By Doug Marshak
Kennel surfaces are an important part of designing a healthy kennel for your team. While most mushers are more concerned about the health of their animals during a run, it is equally important to maintain the health of the dogs at rest. The healthier your dogs are at the start of a race, the better they will perform.
Dirt vs. concrete
The advantage of concrete lies basically in the lack of maintenance involved after it's been laid. The traditional complaints of holes, rain washout, and mud are eliminated through the use of concrete. Obviously,' dogs cannot dig through it, making it not only safer for the musher to manage the kennel, but also safer for the dogs by reducing the chance of injuries caused by falling into these holes. The 'hole' problem of dirt can be exacerbated by rainfall leading to large washout areas within the kennel, which means even more maintenance for the musher.
Parasites a problem
only in production animals; but in a sleddog kennel, a large number of animals are concentrated in a relatively small area. Parasitic infectious disease can result in decreased weight gain for the dogs in the off season, depleting energy stores and reducing performance during the racing season. It is in the best interest of mushers to reduce the spread of parasites in the kennel.
A traditional advantage that concrete surface proponents have advocated is cleanliness. A concrete surface is quite easy to clean, provided you have a place to put the dogs while you are cleaning it. A bleach solution is easily applied to help sterilise the surface periodically. Properly designed with gutters, a. kennel can be cleansed of fecal matter and urine in a short time by a high- pressure hose. On a sunny or windy day the surface will dry quickly.
Not a cure-all
According to Dr. Vanek, "Concrete does have microscopic holes in its surface for harbouring critters. In addition, concrete sweats, so its not always as dry as one would imagine.' He also points out that puppies get roundworms and hookworms from the dam, and that a clean surface is riot necessarily a cure-all for infectious disease.
DJD is a pathological condition, in which the articular surfaces of the joints degrade, usually resulting in painful arthritis. It is most commonly seen as a sequel to damage to the 'joints in diseases such as osteochondrosis or trauma. However, one of the predisposing factors to development of DJD is extensive use of the joints such as in athletic animals, especially those with slight joint form abnormalities. Housing on an unforgiving surface such as concrete has the potentials to cause further damage to the joint. Because sled dogs usually are active for years, they are at a unique risk for developing this, while most other canines may not be. Again, I have not personally heard of any sled dogs developing this disease, but the risk is there. A concrete surface may cause more animals in the kennel to develop clinical signs later in life, animals not
previously seen because of the relative lack of use of concrete as a kennel surface.
Doug Marshak is a fourth-year
Veterinary student at Me University of Minnesota College of
Veterinary Medicine. An avid mushing enthusiast, he
completed a research project, 'Animal Welfare in Dog
Sledding- during the summer of 1996 under the mentorship of
Dr. Jerry Vanek, DVM, the current President of Me ISDVMA. He
plans to practice in either the Upper Midwest or Colorado
after he receives his degreein June 1998.
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