by Stuart Nelson, Jr., DVM
Musher Entry Requirements
- Completion of qualifying races approved by the Iditarod Trail Committee.
- Review of performance by Iditarod Race Officials.
- 5 years minimum clinical practice experience.
- Previous experience working with racing sled dogs.
- Ability to work with others as a team.
- Fluency in English – some foreign veterinarians are very capable, but language barriers create difficulties.
- Membership in the ISDVMA (International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association is strongly encouraged.
- Staff of approximately 35 veterinarians – an average of 5 rookies annually.
- Staff selected by September of previous year to allow from preparation.
Preparation of Veterinarians
- Rookies must attend ISDVMA Sled Dog Veterinarian Training Seminar.
- Informational letters from the Chief Veterinarian and staff interaction on topics of concern.
- General veterinary staff meeting prior to the race.
Preparation of Mushers
- Informational letters from Chief Veterinarian regarding topics of concern and dog care issues.
- Iditarod Rules and Policies regarding dog care and management.
- Membership in Mush with P.R.I.D.E.
- Kennel management guidelines.
- General dog care guidelines.
- Kennel visit (optional) by an ITC veterinarian.
- Two Day Rookie Orientation in December.
- General musher meeting prior to race.
Preparation of Dogs
- Identification requirements (micro-chipping performed by ITC).
- Vaccination requirements (documentation of current vaccinations is reviewed by veterinarians performing the pre-race exams).
- De-worming requirements within 10 days of the race start (medication provided through the ITC).
- Pre-race veterinary physical exams within 14 days of the race start.
- Pre-race ECG’s (provided through the ITC – performed within 30 days of the start).
- Pre-race blood work (CBC’s and Chemistry panels provided through the ITC – samples are taken at the same time the ECG’s are performed).
- Dog Care Agreement Forms must be completed by each musher prior to the race. These documents list the name of a veterinarian of the mushers choice who will be responsible for providing any necessary follow-up medical or surgical treatments of dogs released from the care of the Iditarod Trail Committee.
Dog Care During the Race
- Our goal is to have a veterinary examination of every dog at every checkpoint.
- Dog care diaries must be carried by the mushers and presented to veterinarians at each checkpoint. They serve as written medical records for each dog in the race.
- Dropped dog care and management is highly organized to provide for the safe return of the dogs to Anchorage.
- Random drug testing as a precautionary effort.
- Necropsy protocols are strict and detailed.
- Determine cause of death
- Enables us to learn more about abnormalities that may cause death
- Research aspect
- Extensive Inventory of veterinary supplies and medications to allow for treatment of potential health abnormalities that could develop in any large number of animals over a three week period of time.
Post-race Dog Care
- Similar to returned dog care.
- To learn more about medical conditions affecting dogs.
- ECG program (heart research).
- CBC’s and Chemistry Screens (database of normal values for sled dogs).
- Vitamin E and muscle function.
- Diarrhea in marathon athletes.
- Gastric endoscopy.