Alaska sled dogs are working dogs who are well-cared for and love doing their jobs, as they have done for centuries in Arctic climates. The Iditarod is committed to celebrating these elite athletes and using lessons learned to benefit dog health for the millions of pet owners. Alaskans know the value of the sport and that the Iditarod is, and always will be, an advocate for dogs. The Iditarod takes great pride in its role of providing and promoting excellence in dog care before, during and after the race. The dogs that run the Iditarod are some of the greatest athletes on the planet, and the continuum of canine care provided during the race and beyond is the top priority of everyone involved. 


Article Sections on Dog Health and Wellness



  • During the race, well over 10,000 veterinary examinations take place to ensure that every dog is healthy and receiving the care it needs. The Iditarod strives to set the standard for fair and generous animal-athlete care, not only during the race, but also prior to the race in an extensive program of intensive pre-race veterinary screening.


  • Within 30 days of the race start, each dog receives an ECG evaluation to check for heart abnormalities. In conjunction with this, pre‐race blood tests (CBCs / Chemistry Panels) are performed. All dogs must have a microchip implant at this time.


  • A complete pre‐race physical examination is performed on each dog by a licensed veterinarian within 14 days of the race start. Vaccinations must be current.


  • All mushers are required to administer a broad spectrum dewormer to their racing dogs within 10 days of the Iditarod Start, using
    medication provided to them by the ITC.



  • Race veterinarians provide wellness checks not only for the canine athletes throughout the race, but also dogs living in the communities along the trail. Each year, these veterinarians offer vaccination clinics, and are on call to check on dogs in communities that may need veterinary care, as they travel up the trail.


  •  This organization provides sound guidelines for the care of this special breed of dog in the kennel environment.


  • All mushers who enter the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race must review and certify that their kennel (or the kennel their dogs are housed) meets the ITC Kennel Standards as set out by MUSH with P.R.I.D.E. in their 2023 Kennel Inspection Document.


  • Over the past two decades, the ITC has been involved with veterinary research studies at Oregon State University, Oklahoma State University, Ohio State University, University of Illinois, Colorado State University and Cornell University. The information from these studies, focusing on cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal and gastrointestinal health and overall nutrition of sled dogs, have benefited pets around the world.



  • The Iditarod stretches nearly 1,000 miles across Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, visiting more than 25 communities along the way.


  • The race is watched across the world via the Iditarod Insider and is an iconic representation of Alaska.


  • The Iditarod causes a yearly burst of activity, increased airplane traffic and excitement to areas that are otherwise quiet during Alaska winters.


  • The race is an educational opportunity and an economic stimulus to these small Alaska outposts and checkpoints.


  • The Iditarod provides education programming and experiential learning opportunities to thousands of schools around that world that use the Iditarod as an experiential learning tool for STEM-focused lesson plans.


  • The Iditarod maintains a website that reaches hundreds of thousands of students around the world, and contains exclusive curriculum for educators at that includes interactive multimedia that is student-friendly and fun.


Why Do They Run?

It was started to save the sled dog and today the Iditarod has changed the life of every dog on the planet because of improved nutrition and veterinarian care that was created and learned on this trail. No dogs in this world are studied – cared for or in front of a medical professional more times each year than the dogs that run the Iditarod.