The Iditarod launches new dog care initiative

Sled dog love for volunteer veterinarian Jayne Hempstead.

Pike Dog Wellness First Initiative will provide Iditarod mushers with veterinary care funding for their race teams to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The Iditarod, to further cement its commitment to excellence in dog care and help out the mushing community during the COVID-19 pandemic, has launched a $50,000 fund in partnership with longtime Iditarod supporter David Pike to create the Pike Dog Wellness First Initiative (PDWFI).

The initiative was created after the Iditarod, along with Pike, began anticipating the potential  impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on Iditarod mushing kennels due to lost revenue from tourism declines and other economic hardships. The initiative, made possible by Pike’s donation, will supplement mushers’ efforts to provide the gold standard of care for their teammates as part of regular wellness visits, vaccines, EKGs and optimum holistic health – all of which will be supported through the PDWFI. 

“This race is one of the reasons I fell in love with Alaska,” said David Pike. “It embodies the Alaska way of life; the spirit, grit and dedication to preserving the culture of the sled dog that is so important to continue. I am thrilled with the additional emphasis the Iditarod leadership is placing on dog wellness. We know now is the time for even greater focus on the health of these canine athletes and I’m honored to be a partner in this important initiative.” 

The initiative will allocate $25,000 to both the 2021 and 2022 Iditarod mushers, totaling $50,000. The first 50 mushers to enter each race are eligible to receive $500 from the PDWFI to cover veterinary expenses, such as diagnostics, vaccines, deworming and prescribed medications. The Iditarod, through the initiative, will reimburse the musher for the care provided by a licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinarian technician. 

“Working with David shows that he, like many others, share our dedication to promoting and providing exemplary dog care,” said Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach. “The Iditarod is a culture of dog people whose passion, purpose and life expertise is dog care. We know that the high standards of care that the Iditarod promotes leads to exceptional health and longevity for sled dogs, and we will continue to share our passion and knowledge of caring for sled dogs to benefit dog owners worldwide.” 

The Iditarod is a leader in sled dog care and research, and shares its knowledge so that all dog owners can benefit. Find dog care tips from the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian online at