diet. Erythrocyte parameters have also become depressed during the racing season in middle distance sled dogs fed 28% protein (energy basis) but not 32 or 39%. Depressed red blood cell production has been demonstrated previously in dogs subjected to stress induced experimentally in several ways, and its restoration has been affected by dietary protein. Erythrocyte parameters may be useful indicies of the degree of stress in a dog as well as the adequacy of its protein intake during stress.”

This information would help explain the behaviour of some of my teams in longer distance sprint races (30 – 35 miles)  – I was feeding what was claimed to be high quality food by the manufactures, but my dogs were running out of steam about the 20 – 25 mile point of a race – I realize now that in addition to the chicken and red meat I was feeding, the kibble I was using was about 27 – 28% protein – the study shows that the kibble I was using could have been the cause of the premature tiring of my teams


Al Magaw is a musher from Salmo, BC. Al keeps a medium sized kennel of 20 – 45 alaskan huskies as well as several pet dogs of various breeds. Al has been training and racing for the last 33 years. Before becoming involved with sled dogs, Al, along with his family, kept and competed with horses for many years. Al can be reached through his website at Al is a guest blogger for Denver Dog Works and can be reached through our website at


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