Effect of endurance training on cardiac morphology in Alaskan sled dogs

R. L. Stepien, K. W. Hinchcliff, P. D. Constable, J. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cardiac morphology of 77 conscious Alaskan sled dogs before and after 5 mo of endurance training (20 km/day team pulling a sled and musher) was studied using two-dimensional and M-mode echocardiography. Subgroups included dogs with at least one season of previous training ('veterans') and dogs undergoing their first season of training ('rookies'). Training resulted in a significant (P < 0.05) decrease in resting heart rate (-15%) and significant increases in interventricular septal thickness (systole, 15%; diastole, 13%), left ventricular (LV) internal dimension in diastole (LVIDd, 4%), LV free wall thickness in systole (9%) and diastole (LVWd, 9%), and left atrial diameter (5%) in all dogs, but the increase in LVWd was greater in rookies (16%) than in veterans (7%). Training increased end-diastolic volume index (8%), LV mass index (24%), and heart weight index (24%) and decreased the LVIDd-to-LVWd ratio (-6%) but did not alter cardiac index. We conclude that increased LV mass attributable to LV dilation and hypertrophy is associated with endurance training in Alaskan sled dogs. Disproportionate LV wall thickening accompanying LV dilation suggests that cardiac morphological changes are due to volume and pressure loading. These training-induced changes are similar to those documented in human athletes undergoing combined isometric and isotonic training and differ from studies of dogs trained on treadmills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1368-1375
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Athlete's heart
  • Dog
  • Echocardiography
  • Exercise
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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