The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 1  November 1999

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled

Table of Contents

Editorial:  Looking to the Year 2000

Report: The North Baffin Quest
Project: Impress Your Dog
Behavioral Notebook: Tiri's Magic Carpet
ISD News from Norway
Feeding Tips

In My Humble Opinion: Cause and Effect
Janice Howls: The Spitz Group
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Jim Ryder
Hudson's Bay Adventure
Book Review: Running North

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

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Three week old pups, 1999, © Montcombroux photo

Some Common Misconceptions About Diet
by Geneviève Montcombroux

Many owners of Inuit Sled dogs, and other breeds, try to provide them with the best possible nutrition. Anyone who has ever owned a dog has received advice from some know-all to add this, that or the other to the diet. Sometimes this well-meaning advice leads to disaster. Take one very common example: "Give calcium to the pregnant bitch."  This article aims to dispel that myth and to provide owners with some tried and true advice on feeding the ISD. 

Calcium and Protein for the Pregnant Bitch
If the bitch is fed a high quality diet of non-cereal-based commercial food mixed with fresh meat, chicken or fish, the expectant mother is receiving all the calcium and phosphorus she needs. Additional calcium will expose her to excessive levels of this mineral and will predispose her after whelping to eclampsia - a toxic condition causing convulsions. Normally, the parathyroid gland uses the calcium to start milk production. An excess of calcium during pregnancy will overwhelm and flood the gland so it fails to stimulate the production of sufficient milk at birth. When the bitch tries to produce milk, her body attempts to mobilize the calcium, but fails because the parathyroid is not functioning properly, which results in eclampsia. In this state, the excess calcium will also hinder the transportation of zinc through the body. This in turn causes uterine inertia, toxic milk, fetal retention and prolonged discharge after whelping.  If you give additional meat, you may be criticized for over-feeding on the grounds that the female is already getting everything she needs from the commercial food.  This overlooks the fact that because she is pregnant, she needs more protein at about 4 to 5 weeks into the pregnancy, just as she does throughout the lactation period until the puppies are weaned. But not any sort meat. She needs protein of a high biological value - the biological value being how well the nutrients can be absorbed by the body. Low biological value meat comprises chicken beaks, claws, guts, sinews and other species by-product. High biological value includes muscle meat, liver, and cooked eggs. 

Protein and Fat for the Working Dog
Working dogs also need additional protein, since it is the protein that repairs 
the minor tissue damage that occurs during any strenuous activity. Protein need not exceed 40% of the total calories.  People often view their dog's diet the way they do their own. Because of the popular aversion to dietary cholesterol, many dog owners believe they should shun the use of fat in their dog's food. Some commercial brands even advertise "low fat" dog food. Yet the canine readily utilizes the energy from fat. This is definitely true of the working sled dog - the Inuit sled dog in particular - who should receive extra fat, depending on environmental conditions. No matter what, it must represent no less than 50% of the total calories of the diet. To achieve this, you have to monitor your dogs. If you are not working them enough to utilize the energy left over after they metabolize the fat against the cold, then the dogs might not be eating all the rest of their food, thereby creating an imbalance of nutrients. Also, unused fat will pass in the stools, carrying along with it water and the soluble vitamins A, D and E. Although the fat is turned into metabolic water, the dogs still require proportionately more water for digestion. This is particularly important for dogs fed on commercial dry food. Oddly enough, in the moisture-deprived Arctic, dogs are not given water. However, fresh seal or walrus meat is a source of fluids as it is about 50% water for its weight. A dog owner may be tempted to add vegetable oil to the diet in the belief it will aid the development of a beautiful, shiny coat. No amount of oil will make any difference to the coat if the dog has a poor - i.e. low biological value - diet. Vegetable oil is necessary year-round wherever, no matter the climate. Vegetable oil contains amino acids which assist digestion, but since oil and fats cannot be satisfactorily stored in dry food, even the very best commercial food needs to be supplemented. Too much oil and an imbalance is created, leading to the destruction of certain vitamins or problems with calcium metabolism. For the average working Inuit Sled Dog, one large tablespoon of oil in summer and two in winter is adequate. For Inuit Sled Dogs in southern parts, I recommend adding cod liver oil to the diet, one teaspoon to a tablespoon measure, depending on the severity of the climate. No scientific data is available to back up this recommendation, only the practical beneficial results that are reported by owners who add cod liver to their dogs' diet. 

Eggs as a Supplement
Hard-boiled eggs (of chicken, turkey, goose, etc.) for a working dog provides a rich source of protein and fat. Egg is a complete food in itself, but must always be cooked. Raw egg white contains avidin, an enzyme which destroys essential vitamin B, and interferes with digestion. Side effects can be severe hair loss, runny eyes, and malnutrition. One egg for four dogs gives good results. 

Liver in the Diet
Liver is truly a miracle food. A sick dog, a fading puppy can be revived by giving some liver. This meat contains high levels of fats, carbohydrate, good biological value protein, vitamins and minerals. In the diet, liver should comprise only one-third of the total meat, and preferably half of that should be made up  of organ meat such as heart and tongue. If more than a third of liver and organ meat out of the total  meat quantity is given, a calcium deficiency and a vitamin A toxicity may result. 

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