Iditarod dog kennel horrors

Environmental hazards

Micrograph of Salmonella (red). Iditarod dogs have a high prevalence of Salmonella compared to other dogs. Salmonella shedding by dogs is a possible source of Salmonella infection in humans. Photo attributed to Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH.

Micrograph of invading Salmonella (red). Iditarod dogs have a high prevalence of Salmonella compared to other dogs. Salmonella shedding by dogs is a possible source of Salmonella infection in humans. Photo attributed to Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH.

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Volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt eruptions dangerous for dogs

Alaska Volcano Observatory says dogs shouldn’t breathe in ash:

“What was I going to do with a team of huskies who, according to Alaska Volcano Observatory recommendations, should not breathe in the fine glass-like particles found in Redoubt’s emissions?”

“My dilemma is small compared with that of mushers of large kennels, whose lots further north and northeast are much more at risk. What about the mushers off Petersville Road, where the ash has already been reported? What are Jeff King’s dogs doing up in Denali, where there also have been trace amounts of ash found?”

– Melissa DeVaugh, Anchorage Daily News, March 27, 2009

Alaska Red Cross says bring dogs inside to protect them from breathing volcanic ash:

“What to Do During a Volcanic Eruption: Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters to protect them from breathing volcanic ash.”

– Alaska Red Cross, website article, March, 2009

April 21, 1990 eruption cloud from Mount Redoubt Volcano. The Alaska Volcano Observatory said that dogs should not breathe in the fine glass-like particles found in Redoubt’s emissions. Photo attributed to wikimedia

April 21, 1990 eruption cloud from Mount Redoubt Volcano. The Alaska Volcano Observatory said that dogs should not breathe in the fine glass-like particles found in Redoubt’s emissions. Mount Redoubt continues to be an active volcano. Photo attributed to wikimedia

Volcanic ash can be a persistent hazard for dogs:

“Even after a series of ash-producing eruptions has ended, wind and human activity can stir up fallen ash for months or years, presenting a long-term health and economic hazard.”

– U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, website, 2009

After Iditarod, dogs with compromised lungs face ash hazards:

– 81 percent of the dogs who finish the Iditarod have lung damage:

“To investigate, the team of researchers examined the airways of 59 sled dogs 24 to 48 hours after they completed the long and arduous race. Their findings are published in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The researchers found that 81% of the canines had “abnormal accumulations” of mucus or cellular debris in their lower airways. This accumulation was classified as moderate to severe in nearly half of the animals, according to the report. There was no evidence that the lung damage could be due to bacterial infection, the authors note. Instead, they say, it was likely caused by cooling and drying out of peripheral airway passages, resulting in injury and inflammation.”

– Reuters Health,Tue Oct 8, 2002, 2:17 PM ET

– Airway dysfunction persists despite 4 months of rest:

“CONCLUSIONS: Racing Alaskan sled dogs have airway dysfunction similar to ‘ski asthma’ that persists despite having 4 months of rest. These findings suggest that repeated exercise in cold conditions can lead to airway disease that does not readily resolve with cessation of exercise.”

– Davis M, Williamson K, McKenzie E, Royer C, Payton M, Nelson S., “Effect of training and rest on respiratory mechanical properties in racing sled dogs.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2005 Feb;37(2):337-41 on PubMed website.

What is Volcanic Ash?

“Small jagged pieces of rocks, minerals, and volcanic glass the size of sand and silt (less than 1/12 inch or 2 millimeters in diameter) erupted by a volcano are called volcanic ash. Very small ash particles can be less than 1/25,000th of an inch (0.001 millimeter) across.

Though called “ash,” volcanic ash is not the product of combustion, like the soft fluffy material created by burning wood, leaves, or paper. Volcanic ash is hard, does not dissolve in water, is extremely abrasive and mildly corrosive, and conducts electricity when wet.

Volcanic ash is formed during explosive volcanic eruptions. Explosive eruptions occur when gases dissolved in molten rock (magma) expand and escape violently into the air, and also when water is heated by magma and abruptly flashes into steam. The force of the escaping gas violently shatters solid rocks. Expanding gas also shreds magma and blasts it into the air, where it solidifies into fragments of volcanic rock and glass.

Once in the air, hot ash and gas rise quickly to form a towering eruption column, often more than 30,000 feet high. Larger rock fragments more than 2 inches across ejected by the explosion typically fall within a few miles of the eruption site. However, wind can quickly blow fine ash away from the volcano to form an eruption cloud. As the cloud drifts downwind from the erupting volcano, the ash that falls from the cloud typically becomes smaller in size and forms a thinner layer. Ash clouds can travel thousands of miles, and some even circle the earth.”

– U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, website, 2009

Yukon River flooding obliterates sled dog kennels

“Villages damaged by recent Yukon River flooding are sending out an urgent plea for dog food.”

“One Tanana musher, Pat Moore, lost his fish camp and with it, his dog food supply.

‘His entire camp got obliterated,’ [Mark] Haglin said, noting Moore is not alone.

‘Everybody’s saving table scraps and things to feed the dogs,’ he said.

In other places, such as Stevens Village, raging water wiped out dog yards as it washed into the community. Canines are tied to trees with bowls of water, waiting for new doghouses as residents begin the slow process of rebuilding homes.”

– Mark Haglin is Tanana’s Fire Chief
– Rena Delbridge, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 20, 2009

Smoke from wildfires is especially hazardous for Iditarod dogs

Wildfires are ravaging Alaska with greater frequency and greater intensity:

— Rising temperatures in Alaska will increase wildfire risks:

“In the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the country, with average temperatures up by nearly 3°F. ” “These rising temperatures are expected to increase wildfire risks in Alaska, just as they have in the rest of the western U.S.”

– Todd Sanford, PhD, Regina Wang, and Allyson Kenward, Phd. The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, climatecentral.org, June 24, 2015

— Wildfire emissions threaten air quality in Alaska:

“Wildfire emissions over these vast areas also threaten air quality in Alaska and beyond.”

– Todd Sanford, PhD, Regina Wang, and Allyson Kenward, Phd. The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, climatecentral.org, June 24, 2015

“The air quality improved to ‘very unhealthy’ by 6 p.m. but returned to ‘hazardous’ an hour later as particulate pollution shot back up.

The National Weather Service said visibility Tuesday dropped to a quarter-mile in Nenana, and it issued a dense-smoke advisory in effect until Wednesday morning. Much of the smoke came from the Rex Complex fire, the agency said, but with multiple fires burning west of Fairbanks, the forecasters couldn’t offer immediate hope for improved visibility or air quality.”

– Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News, July 7, 2015

— The area burned in large wildfires in Alaska is increasing each year:

“The area burned in large wildfires each year is increasing. In just two years, 2004 and 2005, wildfires burned a larger area than in the 15 years from 1950-1964 combined. In particular, there has been a dramatic increase in wildfires larger than 10,000 acres but smaller than 50,000 acres.”

– Todd Sanford, PhD, Regina Wang, and Allyson Kenward, Phd. The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, climatecentral.org, June 24, 2015

— Alaska’s wildfire season lasts about 40 percent longer now than in the 1950s:

“Alaska’s wildfire season is about 40 percent longer now than it was in the 1950s. The first wildfires start earlier in the year, and the last wildfires are burning longer into the fall. Overall, the wildfire season has increased more than 35 days and is now more than three months long, running from May through early August.”

– Todd Sanford, PhD, Regina Wang, and Allyson Kenward, Phd. The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, climatecentral.org, June 24, 2015

— Number of wildfires in Alaska is off the charts:

“The number of Alaska’s active wildfires is literally off the charts, according to a map recently released by the state’s Division of Forestry.

Over 700 fires have burned so far this summer, the most in the state’s history, and that number is only expected to get bigger as the state is experiencing higher temperatures, lower humidity and more lightning storms than usual, said Kale Casey, a public information officer for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which serves as a focal point for state agencies involved in wildland fire management and suppression.”Casey told ABC News today. “In addition to the dry season we’re having, we’ve had a huge amount of lightning — about 6,000 to 10,000 bolts per day. There was three-day period in June where we had over 31,000 lightning strikes.”

– Avianne Tan, ABC News, July 1, 2015

“Nearly 700 firefighters were working to try to control the blaze, which is the most serious of the more than 90 wildfires actively burning in Alaska, fire information officer Rich Phelps said. Firefighting teams include several crews from the Lower 48 states.

The affected area, with the unincorporated communities of Two Rivers and Pleasant Valley, is home to several top-ranked sled-dog racers and their kennels.

Smoke from this and other wildfires has created hazardous condition in interior Alaska.”

– Disaster News Network, July 8, 2013

“In addition to the Aggie Creek Fire, there are 304 active fires burning across the state which have scorched nearly 4.5 million acres. So far this year there have been 671 wildfires in Alaska, including about 300 human-caused fires.”

– KTUU-TV, website, July 13, 2015

This is smoke from one of the 90 wildfires that were burning in Alaska in June/July, 2013. Smoke can cause lung irritation and damage in dogs as well as inflammation that can result in life-threatening pneumonia and permanent scarring of tissues. Photo attributed to AlaskaNPS on flickr taken June 26, 2013

This is a photo of smoke from one of the 90 wildfires that were burning in Alaska in June/July, 2013. Smoke can cause lung irritation and damage in sled dogs as well as inflammation that can result in life-threatening pneumonia and permanent scarring of tissues. Photo attributed to AlaskaNPS on flickr taken June 26, 2013

Smoke inhalation from wildfires is especially hazardous for Iditarod dogs:

“Smoke is just as hazardous for dogs as it is for people or other animals with lungs. The same complications can occur: damage to the delicate tissues that are critical for absorbing oxygen; irritation and inflammation that can result in life-threatening pneumonia; permanent scarring of tissues so that breathing will be difficult for the remainder of the individual’s life. Because dogs used for pulling sleds have exceptional demands placed on them, the negative effects of smoke inhalation are even more problematic and collapse and death from lung failure during ‘training’ or racing can be the result.”

– Veterinarian Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis in email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, July 10, 2013

Smoke inhalation from wildfires is bad for dogs:

“The two most common health concerns in pets linked to plumes of smoke billowing into the air they breathe are ocular inflammation and respiratory inflammation.”

– Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital, Facebook page, August 2013

“Water vapor comprises the majority of smoke with the rest a mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, irritant volatile organic compounds and other air toxics. The three air toxics of most concern are: acrolein, an aldehyde that has a piercing, choking odor that causes severe eye irritation and respiratory distress, even at low levels; formaldehyde, which irritates the eyes, nose and throat; and benzene, which causes headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties, and is a potent carcinogen.”

“[Dr. Julie] Lenoch says your pet dog can show signs of distress from the smoke that mimic those of their owners. “A dog can have a runny nose, a dry, raspy cough, even watery eyes, just like a human.”

– Dr. Julie Lenoch is a veterinarian
– Joyce Davis, Reporter-Herald, June 21, 2012

Dogs should be kept inside when smoke is in the area:

“When smoke is in the area, owners should keep their animals inside with the windows closed and the air conditioner running.”

– Dr. Julie Lenoch is a veterinarian
– Joyce Davis, Reporter-Herald, June 21, 2012

Don't risk your health by visiting an Iditarod dog kennel in Alaska

Pre-race Iditarod vet check finds Salmonella in 69 percent of the dogs:

“Twenty-six normal asymptomatic dogs representing 13 teams were sampled during a routine prerace veterinary inspection. Of these, Salmonella was isolated from 18/26 (69%).”

– Cantor, Glenn H.; Nelson, Stuart; Vanek, Jerome A.; Evermann, James F.; Eriks, Inge S.; Basaraba, Randall J. and Besser, Thomas E. “Salmonella shedding in racing sled dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation : Official Publication of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, Inc. 1997 (October).

Iditarod dogs have a high prevalence of Salmonella compared to other dogs:

“These results show a surprisingly high prevalence of Salmonella in Alaskan sled dogs compared to the prevalence reported in other dogs.”

– Cantor, Glenn H.; Nelson, Stuart; Vanek, Jerome A.; Evermann, James F.; Eriks, Inge S.; Basaraba, Randall J. and Besser, Thomas E. “Salmonella shedding in racing sled dogs.” Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation : Official Publication of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, Inc. 1997 (October).

Salmonella shedding by dogs is a possible source of Salmonella infection in humans:

“The high prevalence of Salmonella reported here may have significant public health implications.”

– Cantor, Glenn H.; Nelson, Stuart; Vanek, Jerome A.; Evermann, James F.; Eriks, Inge S.; Basaraba, Randall J. and Besser, Thomas E. “Salmonella shedding in racing sled dogs”. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation : Official Publication of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, Inc. 1997 (October).

“Veterinarians and public health officials have recognized shedding salmonellae by dogs as a possible source of Salmonella infection for dog owners and their communities.”

– Finley, Rita; Ribble, Carl; Aramini; Vandemeer, Meredith; Popa, Maria; Litman, Marcus and Reid-Smith, Richard. “The risk of salmonellae shedding by dogs fed Salmonella-contaminated commercial raw food diets.” Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2007 January.

Tourists who visit Iditarod kennels may face significant public health risks:

“The study [“Salmonella shedding in racing sled dogs”] shows that while living in musher kennels, the majority of dogs carry the Salmonella organism, substantially more than in dogs in many other parts of the world. Some Iditarod mushers give tourists kennel tours (one cruise line gives a kennel tour as part of its tour package). As a result, tourists who visit Iditarod dog kennels may be subjecting themselves to significant public health risks and cruise lines that offer these tours could be culpable.”

– Veterinarian Nedim C Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis
– Email to Sled Dog Action Coalition on February 25, 2013

Alaska's dust storms are bad news for Iditarod dogs

Dust storm in Alaska. Dust can cause lung and airway diseases in sled dogs. Photo taken on November 17, 2013. Photo attributed to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr.

Dust storm in Alaska. Dust can cause lung and airway diseases in sled dogs. Photo taken on November 17, 2013. Photo attributed to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr.

Alaska has large dust storms:

“Large dust storms like this are most common in Alaska in the fall, when river levels are at their lowest.”

– SpaceRef.com, October 31, 2012

“There is the possibility that dust events are becoming more frequent and severe due to ongoing recession of glaciers in coastal Alaska.”

– NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, flickr.com, November 18, 2013

Dust can cause lung and airway diseases in sled dogs:

“Lung and airway disorders are often caused by direct infection with viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites, as well as by immune-mediated reactions or inhalation of irritants or toxic substances.”

– The Merck Manual, Pet Health Edition, website article

“Allergies to particles in the air including dust, pollens, and smoke can cause allergic lung disease and coughing.”

– Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, website article

“Researchers in Italy and Switzerland suggest there is a link between primary lung cancer in dogs and dust matter accumulating in the lungs from exposure to air pollution.”

– MedicalNewsToday.com, January 6, 2010

“There is a wide range of conditions that can lead to interstitial pneumonia in dogs.”

“Exposure to toxic elements through inhalation of dust, gas, or vapor, are also suspect in the diagnosis of causative factors.”

– petmd.com, 2014

“Funguses (also called fungi) are parasitic, spore-producing organisms.” “The primary source of most infections is soil. Fungal infections can be acquired by inhalation, ingestion, or through the skin (for example, through a cut or wound).”

– The Merck Manual, Pet Health Edition, website article

Lightning can electrocute chained Iditarod dogs. Photo attributed to NOAA Photo Library on Wikimedia.

Lightning can electrocute tethered Iditarod dogs. Photo attributed to NOAA Photo Library on Wikimedia.

Noise and air pollution from sled dog kennels

Lawsuit against Iditarod musher over noise and air pollution from kennel:

“A disagreement between neighbors living several miles outside Nome city limits is set to go to trial over a dispute that centers on what’s acceptable when it comes to noise—and smell—from a dog kennel.

The disagreement goes back to 2012, but came to a head in the Nome court in January. That’s when the neighbors—Kevin Bopp and his wife Lynn DeFilippo—squared off against the mushers—Nils Hahn and his wife and mushing partner Diana Haecker.”

“They weren’t neighbors — until the mushers moved back into the adjoining lot in 2012 with their kennel of about 30 dogs.”“Emphasizing that point were witnesses called during the January hearing, including Iditarod mushers Joe Garnie and Aaron Burmeister. Both testified the dogs Hahn and Haecker keep make ‘a typical amount of noise for a dog sled team,’ and both spoke to the importance of mushing in rural Alaska.”

– Matthew Smith, KNOM.org, May 7, 2015

Jury found Seavey’s Iditaride Sled Dog Tour to be a nuisance:

“Lawyers for both sides point to a similar case from the mid-1990s involving renowned mushers Dan and Mitch Seavey and the family’s Ididaride Sled Dog Tours. Speaking for the family business, Danny Seavey—son of Mitch and grandson of Dan—said that case spent over a decade in court and soured longstanding friendships, but didn’t set any clear precedent for where a musher’s right to a kennel ends and a neighbor’s right to peace and quiet begins.

‘The jury found us a nuisance, and declined to issue any damages,’ Seavey said from the family business in Seward, estimating the damages to be ‘less than $5,000.'”

– Matthew Smith, KNOM.org, May 7, 2015

People don’t like living near 50 to 60 sled dogs:

“When my parents divorced my mom got a ten-acre piece of property on Pitman Road.” “She gave me two and a half acres, but people don’t like it that I have fifty or sixty dogs there. I’m about three or four miles from Iditarod Trail headquarters.”

– Jason Mackey, Chapter 6, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Many Iditarod mushers own more than 50 dogs.

A kennel of 20 dogs produces two tons of dog waste annually: 

“The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste per day—or 274 pounds per year .

A musher with a modest-sized kennel of 20 dogs must dispose of more than two tons of dog waste annually!

To get an idea of the scale of the dog waste generated in Alaska, consider that in Fairbanks and Anchorage alone, an estimated 20 million pounds of dog waste is produced each year.

Left alone, dog waste can pollute ground and surface water, attract flies and pests, cause an unpleasant odor, and create unsanitary living conditions for dogs.

Dog waste can also transmit parasites and infectious diseases.”

– United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, Composting Dog Waste, December, 2005

Lightning can electrocute tethered Iditarod dogs

Dogs on chains can be killed by lightning strikes:

“Dog houses are not safe, and dogs which are chained to metal chains or wire runners are particularly vulnerable to a nearby lightning strike.”

– National Weather Service, Public Information Statement, May, 2002

— Alaska had 31,000 lightning strikes in three days:

“There were more than 31,000 lightning strikes in Alaska from June 19 to June 21, and that is also the cause of nearby North Fork Fire No. 457, which had burned 971 acres by Monday evening.”

– Austin Baird, KTUU.com, June 23, 2015

— Alaska hit by 6,000 to 10,000 lightning bolts a day:

“[Kale] Casey told ABC News today. ‘In addition to the dry season we’re having, we’ve had a huge amount of lightning — about 6,000 to 10,000 bolts per day. There was three-day period in June where we had over 31,000 lightning strikes’.”

– Kale Casey is a public information officer for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which serves as a focal point for state agencies involved in wildland fire management and suppression.
– Avianne Tan, ABC News, July 1, 2015

— Lightning storms occur during winter and summer months:

“Usually they [thunderstorms and lightning] are observed along the Outer Coast as strong cold fronts move in from the Gulf of Alaska. Interestingly, these storms can occur during the winter months as well as during summer.”

“Very active thunderstorm days may feature 2,000 to 5,000 lightning strikes, mainly occurring during the late afternoon hours in late June and early July.”

– National Weather Service, Juneau, Lightning Page, website article, April, 2003

Hot as hell

Iditarod dogs can suffer from heatstroke: 

Most Iditarod dog shelters are on open plots of land that have no shade. The vast majority of shelters are so close to the ground the dogs can’t go underneath them. Inside their shelters, dogs get no relief from the heat, since most don’t permit enough airflow to create a cooling effect. These shelters are small. Each one has a solid flat roof and floor, three solid walls and a fourth wall with a small hole. Some shelters are made from metal or plastic. These materials can become extremely hot.

– Sled Dog Action Coalition

Heatstroke common in chained dogs deprived of water and/or shade:

“Nonexertional heatstroke most commonly develops when dogs are confined in an overheated enclosure or chained outdoors and deprived of water and/or shade.”

– Flournoy SW, Wohl JS, Macintire DK. Heatstroke in dogs: Pathophysiology and predisposing factors. Compen Contin Educ Pract Vet. 2003;25:410–418.

Limited airflow prevents loss of body heat:

“Static air also prevents the movement of warm air, decreasing convection and further loss of body heat.”

– Flournoy SW, Wohl JS, Macintire DK. Heatstroke in dogs: Pathophysiology and predisposing factors. Compen Contin Educ Pract Vet. 2003;25:410–418.

"Do not leave your pet's water bowl or food bowl in the sun. The water or bowl itself can become so hot that the animal is burned by touching it and cannot ingest the hot water." - North Figueroa Animal Hospital. Photo attributed to Tom Brady on flickr.

Iditarod dog with bowl left in the hot sun. North Figueroa Animal Hospital said: “Do not leave your pet’s water bowl or food bowl in the sun. The water or bowl itself can become so hot that the animal is burned by touching it and cannot ingest the hot water.” Summers in Alaska can be very hot. Photo attributed to Tom Brady on flickr.

Sled dog burns:

“Do not leave your pet’s water bowl or food bowl in the sun. The water or bowl itself can become so hot that the animal is burned by touching it and cannot ingest the hot water.”

– North Figueroa Animal Hospital, website, 2015

— Summers in Alaska can be very hot:

Temperatures in Willow, Alaska during the summer have been as high as 89 °F; in Fairbanks they’ve been as high as 94 °F.

– weather.com, 2013

“All-time highs were recorded elsewhere [other than Anchorage], including 96 degrees on Monday 80 miles to the north in the small community of Talkeetna….”

– Rachael D’Oro, Associated Press, June 19, 2013

“In the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the country, with average temperatures up by nearly 3°F. ” 

– Todd Sanford, PhD, Regina Wang, and Allyson Kenward, Phd. The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, climatecentral.org, June 24, 2015

“Another HOT day in Eagle as they reached 87 degrees at the airport. That is the 6th consecutive day of 80 degrees or higher!”

– National Weather Service, Fairbanks, Tweet, May 22, 2015

“Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, has been warming even faster than other regions of the world due to climate change. That was the findings of a report this spring from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which found that the rate of warming will only continue to increase in the coming decades.”

– Cole Mellino, ecowatch.com, June 5, 2015

Jillions of painful bug bites

Chained dogs are tormented by attacks from insects, including wasps, bees, mosquitoes, flies, midges and gnats:

“We’re talking jillions here: mosquitoes, midges, gnats, black flies, hornets and other stuff we can’t even spell check. Alaska teems with these creepy crawlies all summer long.”

– Doug Harra, Alaska Dispatch News, May 12, 2011

“No discussion of northern summer and northern sled dogs in that season would be complete without mention of the bugs: mosquitoes, blackflies or sandflies, deer flies, ‘bulldogs,’ ‘no-see-ums,’ the works.””…These hordes can be almost life-threatening in their ferocity.”

– Olesen, Dave. Cold Nights Fast Trails, Minocqua: NorthWord Press, Inc., 1989

Horse fly bites are extremely painful for dogs. Photo attributed to Dennis Ray on wikimedia.

Horse fly bites are extremely painful for dogs. Photo attributed to Dennis Ray on wikimedia.

“Horseflies are maddening to the dogs and bite until they make small bloody wounds….”

“Canadian black flies can get so thick that they practically choke a panting dog. They bite around the eyes and ears until scabs form.”

– Collins, Miki and Julie Collins. Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1991

— Horse fly bites are extremely painful for dogs:

“Some of the largest flies in the world, horse flies are common throughout North America and produce extremely painful bites. The horse fly’s mouthparts account for their painful bite—while many small insects use a piercing proboscis to feed on the blood of other animals, the horse fly is equipped with a scissorlike pair of mandibles.”

– Orkin, Flies and Dogs, website article, 2013

Wasp in Alaska. Wasp stings cause painful swellings in dogs. When a dog is stung several times, he can go into shock as a result of absorbed toxins. Dog who have been stung previously may go into anaphylactic shock. Photo attributed to alaskanent on flickr.

Wasp in Alaska. Wasp stings cause painful swellings in dogs. When a dog is stung several times, he can go into shock as a result of absorbed toxins. Dog who have been stung previously may go into anaphylactic shock. Photo attributed to alaskanent on flickr.

— Many more wasps in Alaska than in 1900:

“There are now about 11 species of yellow jackets in Alaska, and many more species of other types of wasps, [Dr. Derek] Sikes said. That far surpasses the total of two species of wasps observed a century earlier by the 1900 Harriman Expedition to Alaska.”

– Dr. Sikes is an entomologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
– George Bryson, Anchorage Daily News, May 18, 2008

“Long-term chaining during the hot summer months can result in countless insect bites, dehydration, and heat stroke.”

Cincinnati Enquirer, May 29, 2009

—  Stings cause erythema, edema, pain and even death:

“Four possible reactions are seen after insect stings: local reactions, regional reactions, systemic anaphylactic responses, and less commonly, delayed-type hypersensitivity. Clinical signs of bee and wasp stings include erythema, edema, and pain at the sting site. Occasionally, animals develop regional reactions. Onset of life-threatening, anaphylactic signs typically occur within 10 minutes of the sting.”

– Fitzgerald, KT and Flood, AA. Clinical techniques in small animal practice. 2006 Nov.; 21 (4):194-204

Dog's heart infected with heartworm nematodes. Photo attributed to Alan R. Walker on Wikimedia

Dog’s heart infected with heartworm nematodes. Photo attributed to Alan R. Walker on Wikimedia

—  Mosquitoes can infect dogs with heartworm:

“All dogs are at risk for fleas, ticks, heartworms, and internal parasites. Left untreated these parasites can be dangerous to your dog’s health.”

– VCA East Anchorage Animal Hospital, Anchorage, Alaska, website article, 2012

—  Heartworm disease – What it is and what causes it?

“Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog. The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective (able to cause heartworm disease). The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.”

– U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), website article, 2012

—  Dogs may get infections from scratching itchy mosquito bites:

“And since dogs tend to keep scratching itchy areas, even a minor mosquito bite may lead to a secondary infection.”

– Virbac E-Newsletter, August 30, 2012

Alaska has many mosquitoes and this photo shows a small number of them. Mosquitoes attack dogs who are chained outside. Photo attributed to mecocrus on flickr, taken July 8, 2008

Alaska has many mosquitoes and this photo shows a small number of them. Mosquitoes attack dogs who are chained outside. Photo attributed to mecocrus on flickr, taken July 8, 2008

“Ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes can cause red swollen areas of the skin, which itch and can sometimes become infected.”

– WebVet.com, website article, 2013

— Alaska is home to about 17 trillion mosquitoes:

“Alaska is home to about 17,489,393,939,393 mosquitoes, minus the one you just slapped. Yes, that’s 17 trillion. At 0.0000055 pounds each, the combined weight of Alaska mosquitoes is about 96 million pounds.”

– Ned Rozell, Alaska Dispatch News, May 16, 2015

Alaska State Bird: The Mosquito. Vintage postcard. "In Alaska, the mosquito is the state bird, or so the joke goes because of the size and numbers of the bloodsucking insects" Swarms of these huge bloodsucking mosquitoes bite and torture chained Iditarod sled dogs.

Alaska State Bird: The Mosquito. Vintage postcard. “In Alaska, the mosquito is the state bird, or so the joke goes because of the size and numbers of the bloodsucking insects” Swarms of these huge, bloodsucking mosquitoes bite and torture chained Iditarod sled dogs.

— The mosquito is Alaska’s state bird:

“In Alaska, the mosquito is the state bird, or so the joke goes because of the size and numbers of the bloodsucking insects. The mosquitoes can get so thick hikers have been known to walk while swatting them away with branches from a tree.”

– David Strege, GrindTV, July 29, 2013

—  The air is thick with mosquitoes:

‘If you’re Dallas Seavey, it’s living in a two-story yurt in Alaska where mosquitoes are so thick you hang a bug zapper inside your living room, about 10 feet away from where your toddler’s swing hovers above a couch.”

– Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, July 17, 2012

Chained Iditarod sled dogs can't protected themselves from huge, vicious mosquitoes in Alaska. Photo attributed to mecocrus on flickr.

Chained Iditarod sled dogs can’t protected themselves from huge, vicious mosquitoes in Alaska. Photo attributed to mecocrus on flickr.

“They [Tom Daily and his with Fidaa] were living in a cloud of mosquitoes, surrounded by hungry dogs…”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996

—  Huge, fierce mosquitoes:

“The snow is almost gone and we begin to see tufts of green here and there. Mud (the kind that sucks off your boots) will be a perpetual hazard for the next few weeks. We expect the first ‘bird-sized’ mosquitoes soon.”

– The SP Kennel Dog Log, May 5, 2012
– The SP Kennel is owned by Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore

“The mosquitoes are deadly here. They are not only huge, but they are fierce and out in droves.”

– Jan Steves, Iditarod musher, Living My Dream blog, part 3, June 28, 2013

—  Worst invasion of mosquitoes ever seen:

“With the heat comes an invasion of mosquitoes many are calling the worst they’ve ever seen.”

– Rachael D’Oro, Associated Press, June 19, 2013

Tick attacks

“In a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, researchers identified brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, deer ticks and Lone Star ticks in Alaska.”

“The American dog tick can transmit the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and can secrete a toxin that can cause tick paralysis in dogs and humans, said Lance Durden of Georgia Southern University, lead author on the paper. Tick paralysis can be fatal if it affects breathing muscles.”

– Ned Rozell, Alaska Dispatch News, August 27, 2016

Dog team nearly killed by river erosion

Dogs almost choked to death by their chains:

Kuskokwim River banks. When the land under tethered Iditarod sled dogs falls into the Kuskokwim River, the dogs are almost choked to death by their chains. Photo attributed to Travis on flickr.

Kuskokwim River banks. When the land under tethered Iditarod sled dogs falls into the Kuskokwim River, dogs are almost choked to death by their chains. Photo attributed to Travis on flickr.

“Just as it was getting dark Saturday evening, Akiak resident and dog musher Mike Williams Sr. stepped outside to see his dog lot falling into the Kuskokwim River and seven of his sled dogs being pulled into the water.

‘They were beginning to choke,’ Williams said, ‘but they’re alive, they’re okay now. They got them just in time,’ Williams said.

Williams says the dogs were hanging by their chains, with their bodies dangling over the eroding banks.”

“What Williams experienced is called mass erosion.”

“Areas along the Kuskokwim are no strangers to erosion, especially in the era of Alaska’s climate change. But in Akiak, erosion commonly occurs during breakup season, when the river flows faster, not in late September.

The sediment in communities along the Kuskokwim is composed primarily of silt, a fine gradient, and it’s held together by permafrost.

When the temperatures rise, the permafrost melts, weakening the riverbanks. When a heavy rain comes, it can tear the land away.”

– Lakeidra Chavis, KYUK, Alaska Public Media, September 22, 2015

Snow and ice dangers for sled dogs

Dogs can be injured slipping and falling on glare ice:

Dog shelters are buried in the snow. Photo courtesy of SledDogma.org

Dogs have no protection against cold and wind when their houses are buried in the snow. Photo courtesy of SledDogma.org

“We had a glare ice stage where you could hardly walk around the dog lot without falling on your butt. Even the dogs were falling down when they stepped out of their houses.”

– Freedman, Lew and Jonrowe, DeeDee. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1995

Dogs have no protection from cold and wind when their houses are buried in snow:

“Sometimes so much snow falls that the houses are buried in snow.”

– Freedman, Lew and Jonrowe, DeeDee. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1995