By Greg Closter DVM, Alaska SPCA
Specific vaccination requirements have been established for all dogs racing in the Iditarod. As stated in Rule 40: All dogs entered in the race must be current on their vaccinations for distemper/hepatitis/lepto/parvo/parainfluenza (DHLPP), rabies, and injectable, nasal, or oral bordetella. Bordetella is often referred to as “kennel cough”. While many of the dogs competing in the race live in Alaska, there are teams that come from the lower 48 and from other countries throughout the world, and all are required to have the same vaccinations.
Vaccination records for every dog entered in the Iditarod are checked by a veterinarian at the pre-race vet checks. Most mushers keep a binder with all of their dog’s vaccination records, with a binder sleeve for each individual dog. This makes it easy for both the veterinarian and the musher to find the information for the dogs that are racing.
The distemper, hepatitis, parvo (parvovirus), and rabies vaccines are considered “core” vaccines for all dogs, both working and non-working and in all regions of the country. Vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, and parvo are highly advisable, as these commonly cause death. By law, all states in the U.S. require that dogs be vaccinated for rabies according to their individual regulations. Illness caused by rabies will typically be fatal for both animals and humans.
The parainfluenza, Bordetella, and lepto (leptospirosis) vaccines are each optional for non-Iditarod dogs. Whether or not to get any or all these vaccinations for your dog will depend on your pet’s lifestyle and where you live. Parainfluenza (viral) and bordetella (bacterial) are causes of respiratory infections that are highly contagious and can easily spread when dogs come into close contact. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects a dog’s kidneys and can potentially lead to kidney failure and death if left untreated. It can be acquired by drinking from an infected puddle or pond/lake. Leptospirosis is relatively rare in Alaska, but with dogs being brought in from throughout the world for the Iditarod, having the dogs vaccinated is helps ensure that a leptospirosis outbreak does not occur during the race.
For optimal protection of non-Iditarod dogs, it is best to get advice from your local veterinarian as to the vaccinations recommended for dogs in your area.
Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition for your pet.