Iditarod -- Race Across Alaska
An Appetite for Running
By Karen Fanning

Rosalie Perkins, 9, volunteers her time to clean up after the Iditarod dog teams in Takotna, Alaska, last year. (Al Grillo/AP Wide World)

Alpo may be fine for Fido, but when it comes to Alaska's elite sled racing pooches, plain, old dog food just won't do.

"These dogs are athletes," says three-time Iditarod winner, Jeff King. "To be good athletes, dogs can't be overweight or skinny. They need to be at an optimum weight. To help them become great sled dogs, we provide them with the best diet in the perfect quantities."

That diet consists of water, high-performance dry dog food, fish, and meat snacks, such as beef, tripe, and lamb. In the winter, the Kings also feed their dogs a liquid chicken fat supplement.

"Dogs utilize fats and proteins like humans utilize carbohydrates," says Jeff's daughter, Cali, winner of last year's Jr. Iditarod. "They burn them for energy."

Sled dogs need plenty of energy. While they eat at least one pound of vitamin-rich dog food daily, their caloric intake can vary. Off-season, they consume as little at 1,800 calories a day. When they're racing, however, dogs burn calories very quickly, so they may consume as many as 10,000 calories per day.

"The dogs work so hard, sometimes it's hard to keep the weight on them," says Cali. "We consider our dogs to be the equivalent of marathon runners. They need a complete diet so that they can burn enough calories to create enough energy to perform at a high athletic ability."