The Auburn University Veterinary Sports Medicine Program (VSMP) has explored new technologies to test the performance of athletic and working dogs. These technologies enable us to monitor dogs, while they are working in their environment, and the entirety of the stimuli in that environment. We are able to evaluate dogs in a natural non-laboratory setting. EKG measurements, blood samples, speed of the body, distance covered, and high speed motion analysis of a dog are able to be evaluated during a performance; therefore, we can conduct a more accurate performance evaluation of the dog.
Utilizing the above mentioned technology, we have developed a way to sample heart rates and core temperature every 10 seconds, while the dog is resting, anticipating work, working, and recovering from work. We can also track data of the dog’s speed and distance covered through global positioning satellite (GPS) technology. The GPS allows us to gauge what type of physical work the dog is performing. We can then download that data to a lap top, in the field if need be, and analyze it, giving us a more in depth understanding of the metabolic status of the dog.
Our staff has developed a unique process for collecting blood samples. Blood is drawn 24 hours prior to an athletic event, in an area that the dog perceives as a non-athletic environment (e.g. the kennel), which provides a true resting sample. Then, blood is drawn 24 hours after the resting sample, just prior to exercise. This provides a blood sample when the dog is “psyched up” and ready to perform. Comparing these two samples reveals the affects of a dog’s anticipation of performance. A third sample is taken immediately after exercise. The three samples allow us to compare resting values, pre-exercise anticipation, and post-exercise values.
For example, Angle et al (2009) found that the resting and pre-exercise samples revealed significant changes in various blood parameters in sled dogs; indicating that there was a metabolic response to anticipation among the dogs. The dogs were excited to perform which created a stimulus that produced various physiological changes. The physiological changes were revealed in the comparison of blood parameters between the resting and pre-exercise samples. In addition, the post exercise samples produced results that could be compared to both the resting and pre-exercise values. This methodology of blood sampling gives us a better representation of metabolic status.
We have the ability to use high speed video cameras to analyze just about any movement or component of movement that a dog executes during a sports skill. Movements can either be analyzed via slow motion analysis or by quantification of kinematic measurements. By using our Peak Motus Software package we can quantify movement by calculating ranges of motion, limb and joint velocities and accelerations, and many other quantified measurements of motion. We are then able to assess body movement to help diagnose an injury, reveal a possible risk of injury, or help refine the movement of a sport skill.