Poor veterinary care

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No Shelter for dogs

These dogs raced 1,000 miles to Nome. They weren’t even given shelters to protect them from the frigid cold, snow or wind.
Photo attributed to jkbrooks85 on flickr, uploaded March 23, 2010

Iditarod doesn't meet its own veterinary goal

“Our goal is to have a veterinary examination of every dog at every checkpoint.”

- Dr. Stuart Nelson, Jr., DVM, Iditarod Dog Care Measures, Iditarod website, 2012
- Dr. Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian.

There are no mandatory veterinary exams of any kind at checkpoints:

“In the race, [Lucy] Smith said her responsibilities included checking and noting the time teams arrived, how many dogs were in the team and whether any of the dogs needed to see a veterinarian.”

- This was Lucy Smith’s third consecutive year at the Kaltag and Rohn checkpoints at the race.
- Livi Stanford, The Village Daily Sun, March 25, 2012

“At each checkpoint, veterinarians are on stand-by to check on the dogs.”

- Brian Gehring, Bismarck Tribune, March 26, 2012

Mushers not required to document that dogs are vaccinated

“[Aliy] Zirkle noted that there was concern about how Iditarod will verify documentation for vaccinations. Dr. [Stuart] Nelson noted that this has been on the honor system. There isn’t any other way to do it.”

- Aliy Zirkle is a musher.
- Dr. Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian.
- Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc., Board of Directors Meeting, December 2, 2011, Iditarod website.

Iditarod veterinarian's incorrect statements about kennel cough

(infectious tracheobronchitis)

Dr. Yeltatzie says kennel cough isn’t contagious and is “nothing to worry about”:

“None of the sicknesses appear to be contagious, [Samantha] Yeltatzie added, although some dogs were diagnosed with kennel cough before the start of the race.

‘It’s nothing to worry about,’ the veterinarian said. Dogs get kennel cough the way people get colds.”

- Samantha Yeltatzie was the lead veterinarian in the Nikolai checkpoint.
- Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 8, 2011

Veterinarians allow dogs with kennel cough to race

Kennel cough is highly contagious:

“Kennel cough can be caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. It is very contagious and your dog can become infected if it comes into contact with an infected dog.”

- American Veterinary Medical Association, website article, March 18, 2011

“Kennel cough is a fairly common and highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs.”

- Janet Tobiassen Crosby, veterinarian, about.com, March 17, 2011

“Technically known as “tracheobronchitis”, Kennel Cough or Bordetella, is an upper respiratory infection with the major sign being a persistant, dry, hacking cough. It often lasts several weeks and is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.”

- Dr. Matthew G. Smith, Brookview Animal Hospital, website article, March 17, 2011

“She [Heather Siirtola] said kennel cough spread through a lot of the teams causing mushers, including four-time defending champion Lance Mackey, to drop dogs along the way.”

- Brian Gehring, Bismarck Tribune, March 29, 2011

– Kennel cough typically lasts between 10 and 21 days:

“The kennel cough will typically last between 10 and 20 days. If the dog is under stress or he is affected by a different disease that will challenge his immune system, the kennel cough symptoms may reoccur. The disease will be contagious several weeks after the dog shows no other symptoms of kennel cough.”

- vetinfo.com, March 19, 2011

“Symptoms may last as long as 20 days.”

- Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, About.com, March 19, 2011

“A young, otherwise healthy dog should not be ill with the disease, and the cough should get better within 2-3 weeks. Very young or old dogs with other diseases may be much more severely affected by kennel cough.”

- Riverside Animal Hospital, Green Bay, Wisconsin, website article, March 19, 2011

- Dogs taking antibiotics can give other dogs kennel cough:

“However, these (antibiotic tablets) will not stop the coughing more quickly nor will they make it safe for your dog to mix with other dogs.”

- Riverside Animal Hospital, Green Bay, Wisconsin, website article, March 19, 2011

Strenuous exercise can cause permanent lung damage and breathing problems in dogs with kennel cough:

“Treatment consists mainly of rest, especially in working dogs, sheepdogs, hunting dogs and shooting dogs, because permanent lung damage can result if the dog is made to take exhaustive exercise before it has fully recovered.”

- Dr. Jill Bowen, veterinarian, The Roanoke Times, April 11, 2010

Kennel cough may progress to fatal pneumonia in puppies and to chronic bronchitis in adult or old dogs:

“Infectious tracheobronchitis [kennel cough] results from inflammation of the upper airways. It is a mild, self-limiting disease but may progress to fatal bronchopneumonia in puppies or to chronic bronchitis in debilitated adult or aged dogs.”

- The Merck Veterinary Manual, March 18, 2011

“Strenuous exercise should be avoided, as this will cause additional breathing problems.”

- Vetinfo.com, March, 2011

“Dogs of all ages are susceptible, and while the disease in itself is mild, in puppies and old dogs it can lead to complications such as pneumonia.”

- Dr. Jill Bowen, veterinarian, The Roanoke Times, April 11, 2010

“It is worthwhile to note that kennel cough may have potentially serious respiratory complications for very young and very old dogs.”

- Janet Tobiassen Crosby, veterinarian, about.com

Information about very old dogs racing in the Iditarod: OLD

Information about puppies racing in the Iditarod: PUPPIES

Dogs with kennel cough should be kept warm:

“To help prevent the development of pneumonia, dogs with kennel cough should be rested and kept in a relatively warm environment.”

- City of Springdale Animal Services, website article, March 2011

“Dogs should be kept in a dry, warm, draft-free environment. Exercise should be avoided until the condition subsides.”

- Glendale Animal Hospital, Glendale, AZ, website article, March 2011

“The BEST thing to do for a dog with kennel cough is provide them with a warm, stress-free home. In this environment most dogs will recover within a few weeks.”

- UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, website article, March, 2011

When kennel cough symptoms are resolved, intense exercise is still dangerous:

“Kennel cough is a potentially serious respiratory disease that is easily transmitted in an environment in which dogs are closely confined, like racing kennels. Even after the symptoms appear to be resolved, there is latent residual pathology that makes it dangerous for dogs to exercise with any intensity without risking permanent pulmonary damage.”

- Paula Kislak, DVM, Director, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, May 18, 2011 email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition

What is kennel cough or infectious canine tracheobronchitis?

“Infectious canine tracheobronchitis, also know as canine respiratory disease complex and kennel cough, is not a single disease but a clinical disease syndrome. The most commonly incriminated agents are canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus, canine herpesvirus, reovirous, Bordetella bronchiseptica, mycoplasmas, and occasionally canine distemper virus.

Infectious canine tracheobronchitis is highly contagious and most commonly occurs where groups of dogs of different ages and susceptibility are congregated. Aerosol or direct contact is considered the main source of exposure. Clinical signs usually develop 3 to 5 days after initial exposure.”

- Ettinger, Stephen J. Pocket companion to textbook of veterinary internal medicine, Philadelphia: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2001.

Veterinarians don’t pull dogs with kennel cough from Iditarod:

“For now, his [Lance Mackey] dogs have what he believes are the early symptoms of kennel cough. A wheel dog named Pat “hasn’t eaten probably a pound of food since the starting line,” he said.

At about 8:30 p.m., hours before Mackey was scheduled to leave, he stood in the dark as a vet checked one of his leaders, Rev. The dog made a hacking sound.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint

Kyle Hopkins: “So you have a little bit of illness also on your team?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yah, for sure I had that stupid kennel cough like big time. It started like two days before the race.”

Kyle Hopkins: “Do you think they got it on the Quest?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yeah for sure, Ken [Anderson] had it, Hans [Gatt] had it. So I guess we three kind of stuck together there. So I guess we all got it.”

- iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint
- Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.
- The 2011 Iditarod started on March 5.

“As the race got underway, [Hans] Gatt said about half of his team was battling kennel cough.”

- Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 9, 2011

“Disappointment in the Iditarod. After contacting Kennel Cough before the race I had hopes the team would recover in time. Unfortunately only some of them did. By McGrath I was down to 9 dogs from the 16 that started, due to a combination of illness & injury. The remaining dogs were still showing strong symptoms of the cough, and with only one leader remaining I decided it was in the best interest of the dogs to end the race at this point.”

- Iditarod musher Gerry Willomitzer, www.gerrywillomitzer.com, March, 2011

“The run from TAKOTNA to OPHIR is short, but hilly. I gauge my team by the time interval we take to cover this distance. A good time is 2 and a half hours. I always think back to my first Iditarod. My entire dog team had kennel cough and were moving slowly right here.”

- Aliy Zirkle, SP Kennel Dog Log, Iditarod Trail Notes, 2010
- According to the Iditarod’s website, Aliy Zirkle’s first Iditarod was in 2001.

“Jamie [Nelson] said her team had come down with what the vets thought was kennel cough.”

- Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead, North Wapiti Iditarod 2000 Journal – Finger Lake to Rainy Pass, northwapiti.com, 2000

“Some of his [Lance Mackey] dogs were coughing and one was in heat.”

- Associated Press, March 12, 2008

“Kate was also coming down with kennel cough which was going around the other teams too. My team had managed to not get it before the race but once we got around the other dog teams it was hard not to get.”

- Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, Iditarod 2004
- Royer and her team were near the Finger Lake checkpoint which is 194 miles from Anchorage.

“In the radio shack I heard Del Carter, the veterinarian, saying there was a kennel cough epidemic at Ophir.” Sixteen dogs were ill, and he wanted medicine. Sure enough, several dogs in the surrounding teams were coughing and hacking.”

- Riddles, Libby and Tim Jones. Race Across Alaska, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

“On top of the spoiled food, the dogs developed some kennel cough during the race.”

- Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Veterinarians put sick dogs on cephalosporin (an antibiotic) and let them keep racing:

Lance Mackey: “I’m going to take them to Ophir and see what happens.”

Veterinarian: “I would say at this point since you haven’t had them on cephalo[sporins], give them at least 24 hours…”

- iditablog, Anchorage Daily News March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint

“‘(Pebbles) started coughing in McGrath. We put her on drugs right away, but it’s getting down into her lungs,’ [Judy] Currier said.”

- iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2011, Anvik checkpoint
- According to the Iditarod’s website, there are 223 miles between the McGrath and Anvik checkpoints

- Dogs taking antibiotics can give other dogs kennel cough:

“However, these (antibiotic tablets) will not stop the coughing more quickly nor will they make it safe for your dog to mix with other dogs.”

- Riverside Animal Hospital, Green Bay, Wisconsin, website article, March 19, 2011

- Cephalosporin has its own set of problems:

“Allergic reactions such as itching, rash and difficulty breathing may occur. Side effects in dogs may also include drooling, rapid breathing and excitability.”

- AnimalShelter.org website article, March 19, 2011

- Dogs with kennel cough shouldn’t be stressed with exercise:

“Dogs who are recovering from kennel cough should not be stressed with exercise or excitement for at least a week.”

- Dr. Melinda Striyle and Dr. Tiffany Schmidt, 43rd Ave. Animal Hospital, Glendale, AZ, website article, March 19, 2011.

“Affected individuals should be allowed to rest.”

- Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM, drbarchas.com, March 19, 2011

“Restriction of exercise will help decrease the irritation of the airways.”

- Dr. Tom Liebl and Dr. Robin Michael, Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital, Lawrence Kansas, website article, March 19, 2011

“If your dog has kennel cough you should keep it in a warm environment (where possible) and try not to exercise it too much.”

- Riverside Animal Hospital, Green Bay, Wisconsin, website article, March 19, 2011

Veterinarians give dogs massive doses of antibiotics to keep them racing in the Iditarod.

Veterinarians give dogs massive doses of antibiotics to keep them racing in the Iditarod.

Veterinarians allow other sick and injured dogs to continue racing in Iditarod

Lance Mackey’s dog in awful pain from ripping out his own toenails is allowed to race:

Annie Feidt: “He’s [Lance Mackey] further back in the race than he was at his point last year when he finished 16th and he’s leaving with nine dogs, one of whom has a minor injury. But he’s too stubborn to drop the dog.”

Lance Mackey: “Because it was kind of a self-inflicted wound keeping this female in heat and it’s caused other issues that are fixable. This particular little issue is he’s been working hard to get to that female in front of him. He ripped off his toenails. He’s still able to walk with no toenails. It’s just kind of painful.”

- Annie Feidt from Alaska Public Radio interviewed Lance Mackey on March 12, 2012, APRN.org website

–Ripped off toenails are extremely painful:

“The worst type of broken toe nail is called an avulsed toe nail. This is when the nail is actually pulled off. This type is also extremely painful and tends to bleed a lot.”

- Dr. Ellen Leonhardt, DVM, Animal General of East Norwich, East Norwich, NY, website article, 2012

“Any toenail ripped or cracked at the base will be very painful and may bleed-sometimes LOTS!”

- Dr. Emily R. Roberson, DVM, Animal Hospital of East Davie, Advance, NC, website article, 2012

Jessie Royer’s dogs, in great pain from cracked webbing, are allowed to race:

“Jessie Royer, who trains in Montana where it’s often warm, said she was worried about the condition of her dogs’ feet. Wet all the time, the webbing was cracking. She described it ‘like having you hands in dish soap all the time. My dogs are used to the (warm) weather, but this is even too much for them,’ she said.”

- Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch, March 8, 2013

- Dogs have substantial pain when the webbing on their paws is cracked:

“Cracked webbing of the feet, especially in warm weather, would make the dogs vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infection of the damaged areas. The other issue is pain, which would be substantial with this type of damage regardless whether there is infection. Although booties might reduce the incidence of damage, once the foot is damaged, they would not help much with the pain even if they reduced the potential for infection.”

- Veterinarian Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on July 20, 2013

Veterinarians allow Martin Buser’s dogs to race with infected paws:

“Asked by a KNOM reporter in Nome if he ‘messed up’ by starting so fast over the first four days, [Martin] Buser said no. The problem, he said, was that he ran in the heat of the day and ran without booties, which allowed his dogs’ feet to get infected, leaving the musher to nurse sore paws the rest of the way.”

- The KNOM interview with Martin Buser was on March 18, 2011.
- Alaska Dispatch, March 4, 2013

All of Martin Buser’s dogs had diarrhea and veterinarians allowed them to race:

Martin Buser: “I had 14 squirting leaving Iditarod….”

Lance Mackey: “I did hear that.”

Martin Buser: “Mine were just leaving Iditarod. But I could see, so I put them on bread and water.”

- Anchorage Daily News, video, partial transcript, March 8, 2013

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod’s website, Martin Buser left the Iditarod checkpoint with 14 dogs.]

Scott Janssen’s dog collapsed 27 miles out of Rainy Pass checkpoint:

According to the Iditarod’s website, Scott Janssen was at the Rainy Pass checkpoint for 6 hours and 14 minutes.Veterinarians were at Rainy Pass.The checkpoint is 112 miles from Willow where the Iditarod officially started.

“Iditarod sophomore Scott Janssen was making his way down a steep section of the Dalzell Gorge when the dog collapsed. One moment, 9-year-old Marshal was pulling hard at the sled, the tug line taut as a guitar string. The next, the husky was on the ground.’Boom! Laid right down. It was like a guy my age having a heart attack,’ said Janssen, who owns an Anchorage funeral home and calls himself ‘The Mushing Mortician.’”

- Kyle Hopkins, Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2012

“As Janssen told KNOM trail reporter Laureli Kinneen in Takotna, he had a frighteningly close call with one of his sled dogs, Marshall, during the run from Rainy Pass to Rohn. While mushing through the Dalzell Gorge, Marshall suddenly collapsed.”

- KNOM on the Trail, KNOM.org, website article, March, 2012

Veterinarians allow Dallas Seavey’s limping dog to race:

“The onslaught of top mushers and crowd favorites continued with the arrival of Dallas Seavey. He said the trail was slow and ended up leaving one of his pups behind. ‘He’s got kind of a mystery limp in the front left. I had the vets check it out at the last checkpoint and they didn’t find anything. It’s definitely effecting him…’”

- Alaska Public Radio, March 7, 2012

At Rainy Pass checkpoint, Rick Swenson told vets his dogs had a virus:

“Veterinarians in Rainy Pass on Wednesday, a checkpoint 176 miles before McGrath, said that [Rick] Swenson had talked about his dogs picking up a virus.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2005

Rick Swenson arrived at Rainy Pass with 16 dogs and left with 16:

2005 Iditarod – Rainy Pass Checkpoint

Musher Time In Dogs In Time Out Dogs Out Rest Time
Rick Swenson 3/07/2005 17:56 16 3/07/2005 18:00 16 00:04

- Iditarod website, 2005

QUESTIONS:

1) Why didn’t the vets pull the sick dogs from the race?
2) Swenson stayed at the Rainy Pass checkpoint for four minutes. Did the vets give his dogs physical examinations?
3) Why didn’t Swenson leave his sick dogs at the checkpoint?

Vet doesn’t pull injured dog from the race:

Veterinarian: “Get some povidone-iodine. Beta iodine.”

DeeDee Jonrowe, holding a dog’s leg: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Beta iodine. Then I think it would probably be better to wrap it. It’s been cold all this time so it doesn’t stiffen up on him while he’s going to be racing.”

DeeDee Jonrowe: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Wrap it.”

DeeDee Jonrowe: “Wrap it with a hot pack?”

Veterinarian: “Yes.”

DeeDee Jonrowe, taping the dog’s leg: “OK.”

Veterinarian: “Tape it more.”

Sound of the dog crying.

- Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Kaltag checkpoint, Iditarod, 2005

DeeDee Jonrowe arrived at the Kaltag checkpoint with 12 dogs and left with 12 dogs.

- Iditarod website, 2005

Veterinarians do not pull Steve Madsen’s sick dogs from race:

“Some of the dogs had been sick with diarrhea and treated at a prior checkpoint. They showed little spark after that.

Battling the winds, Madsen could practically see their body fat melting off.”

- Kay Richardson, The Columbian, April 16, 2006

Veterinarians do not pull limping dog from Iditarod:

“When leaving the Nikolai checkpoint, leader Brutus began limping badly so I stopped the team before we got of the checkpoint.”

- Warren, James and Warren, Christopher. Following My Father’s Dream, James and Christopher Warren, 2005

Veterinarians do not pull Kelly Maixner’s sick dogs from Iditarod:

“He [Kelly Maixner] should have done better this year, but one dog got sick the first day and it just spread through the rest of the dogs.”

- Joel Maixner is speaking about his son Kelly Maixner.
- Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press, March 28, 2013

Veterinarian doesn’t pull Rachael Scdoris’ sick dogs from race:

“Their diarrhea had not improved and I could tell they were not as healthy as at the start of the race. Although they drank as much as the other dogs they were becoming dehydrated. If the medication did not kick in, they would begin to lose weight and the physical strain of running would take them down even faster. I was concerned enough that I called the veterinarian’s attention to it. He gave me more medication.”

- Scdoris, Rachael and Steber, Rick. No End in Sight: My Life as a Blind Iditarod Racer, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007

Veterinarians let Ed Iten race sick dogs and give him vet’s Humanitarian Award:

“Considering his dogs struggles with diarrhea from Day 2 of the Iditarod all the way to his 24-hour stop in the ghost town of Iditarod, he’s [Ed Iten's] pleased. ‘I saw my first turd today,’ he said.”

- Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2007

(The 2007 Iditarod started on March 3. After the 2007 Iditarod, the veterinary staff gave Ed Iten its Humanitarian Award. – Iditarod website, 2007)

Veterinarians don’t pull James Warren’s sick dogs from race:

“Raven’s shoulder was sore but they allowed me to take her with the promise of carrying her if she got worse.”

- James Warren talking about Iditarod veterinarians
- James Warren, Iditarod ’06 Journal, published on the Internet

“The dogs I had left were not the strongest. Among them was 38 lb Utah who was still sick and hardly pulling.”

“Utah was feverish and was marginal at best.” “I shifted to Utah and claimed that Utah’s fever may be a normal temperature for her and pointed out she wasn’t dehydrated. They [the veterinarians] relented and left her in the team with the promise of checking her in Ophir.”

- James Warren’s report on what happened at the Takotna checkpoint
- James Warren, Iditarod ’06 Journal, published on the Internet

Ophir to Cripple to Ruby:

“When time came to feed and get ready to go I found they were definitely very sick and not thrilled about running. I thought if I got them into Cripple I could nurse them through the illness with the help of the vets.”

“With meds from the vet I medicated the dogs.”

“Cripple to Ruby was nearly a disaster.” “I struggled for mile after mile. The dogs were sick.”

- Warren, James and Warren, Christopher. Following My Father’s Dream, James and Christopher Warren, 2005

Veterinarian allows dog with sprained toe to continue racing:

“Skidders had me concerned. My old wheel dog was limping.”

“Doc [Cooley] diagnosed Skidder’s limp as resulting from a sprained toe.”

“When I wasn’t terrified by the weather, I was appalled by Skidders’s torturous limp.”

“I dragged Doc [Cooley] outside to examine Skidders. Afterward, the veterinarian advised me that the veteran sled dog’s minor toe sprain wasn’t necessarily cause to drop him.”

- Skidders was nine years old.
- Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996

– Dogs with sprains should rest:

“A sprain is an injury caused by sudden stretching or tearing of the ligaments in and around the joint, or the joint capsule itself. Signs are pain over the joint, swelling of the tissues, and temporary lameness.”

“It is most important to prevent further injury by resting the affected part. Restrict activity by confining the dog in a small area. Apply cold packs to the injured joint for 15 to 30 minutes, three or four times a day for the first 24 hours.”

- pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-sprains-strains, 2012

Veterinarian allows dog with raw paw to continue to race:

“The rest of her [Mary Shields] dogs were in good shape, except for Ambler whose left front foot pad was raw. Along with dog booties and antibiotics from the veterinarian Amber continued on to Nome.”

- Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Vets allow dog with problem running to continue racing; dog collapses before next checkpoint:

“I had stopped at the Rainy Pass checkpoint for a couple of hours to give the dogs a ‘trail feed,’ pick up food, drop Jake (he had a bicep injury), and have Lolo examined for some small kink in his gait. The examination of Lolo came up blank. Soon, we were off.”

“We were moving along on the slight downhill between the upper part of the [Dalzell] gorge and the lower part, the part where all the bare ice is. I was getting ready to give the dogs their food and water when it happened. Lolo collapsed.”

- Rob Loveman, Rob’s Writings, April, 2009

- According to the Iditarod website, Rob Loveman was at the Rainy Pass checkpoint for 2 hours and 31 minutes.

(From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Lobo collapsed before reaching the Rohn checkpoint. The Rohn checkpoint is 48 miles away from the one at Rainy Pass.)

READ MORE FACTS ABOUT the sick, injured and tired dogs that vets didn’t pull from race

Veterinarians allow sick and injured dogs to start Iditarod

Veterinarians allow dog with cancer to start racing in Iditarod:

“Aberdeen’s presence on the team is even more of a surprise. He was a standout yearling last year, but in the spring we found a large lump on his hind leg. We had the cancer removed, but the vet said it was sure to come back and would likely result in him losing his leg. He also said that the tumor had been growing around the tendons and hock joint, and there had been some damage in removing it, so he would likely have joint problems. The lump did start to reappear….”

- Karin Hendrickson, Iditarod 2009, article on her website

Veterinarians allow dogs with diarrhea to start Iditarod:

“He [veterinarian Terry Adkins] saw very little diarrhea along the trial from the ceremonial start Saturday, he said, adding though that John Barron of Helmville told him his dogs had it. Loose stools are a sign of ill health. Sled dogs relieve their bowels on the run.”

- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 4, 2002

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Because the dogs "relieve their bowels on the run," it is likely that the dogs in back of those who were stricken with diarrhea inhaled this fecal material. The bacterial material it contains could cause infection and death. Sick dogs should be pulled out of the race.]

Veterinarians allow dogs with injuries to start Iditarod:

“Last year, I started my run in the Iditarod swinging for a homerun right out of the starting gate. We did well for a while, but a gift basket assortment of nagging injuries left over from the Beargrease the month prior knocked me back somewhat, and a wicked nasty case of the doggy flu pretty much finished me off by the time I reached the Yukon.”

“Oh well–that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I met some pretty neat people while I was limping along–Pete Kaiser was one of them.”

- Jason Barron, Jason Barron’s blog, March 2011

“He’s [Don Bower's dog Batman] had an open sore on one of his front footpads since before the race and even with booties and lots of ointment, it’s not improving.”

- Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Veterinarians allow dogs with kennel cough to start racing in Iditarod:

“The rookie is making his second Iditarod attempt. His team became sick with kennel cough in the 2012 race, forcing him to scratch in Kaltag. [Josh Cadziw] said, “As soon as I got to Anchorage, last year, the whole team was coughing.”

- Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 2013

“Disappointment in the Iditarod. After contacting Kennel Cough before the race I had hopes the team would recover in time. Unfortunately only some of them did. By McGrath I was down to 9 dogs from the 16 that started, due to a combination of illness & injury. The remaining dogs were still showing strong symptoms of the cough, and with only one leader remaining I decided it was in the best interest of the dogs to end the race at this point.”

- Iditarod musher Gerry Willomitzer, www.gerrywillomitzer.com, March, 2011

“One dog had a cough the day the race started and that illness spread through the team, he said.”

- Terry Adkins, DVM, discussing musher Karen Land’s dogs
- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 8, 2003

Kyle Hopkins: “So you have a little bit of illness also on your team?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yah, for sure I had that stupid kennel cough like big time. It started like two days before the race.”

Kyle Hopkins:
“Do you think they got it on the Quest?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh yeah for sure, Ken [Anderson] had it, Hans [Gatt] had it. So I guess we three kind of stuck together there. So I guess we all got it.”

- iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint
- Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.
- The 2011 Iditarod started on March 5.

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Sebastian Schnuelle won the Iditarod's 2010 Humanitarian Award.]

“As the race got underway, [Hans] Gatt said about half of his team was battling kennel cough.”

- Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 9, 2011

“He [Ken Anderson] did drop 2 dogs, including Pikea because his kennel cough was getting worse and he didn’t want it to progress to something more serious, like pneumonia.”

- Gwen Anderson, journal, Forest Lake Times, March 9, 2011
- Gwen Anderson is Ken Anderson’s wife.
- The 2011 Iditarod started March 6.

“Zirkle, of Two Rivers, limped along the trail Tuesday morning with an ailing dog team. A few of her dogs got sick just before the race, and the bug has spread through her entire team she said.”

- Aliy Zirkle, musher in 2001 Iditarod
- Elizabeth Manning, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2001

“The run from TAKOTNA to OPHIR is short, but hilly. I gauge my team by the time interval we take to cover this distance. A good time is 2 and a half hours. I always think back to my first Iditarod. My entire dog team had kennel cough and were moving slowly right here.”

- Aliy Zirkle, SP Kennel Dog Log, Iditarod Trail Notes, 2010
- According to the Iditarod’s website, Aliy Zirkle’s first Iditarod was in 2001.

Veterinarians allow dogs with viruses to start racing in Iditarod:

“One of his dogs caught a virus three days before the start and it went dog-to-dog through his team through the first two-thirds of the race, he [John Barron] said.”

- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 14, 2002

“Two of his [Bartlett's] veteran dogs were unable to keep running.” “Bartlett suspects the dogs were suffering from a virus. They had not wanted to eat since the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage…”

- Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, Wednesday, March 5, 2003
[In 2003, the Iditarod restart was in Fairbanks on Monday, March 3, two days after the Anchorage ceremonial start. According to the AP report, Barlett's dogs raced for at least three days even though they were too sick to eat.]

Pregnant dogs are forced to race in Iditarod

Pregnant sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod.

Pregnant sled dogs have been forced to race in the Iditarod. Strenuous exercise is bad for ALL pregnant dogs.

“In the past, dogs that were too thin and dogs that were in the last trimester of pregnancy have made it to the starting line. Fortunately the head veterinarian has the authority to prevent these dogs from starting the race….”

- Dr. Stu Nelson, DVM, chief Iditarod veterinarian
- Letter written by Dr. Nelson, Iditarod website, June 2012

Strenuous exercise is bad for ALL pregnant dogs:

“Moderate exercise is recommended. Neither forced rest nor strenuous exercise is a good idea.”

- Dr. Debra Primovic, Phoenix Road Animal Hospital, South Haven, Michigan, website article, 2012

“Gentle regular walking is the best activity for pregnant dogs.”

- Quarry Hill Park Animal Hospital, Rochester, MN, website article, 2012

“Moderate exercise is best for the pregnant dog. Neither forced rest or strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods of gentle play and short walks are good.”

- Lakewood Veterinary, Rushford, NY, website article, 2012

“I don’t usually advise strict rest during a dog’s pregnancy. I wouldn’t recommend doing regular super strenuous activity like long agility trials or marathon running, but jumping on or off of the furniture is not going to cause any harm to developing babies.”

- Dr. Marie, DVM, AskAVetQuestion.com, website article, 2012

“The bitch should continue to have regular, but not strenuous, exercise to help her maintain her muscle tone and not become overweight.”

- Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, website article, 2012

“Your dog needs regular, though not strenuous, exercise during her pregnancy to help maintain muscle tone.”

- vetinfo.com, website article, 2012

“Strenuous exercise for a pregnant animal may be harmful, but a moderate amount is recommended. Moderate exercise includes short walks and short periods of gentle play.”

- Durango Animal Hospital, Las Vegas, Nevada, website article, 2012

“Moderate exercise is the proper approach. Neither forced rest or strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods of gentle play and short walks are good.”

- Peach Grove Animal Hospital, Cincinnati, OH, website article, 2012

“Taking care of a pregnant pet can be extremely difficult. To help, The Saturday Early Show’s resident veterinarian Debbye Turner shared some tips in the latest Pet Planet.” “Moderate exercise is good for a pregnant dog. But avoid strenuous activity and excessively stressful situations, Turner advises.”

- Rome Neal, CBSNEWS.com, February, 2009

A normal level of exercise, but not strenuous, is recommended for pregnant dogs.

- Linda Mar Veterinary Hospital website, 2010

“Regular exercise and walks will help your pregnant dog keep her muscle tone and general health. Working the working breeds, intensive training or taking the dog on a show circuit is not a good idea.”

- Dr. Ron Hines, veterinarian, 2ndchance.info, 2010

Jokes or cover-ups?

Chief vet claims that vets inspect all dogs at all checkpoints:

“Which is why the Iditarod Trail Committee sends four to seven vets to each checkpoint and inspects every dog when a team arrives, [Stuart] Nelson said.”

- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2005

[Look at the statistics published on this page under "No veterinary physical exams given at checkpoints." What kind of "inspection" do individual dogs get when teams breeze through checkpoints? Sometimes the mushers don't even stop.]

Chief vet claims dropped dogs not seriously injured:

“‘The dropped dogs are not seriously injured,’ [Karin] Schmidt said.”

- Karin Schmidt was Iditarod chief veterinarian
- Peter S. Goodman, Anchorage Daily News, March 29, 1995

[The injuries Iditarod dogs have suffered from includes paralysis, ruptured discs, and what the Associated Press described as a "severe neck injury."]

No veterinary physical exams given at checkpoints

Mushers spending little time at checkpoints is evidence dogs don’t get check-ups:

Andrea Flyod-Wilson: “And, that brings up the question, and I’ve looked through the Iditarod rules pretty closely. There is a whole bunch of stuff there about veterinarian checks before the race and during the course of the race.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “My understanding is that the Iditarod Trail Committee rules do not require veterinarians to give the dogs physical examinations at the checkpoints Many of the mushers spend less than five minutes at the checkpoints. This would certainly be inadequate time and evidence of the fact that they’re not getting check-ups. The veterinary care that’s being required by the Iditarod Trail Committee is completely inadequate.”

- Andrea Floyd-Wilson is the host of the All About Animals Radio Show. On February 23, 2003, she interviewed Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

Top teams not getting exams for dogs:

“[Mitch] Seavey asked how many mushers got to Nome without having exams at every checkpoint. [Stuart Nelson] noted that many of the top teams are passing through checkpoints without stopping.”

- Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian
- Mitch Seavey is an Iditarod musher and member of the Iditarod Board of Directors
- Minutes of the Iditarod Board meeting, April 23, 2004

Aliy Zirkle hasn’t stopped at the Skwentna checkpoint for the past 11 years:

Tim Bodony: “This is your first checkpoint since Takotna.”

Aliy Zirkle: “Yeah.”

Tim Bodony: “Have you missed checkpoints or this part of the fun for you?”

Aliy Zirkle: “I’m standard not in checkpoints a lot. Actually I’ve run Iditarod 12 times now and this year is the first time I went to Skwentna.”

- Tim Bodony from Alaska Public Radio Network interviewed Aliy Zirkle on March 9, 2012, APRN.org website

Teams skip a checkpoint:

“Most of the 87 dog teams in this year’s race apparently opted to skip the first checkpoint, Yentna.”

- Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 8, 2004
- Little was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Checkpoint closed:

“The checkpoint was closed when Barry [Lee] mushed into the village on the morning of March 13.”

- O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York:Vintage Books, 1996
- O’Donoghue was a reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner

Musher speeds through checkpoint without getting physical examinations for his dogs:

“Buser reached Nulato at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. He paused for 2 minutes, just long enough to drop a dog at the checkpoint.”

- Maureen Clark, Associated Press, March 9, 2002

Musher thinks about blowing through checkpoints:

“One [rookie] cornered me recently and peppered me with questions like, ‘What happens if I want to blow through a checkpoint: Will the dogs just want to lie down?’ Answer: Not if they are trained to run through checkpoints.”

- Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 7, 2004
- Little is a former reporter with the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Dogs are pushed to race without being given veterinary physical exams:

[Some dogs may have been suffering from joint and muscle pains, injuries or illnesses.]

A sample of the data from the 2013 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Minutes at checkpoint
Ray Redington, Jr Anik 12 0:02
Martin Buser Rainy Pass 16 0:02
DeeDee Jonrowe Finger Lake 16 0:01
Sonny Lindner Takotna 14 0:02
Jake Berkowitz Anvik 16 0:01
Jeff King Shageluk 15 0:01
Mitch Seavey Anvik 13 0:01
Dallas Seavey McGrath 14 0:02
Aliy Zirkle Finger Lake 16 0:03
Jason Ulsom McGrath 14 0:02
Robert Bundtzen Takotna 16 0:04

A sample of the data from the 2012 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Minutes at checkpoint
Anjanette Steer McGrath 14 0:01
Martin Buser Tokotna 15 0:02
Aliy Zirkle Finger Lake 16 0:01
Scott Janssen Finger Lake 16 0:02
Pete Kaiser Skwentna 16 0:04
Ken Anderson Finger Lake 16 0:01
Jeff King McGrath 15 0:02
Sonny Lindner Ophir 15 0:02
Brent Sass Ophir 15 0:04
John Baker Ophir 12 0:03
Paul Gebhart McGrath 14 0:02

A sample of the data from the 2011 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dog arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Jessie Royer Anvik 12 00:01
Sebastian Schnuelle Finger Lake 16 00:01
Martin Buser Shageluk 14 00:03
Mitch Seavey McGrath 13 00:01
Ali Zirkle McGrath 14 00:02
Hugh Neff Ophir 13 00:01
Ray Redington Jr. McGrath 13 00:01
DeeDee Jonrowe Shageluk 12 00:01
Ken Anderson Anvik 13 00:02
Dallas Seavey Finger Lake 16 00:01
Cym Smyth Skwentna 16 00:00

A sample of the data from the 2010 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Martin Buser Rainy Pass 16 00:01
Sonny Lindner Ophir 15 00:03
Aliy Zirkle Skwentna 16 00:02
Trent Herbst Takotna 14 00:04
Mitch Seavey Yentna 16 00:03
Tom Thurston Rainy Pass 16 00:02
Dallas Seavey Takotna 14 00:03
Dan Kaduce McGrath 16 00:02
Sven Haltman Rainy Pass 16 00:01
Jason Barron McGrath 15 00:02
Cindy Gallea Finger Lake 16 00:02

A sample of data from the 2009 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Time at checkpoint
Martin Buser Nikolai 14 00:01
Sonny Lindner Shageluk 14 00:00
Rick Larson Takotna 13 00:00
Judy Currier Anvik 13 00:00
Ramy Smyth Skwentna 16 00:00
Mitch Seavey Rainy Pass 16 00:02
Aliy Zirkle McGrath 15 00:01
Matt Hayashida Finger Lake 16 00:01
Ed Stielstra McGrath 13 00:01
Sebastian Schnuelle Anvik 15 00:01
Jake Berkowitz Nikolai 16 00:01


A sample of data from the 2008 Iditarod (Source: Iditarod website)

Name of musher Checkpoint Number of dogs arriving at checkpoint Minutes at checkpoint
Jeff King Ophir 16 0:02
Aliy Zirkle Finger Lake 16 0:02
Jason Mackey Finger Lake 16 0:03
Kjetil Backen McGrath 15 0:02
Jon Korta Takotna 16 0:02
Benoit Gerard Rainy Pass 15 0:02
Warren Palfrey Galena 12 0:03
Jake Berkowitz McGrath 12 0:03
Robert Nelson Tokotna 16 0:01
DeeDee Jonrowe McGrath 15 0:02
Rohn Buser Rainy Pass 16 0:03

Does chief vet have a short memory?

“For the first time in recent memory, mushers pulled into a checkpoint before veterinarians arrived to monitor their dogs.

‘To not have a vet there is a foreign concept to me,’ head veterinarian Dr. Stuart Nelson Jr. said from Nome, where late Tuesday afternoon he was still scrambling to get vets to White Mountain, 77 miles to the east.”

- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2005

[Look under the heading below, "Veterinarians cannot get to checkpoints." You'll read about vets not being able to get to the Cripple checkpoint and about checkpoint staffing problems during the 2004 Iditarod.]

Veterinarians cannot get to checkpoints

“‘Anchorage had record snow amounts and cold conditions as low as minus-40 degrees,’ [Stephanie] White said. ‘We couldn’t get all of the veterinarians flown out because of the weather.’”

- Stephanie White volunteered as an acting race judge at the Kaltag checkpoint.
- Livi Stanford, The Village Daily Sun, March 25, 2012

Storm blocks access to Cripple checkpoint:

“The same weather that probably was slowing those two [mushers] also made it difficult to keep tabs on them. No aircraft risked flying into the storm clouds blocking access to Cripple on Wednesday. Race officials, veterinarians and simple reporters like me all were turned back.”

- Jon Little, Cabelas website, March 10, 2004
- Little was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Storm blocks access to White Mountain checkpoint:

“With all the bad weather I guess the Iditarod officials were having a hard time flying people in to man the checkpoint because I was surprised to find no one around to take my time into the checkpoint.”

“Martin Buser’s wife, Kathy, had been flying along the trail watching the teams – and of course Martin – when her plane was grounded because of bad weather. She was stuck in White Mtn. so she jumped in and took over the checkpoint and became the checker, timer, and vet all in one.”

- Jessie Royer, Jessie’s Sled Dog Page, website page, 2005

Checkpoints understaffed:

“[Stuart] Nelson commented that staffing checkpoints became an issue at some points during the race. Flying conditions were marginal and some personnel were delayed a full day because of that.”

- Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian
- Minutes of the Iditarod Board meeting, April 23, 2004

Veterinarians get sick

25% have Norovirus:

“He [Stuart Nelson] said that 25% of the veterinarians were infected by the Norovirus.”

- Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian
- Minutes of the Iditarod Board meeting, April 23, 2004

- Norovirus:

“The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick.”

“Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Both stool and vomit are infectious.”

“People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery.”

“Currently, there is no antiviral medication that works against norovirus and there is no vaccine to prevent infection. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics work to fight bacteria and not viruses.”

- Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, website article, 2004

Veterinarian gets pneumonia:

“He [veterinarian Dr. Jim Brick] headed to Alaska for the first time in 1999 and, for several years, served on the race trail as a check point vet. But, one year, while volunteering in that capacity in came down with pneumonia and had to hole up for seven days in a tent on a frozen river.”

- John Lowe, The Daily Jeffersonian, March 2, 2008

Sick and injured dogs suffer between checkpoints without vet care

Veterinarians are only stationed at checkpoints. Consequently, when dogs become sick or are injured in remote areas, they do not get help from anyone who is knowledgeable about canine medical care. Dogs may be in agony for many miles. (The Iditarod does not require mushers to take classes or be certified in canine first aid.)

Distance between some checkpoints:

Cripple to Ruby 112 miles
Kaltag to Unalakleet 90 miles
Rohn to Nikolai 75 miles
Ophir to Iditarod 90 miles
Iditarod to Shageluk 65 miles
Shaktoolik to Koyuk 58 miles
Grayling to Eagle Island 60 miles

- Checkpoint distances are from the Iditarod’s website

Veterinarians are sleep deprived

“As soon as mushers started streaming in, [Randy] Parent explained, that veterinarian wouldn’t be able to get more than an hour or two of sleep through about three days of racing.”

- Randy Parent has been the checker at the Kaltag checkpoint for six years
- John Little, Cabelas website, March 14, 2003
- Little was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and was an Iditarod musher

Sleep deprived vets have greatly impaired mental functioning

What are the effects of sleep deprivation?
From Susan E. Conner, Ph.D., Caltech, Assistant Director, Counseling Center:

- Mood shifts, including depression, increased irritability
- Stress, anxiety and loss of sense of humor
- Reduced immunity to disease and viral infection
- Impaired memory functioning
- Reduced ability to handle complex tasks
- Reduced ability to think logically, critically
- Reduced ability to analyze new information
- Reduced decision-making skills and vocabulary
- Reduced motor skills and coordination—more likely to have an accident
- In more severe cases of sleep deprivation, individuals may become disoriented, hallucinate or become psychotic.

- Caltech website, 2002

Lack of sleep makes it difficult to do even mundane acts:

“A lack of sleep makes it difficult to carry out even mundane acts, such as conversing intelligibly or calculating a waiter’s tip.”

- B. Bower, Science News, February 12, 2000

One minute. Iditarod veterinarian had one minute to examine each dog during the race.

One minute. Iditarod veterinarian had one minute to examine each dog during the race.

Dropped sick and injured dogs receive inadequate veterinary care, tied outside with no shelter

Dropped dogs who may be sick are sent to a prison:

“Trail Fact: A record 44 inmates from the Hiland Mountain/Meadow Creek correctional centers in Eagle River have volunteered to care for dogs dropped from race teams, Superintendent Dean Marshall said. Dogs dropped from teams at checkpoints before the midway point of the race are flown to Anchorage and then taken to the prison for tending until the mushers retrieve them.”

- Associated Press, Fairbanks News-Miner, March 7, 2005

“The pilots ferry dropped dogs back to Anchorage, where volunteers take the animals to the Eagle River Correctional Center; there, inmates feed, water and care for canines until their owners return from the trail.”

- Rennick, Penny, ed. The Iditarod, Anchorage: Alaska Geographic, 2001

“As soon as possible, these dogs are flown to dropped-dog hub checkpoints and from there to facilities at either Eagle River [near Anchorage] or Nome. At Eagle River, the minimum-security inmates and their supervisors at Hiland Mountain and Meadow Creek Correctional Center care for dogs dropped from the race.”

- Hood, Mary. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1996

Sick dog gets no vet care after leaving checkpoint and dies:

“Little from Kasilof, a reporter for the Daily News, left the dog [Carhartt] in the care of Iditarod handlers Tuesday because it looked tired and wasn’t eating well.”

“Iditarod executive director Stan Hooley said the dog had been flown to Anchorage on Wednesday by volunteers of the Iditarod Air Force. It was kept overnight and into the day at Eagle River’s Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, where inmates tend dropped dogs.”

“The dog was signed our of Hiland Mountain late Thursday by Melissa DeVaughn, an experienced musher and co-worker of Little’s.”

“She found it dead in her yard Friday morning.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2001

Sick and injured dogs tied outside with no shelter in pouring rain and in snow:

“Another call was a complaint on the dropped dogs from the Iditarod. They are taken to the Highland Correctional Center and were tied out there with no shelter and it was pouring rain.

As we have always said, “LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES”

- Alaska SPCA website, March 12, 2005

“Over the weekend, Hiland was quite the scene after more than 75 dropped dogs arrived late Friday. The dogs usually stay in a covered area but with an overflow crowd some were staked out in the snow.”

- Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2011

Prison inmate gives medication to sick and injured dogs

“If there’s any medication that needs to be done, the lead dog handler takes care of that. And just interact with them, socialize with ‘em,” says Hiland Mountain housing supervisor David Beaulieu.”

- Angela Unruh KTUU-TV, Anchorage, KTUU.com, March 14, 2005

Mushers can override vets and force sick and injured dogs to race

Vets do not have the authority to exclude sick and injured dogs from the race:

“…I’ve been able to keep a couple of dogs in the team the vets thought I should drop.”

- Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000
- Iditarod rules, Iditarod website

“The checkpoint’s vet has recommended sending Pig [Land's lead dog] back to Anchorage, too. ‘He yanked on my dogs’ joints and poked hard at their muscles,’ Land gripes. ‘But he just doesn’t have the sensibility to tell me what I can do with Pig.” “… Land decides she will chance it [keeping Pig in the race].”

Bill Donahue, “Sit. Stay. Fetch.” Sports Illustrated Women, December, 2002

“Peryll Kyzer is nursing her dogs along, including one vets advised her to drop in Nikolai.”

- Alaska Public Radio Network, 1997 Iditarod audio files

Do veterinarians act to prevent drug use?

Iditarod Rule 20 says “dogs are subject to the collection of urine or blood samples, at the discretion of the testing veterinarian.” The purpose of this rule is to guard against mushers giving their dogs illegal performance enhancing drugs. However, there are no statistics about how many dogs were tested and what the results were. It’s possible that in any given year no dogs were tested for drugs.

- Iditarod website, Race Rules

No specific dog to veterinarian ratio required

Iditarod Dog Care Measures call for a “staff of 35 veterinarians, including five rookies annually.” Chief Iditarod veterinarian Stu Nelson said, “We strive to have 35 trail veterinarians.” The Iditarod administration does not require a specific dog to veterinarian ratio, so that more dogs racing do not result in more veterinarians on the trail.

- Information on the number of veterinarians comes from the Iditarod website, 2004

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Vets ignore symptoms of dying dogs

THE STORY OF BURMEISTER’S DOG YELLOWKNIFE

- Noah Burmeister’s dog Yellowknife dies of acute pneumonia:

“The gross necropsy performed on Yellowknife, the 4 year old male from the team of Noah Burmeister which died earlier today, has been completed. According to the board certified veterinary pathologist who conducted the necropsy, preliminary findings indicate that the cause of death was an acute pneumonia.”

- Iditarod Advisory, Iditarod website, March 9, 2006

- Veterinarians at checkpoint thought Yellowknife was healthy:

“‘I was in Rainy Pass when I noticed he wasn’t feeling well,’ said the 26-year-old musher who divides his time between Nome and Nenana. ‘I had one of the vets (veterinarians) look at him. The vets couldn’t find anything (wrong).’

With an OK from the canine medical authorites who work each checkpoint along the course of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, Burmeister made the decision to keep the dog in his team and head up and over the Iditarod high point of Rainy Pass at 3,160 feet. ‘After I got done with my rest [at Rainy Pass], I headed up into the (Dalzell) Gorge and he was doing good until all of a sudden he tipped over,’ Burmeiser said.”

- Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2006
(There are 48 miles between the Rainy Pass and Rohn checkpoints.)

THE STORY OF BACKEN’S DOG TAKK WHO HAD ULCERS AND DIED

First, read about canine ulcer symptoms:

Ulcer symptoms include: “borborygmus, inappetence, emesis, and abdominal discomfort or pain. The presence of ulcer disease may be associated with hematemesis, melena, and chronic weight loss.”

- Michigan Veterinary Specialist Newsletter, Vol2 Issue 1, website article

[Terms: Borborygmus: Bowel sounds, the gurgling, rumbling, or growling noise from the abdomen; Emesis: Vomiting; Hematemesis: The medical term for bloody vomitus;
Melena: Stools or vomit stained black by blood pigment or dark blood products; Inappetence: Lack of desire or appetite]

“Symptoms: intermittent fever, general fatigue, vomiting and gagging, inability to keep down food or fluids –resulting in eventual weight loss of over 40% of body weight, then chronic fatigue -with no energy to stand up, internal bleeding in the stomach and intestines (evident by black stools). He may vomit as much as 12-15 times per day.”

- David Galloway, Houston Chronicle, March 12, 2000
- David Galloway is a content supervisor and columnist for the Houston Chronicle

- Vets were at the checkpoint when Backen and Takk arrived:

“Kjetil Backen, the first musher up the Yukon River, was due in any time and one of the veterinarians was catching a mid-afternoon nap.”

- Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 14, 2004
- Jon Little was formerly a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News

- Takk is only diagnosed with a sore wrist on March 14:

“[Kjetil] Backen arrived in Kaltag [checkpoint] at 2:22 p.m. Saturday and six hours later he was still there.”

“Takk, which means thank you in Norwegian, had a sore wrist.”

“Because the dog’s wrist was sore, he was not pulling well, Backen said.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2004

- Takk drops dead the next day:

“As the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race moved to the Bering Sea coast on Sunday, disaster struck on almost all levels for front-running Kjetil Backen when his lead dog Takk fell dead within a mile of the checkpoint.

The dog, race marshal Mark Nordman said, ‘just sad down and died right there.’”

- Joel Gay and Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2004

Takk, according to Iditarod officials, died of blood loss associated with gastric ulcers.

- Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant, March 18, 2004

THE STORY OF PAUL GEBHARDT’S DOG RITA WHO BLED INTERNALLY FROM ULCERS AND DIED

- Gebhardt is the first musher to arrive at Anik checkpoint:

“Part of Gebhardt’s reward for getting there first [Anik] was this feast: king crab thermidore, smoked tomatoes and feta with balsamic vinaigrette, braised musk ox and shiitake mushroom stew, key lime sorbet, buffalo tenderloin with Madeira peppercorn sauce, smoked salmon Napoleon, and a vanilla ice cream dessert rolled in toasted coconut in a pool of butter rum sauce, drizzled with flaming Grand Marnier.”

- News staff, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2005

- Distance from Anchorage to Anik:

“672 miles”

- Iditarod website, 2005

- Rita dies 30 minutes after leaving Anik and vets are baffled:

“Half an hour after a 24-hour rest in the checkpoint of Anvik, a dog in the team of musher Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof died on Saturday, the first to perish in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Veterinarians say they are baffled.

Gebhardt, Iditarod officials reported, was just out of Anvik on the 20-mile trail to Grayling when the dog dropped in its traces.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2005

[Rita bled internally from ulcers and died. Iditarod rules require mushers to take two eight hour layovers and one 24 hour layover in a race that's 1,150 miles and spans 8 to 15 days. The remainder of the time the dogs may be racing. Rita died 30 minutes outside Anvik, a checkpoint where Gebhardt took his 24 layover. Did the vets ignore Rita's symptoms? Didn't Rita get a physical exam? Wasn't she observed? Do the vets know what the symptoms of ulcers are?]

Pattaroni’s dog dies from undiagnosed ulcer:

“Unknown to Pattaroni, or any of the veterinarians at the checkpoints along the trail, the dog had developed a bleeding ulcer. The ulcer caused it to cough up bits of food and stomach lining. This bacteria-laden material, in turn, was inhaled by the dog and ended up in its lungs, causing what doctors call ”aspiration pneumonia” — a deadly lung infection.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, April 19, 1997

THE STORY OF SWINGLEY’S DOG NELLIE WHO DIED FROM INTUSSUSCEPTION AND PNEUMONIA

- Nellie diagnosed with acute pneumonia:

“Nellie was dropped in Elim on Tuesday, March 15 at a little after 8 a.m. and was transported to Nome early Wednesday afternoon for further treatment related to acute pneumonia. She was transported yesterday evening from Nome to Anchorage for follow up care. Nellie died unexpectedly at approximately 5 a.m. this morning.”

- Iditarod advisory, Thursday, March 17, 2005, Iditarod website

[According to Iditarod rules, dropped dogs who are flown to Anchorage go to the Hiland Mountain/Meadow Creek correctional centers in Eagle River.]

- Nellie also had a double intussusception:

“A gross necropsy has been completed on ‘Nellie,’ a two-year old female from the team of Montana musher Doug Swingley. The initial results indicate that Nellie had a double intussusception.” “In addition, Nellie was being treated for acute pneumonia.”

- Iditarod website, 2005

Read what the Merck Veterinary Manual says about intussusception. Did the vets ignore Nellie’s symptoms? When Nellie got to the prison was she examined by a vet?

Pathophysiology: Intussusception tends to occur when one segment of the intestine is hypermotile. It may also occur with mass lesions (eg, tumors, granulomas, or scars) that become fixed and tend to get thrust into an adjacent lumen of intestine. The most common area for this to occur is the ileocecocolic junction, where the smaller segment of ileum may slide into the larger lumen of the colon.

Distention with gas and fluid occurs proximal to the obstruction. Strangulation or incarceration of bowel occurs with entrapment of intestinal loops in hernias or mesentery. Venous return is impaired although arterial supply remains intact, leading to venous congestion, anoxia, and, necrosis. Loss of blood into the intestinal lumen and peritoneal cavity and the subsequent emigration of bacteria and toxins from the devitalized tissue ensues. The most common toxin-producing bacteria are Escherichia coli and clostridia.

Grossly, wall edema and hemorrhage and mucosal sloughing are apparent within 1-3 hr. After 4 hr, the affected segment of intestine is turgid, and whole blood collects within the lumen. At 8-2 hr, the affected gut appears black, distended, and elongated. Gross necrosis is evident by 20 hr.

Clinical Findings: Clinical signs of small-intestinal obstruction may include lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal distention, fever or subnormal body temperature, dehydration, and shock. Gaseous bowel distention occurs within the initial 12-35 hr after obstruction and is followed by the loss of fluid into the intestinal lumen. Without treatment, death due to hypovolemia ensues within 3-4 days.

Upper or duodenal obstruction tends to present as frequent vomiting. In general, the closer the obstruction to the pylorus, the more severe the vomiting. Obstruction of the lower small intestine (eg, distal jejunum and ileum) is infrequently associated with vomiting. Lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, and ultimate starvation in untreated dogs lead to death within >3 wk.

Intussusception may result in luminal obstruction, mucosal congestion, or infarction, depending on the length of the intussusception and the size of the intestinal loops involved. Clinical signs vary and may include vomiting, abdominal pain, and scant bloody diarrhea. In more chronic cases of intussusception, diarrhea with or without blood is seen. Intussusception is more common in young dogs (< 6-8 mo old).”

- The Merck Veterinary Manual, website, 2005

Joe Redington Sr’s dog dies soon after vet exam from vitamin E deficiency:

“Only one of the five dogs showed any signs of a problem before its death, said Stuart Nelson, Iditarod chief veterinarian. That dog belonged to Joe Redington Sr., who noticed an odd gait in one of his dogs and asked a vet to examine it in Nikolai.

The doctor did a thorough exam, found nothing wrong and assured Redington it was OK to keep the dog in the team. The animal died less than 50 miles down the trail on the way into McGrath and was one of the three dogs later found to be vitamin E deficient.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, April 19, 1997

Vet gives musher veto power over medication

“Veterinarian: ‘We are not putting him on anything for that diarrhea unless you’d like us to.’

Lance Mackey: ‘I don’t think it’s necessary.’”

- Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Iditarod, 2005

'Where's the vet?'

Martin Buser arriving at Nikolai checkpoint: “I need a vet. I need a vet.”

Checker: “He needs a vet.”

Martin Buser: “I need a vet.”

Checker: “Hey Bob, is there a vet in there?”

Martin Buser: “Where’s the vet?”

- Outdoor Life Network (OLN), Nikolai checkpoint, Iditarod, 2005

There was no vet outside to give the dogs even a brief visual check when mushers zipped through the checkpoint.

Chief vet tells mushers how to avoid detection of prohibited medications

“All prohibited drugs must be out of the dogs system at the time of the pre-Race veterinary check. Most anti-inflammatories such as pherrylbutazone and aspirin, which may be used on an injured dog during training are out of the system by 72 hours after they are given. To give a wide safety margin, I recommend that you discontinue all prohibited medications 2 weeks before the start of the Race unless they have been authorized by the head veterinarian.”

- Chief Iditarod veterinarian, Karin Schmidt, DVM
- 1994 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Musher’s/Veterinarian’s Handbook

Sick, injured and tired dropped dogs are crammed into a small airplane. The dogs are not properly secured and can be injured by turbulence, to which a small plane is especially vulnerable.

Sick, injured and tired dropped dogs are crammed into a small airplane. The dogs are not properly secured and can be injured by turbulence, to which a small plane is especially vulnerable.

Bitter cold kept veterinarian from checking dogs

“Buser arrived in Cripple at 1:49 a.m., two hours before veterinarian Scott Moore of Cody, Wyo., was beginning his 3:30 shift. Moore couldn’t sleep because it was minus 42 outside.

‘We were walking around, doing our checks and my feet went numb,” Moore said. “They hurt like hell. I went back inside the wall tent, figuring it ain’t worth losing my feet over a voluntary position.’”

- Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2006
- Cripple was a checkpoint in the 2006 Iditarod.

(Why didn’t the vet bring the dogs inside the checkpoint shelter for their exams?)

Iditarod veterinarians violate oath

Janice Blue: “I have to ask what is the code for veterinarians in animal medicine? What are you supposed to be, what is your mission, or oath that you all take? Because aren’t there veterinarians at these checkpoints? And, how are they allowing this to happen?”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Well that’s a good question. Of course, the oath that we take is primarily like human medical doctors to above all do no harm and to protect the well being, and health and welfare of the animals. And that’s impossible to do under these circumstances. There are no requirements for checkups. Some of the mushers stop at checkpoints for less than five minutes, and there are multiple dogs and multiple mushers, and there’s no way that a single veterinarian that may be at a checkpoint would be checking these animals up. There’s no requirement to do so, and it obviously isn’t done, given the fact that the mushers may be there five minutes or less, and they may have eight or 10 dogs, and there may be many mushers. So, that’s just a physical impossibility. It’s not being done and it’s not being required to be done, so the welfare of the animals is not being looked after.

Then, you add on top of that the veterinary association that oversees the race is the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association, and it’s an industry organization. It’s an organization of veterinarians that’s completely associated and intertwined with the racers, and they stand to gain financially from the race industry. And it’s completely incestuous in terms of their being supported by the race industry, so they have no incentive to call out the racers on their abuses of animals, because their livelihood depends on the racers and the Iditarod race.”

- Janice Blue is host of the radio program Go Vegan Texas, KPFT
- Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is the president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
- The interview was done on February 27, 2006

Veterinarians allow sick injured dogs to start race

Veterinarians let dogs with kennel cough race:

Kyle Hopkins: “So you have a little bit of illness also on your team?”

Sebastian Schnuelle: “Oh, yah, for sure I had that stupid kennel cough like big time. It started like two days before the race.”

- iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2011, Takotna checkpoint
- Kyle Hopkins is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.
- The 2011 Iditarod started on March 5.

“None of the sicknesses appear to be contagious, [Samantha] Yeltatzie added, although some dogs were diagnosed with kennel cough before the start of the race.”

- Samantha Yeltatzie was the lead veterinarian in the Nikolai checkpoint.
- Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch, March 8, 2011

Veterinarian allows dog with swollen wrist start to race:

“Lycos strained his wrist in the last camping trip three weeks ago. He had two weeks off, then 4 easy runs, but the wrist is swollen again. At vet check last Wednesday they said I could probably take him if I was agressive about treatment, but I run the risk of this becoming chronic.”

- Eric O. Rogers, Ph.D. personal blog entry, March 8, 2009

Vets let “gimpy” dogs start racing in Iditarod:

“Like Jones, rookie musher Kelley Maixner is also looking at possibly dropping to 14 dogs. During a training run Wednesday, Maixner noted a few dogs having some trouble.

‘I got a few little banged-up dogs,” said Maixner. “They are doing pretty good, but a little bit gimpy. There (are) two of them, so we will see how they do.’

- Robert DeBerry, Frontiersman, March 6, 2011

(From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Kelly Maixner started the 2011 Iditarod with these “banged-up,” “gimpy” dogs as part of his team of 16 dogs. His team consists of one and two-year old dogs.)

Veterinarian's stitches come out of dog's torn leg

The dog’s wound reopens when stitches come out:

“As I was arriving into Kaltag, I noticed that one of my dogs was starting to slow down. It was a small female named Click, a dog I purchased a few years ago from Jeff King. She had been such a trooper and had worked so hard. Her story started back before Shageluk when I was going up a steep embankment right before the checkpoint. For whatever reason, the back leg of hers got very close to another female in the team named Cobb who took a quick snap at her. Unfortunately, Cobb managed to cause a tear in her leg.” “The problem was the stitches became undone because hind area moved so fast when she trotted down the trail that the wound was open again. The vet in Kaltag immediately put stitches in her again and she was on the next plane to Anchorage where my handler picked her up the next day.”

- Bruce Linton, Iditarod Journals, website article, 2007

Physician allowed to volunteer as a veterinarian during Iditarod

“A physician volunteering as a veterinarian tried to help, but [Zoya] DeNure’s Iditarod was over.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2011

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: A physician is someone who is legally qualified to practice medicine on humans. A veterinarian is someone who is legally qualified to practice medicine on animals.]

Veterinarian focuses on putting musher's return bags together

Laureli Kinneen: “Laureli Kinneen here at the Unalakleet checkpoint with–”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “Vern Ott.”

Laureli Kinneen: “And where are you from?”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “Kansas City”

Laureli Kinneen: “Are you a volunteer?”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “I am. I’m a veterinarian.”

Laureli Kinneen: “How long have you been involved with the Iditarod?”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “This is my fouth year.”

Laureli Kinneen: “And what keeps you coming back?”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “The camaraderie out here, the excitement, the dogs, they’re great, the mushers are good.”

Laureli Kinneen: “So, I notice you’re putting return bags together. Can you explain what you’re doing?”

Veterinarian Vern Ott: “The mushers send out bags ahead of time with food for the dogs or extra supplies for themselves or maybe harnesses, or new sleds, sled runners, and if they don’t get this far, then we open up the bags and all the perishable foods we leave here. The nonperishable, if they give us a return bag, we put them all in and ship it back to them. So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m separating the perishable from the nonperishable and taking all the nonperishable and shipping it return bag.”

- Laureli Kinneen interviewed veterinarian Vern Ott at the Unalakleet checkpoint on March 16, 2010.

[According to the Iditarod's website, there were 126 dogs at the Unalakleet checkpoint on March 16, 2010. The checkpoint is 851 miles from Anchorage.]

- Sled Dog Action Coalition, March, 2011

Veterinarians run out of medicine for the dogs

“Since few had planned for a long stop, and planes had been unable to deliver fresh supplies, food and medicine for both dogs and people ran short.

‘I had to make judgment calls about who needed what the most and save medicine for the sickest,’ said [Cindy] Johnson. ‘But after four days, treating the animals was easy. I didn’t have anything to give them.’”

- Cindy Johnson is a veterinarian.
- Riddles, Libby and Tim Jones. Race Across Alaska, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Veterinarians allow devocalized (debarked) dogs to race

Iditarod mushers devocalize (debark) their dogs:

“Squeaky (formerly known as ‘Rob’) was bred and spend the first part of his life in the US, but in the summer of ’01, he came up to live with us. He has quickly adapted to working life and is a valued team member. I often mistake him in harness for his Grandfather, Spud – that is quite a complement! Squeaky gets his nickname from his debarked status. Major Races: Iditarod 2003, Iditarod 2004.”

- Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead, her website northwapiti.com, January 20, 2012

“I debarked Jewels Monday August 1st. Most of my dogs are debarked, I used to debark all of them, because of the neighbor problems.”

- Iditarod musher Eric Rogers, his website northbounddogs.com, January 20, 2012

“KEIKO is Rom’s sister, Female, DOB 5/28/02 (7 of 9’s pup). Approx. 50 lbs, debarked, spayed, a little shy. Keiko is a young, happy, hard driving, fast, girl who has been leading since she was a pup. As a two year old she is rapidly becoming one of my main leaders. Finished the Iditarod in 2006, but as the team has gotten faster has not wanted to run lead very often.”

“ROM is Keiko’s brother – debarked, neutered and very affectionate. DOB 5/28/02 (7 of 9’s pup). Runs anywhere from wheel to swing. Makes an excellent wheel dog. Rom finished the 2006 Iditarod.”

- Dogsled.net, January 20, 2012

Debarking interferes with breathing:

“Dr. Gary W. Ellison, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, cautioned that the procedure can lead to complications. He said he has had to operate on debarked dogs after excess scar tissue built up in the throat, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.”

- Sam Dolnick, New York Times, February 2, 2010

“Excessive tissue removal results in scar tissue formation that can interfere with breathing.”

- Letter from Christine M. Runnels, DVM, Diplomat, American College of Veterinary Surgeons, March 7, 2005

Debarked dogs more prone to aspirate digestive juices leading to pneumonia:

Dr. Paula Kislak: “This surgery is especially bad, because even under the best of circumstances animals, because of the messing around in the throat area, that are debarked are more prone to aspirate their own digestive juices. And when dogs are put under these intense circumstances of racing and they’re gasping all the time, they’re constantly aspirating or inhaling any vomit or digestive juice that comes up in their mouth, and that sets them up for life-threatening aspiration pneumonias. So that’s a double whammy of the debarking.”

Rob Moore: “This debarking, what is the procedure?”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “It’s a surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. There’s two actual procedures one goes from the outside of the throat and one goes from the inside of the throat, but it’s the cutting of the vocal cords basically.”

- Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarins for Animal Rights
- Rob Moore hosts Animal Voices, a radio show in Toronto Canada.
- This interview was done on February 28, 2006

No veterinarians stationed at some checkpoints

No veterinarians stationed at Golovin checkpoint:

“It was in the very early hours of the morning when my Grateful Sled and 11 companions paraded into the metropolis of Golovin (population around 144). I knew that this checkpoint would be a problem before the Race even began.”

“This place is not a food drop or a dog drop. There is no straw or any other Race provision here, not even veterinarians.”

- Jones, GB. Winning the Iditarod: The GB Jones Story, Wasilla: Northern Publishing, 2005

No veterinarians for dogs at the back of the pack:

“Being at the end of the pack, some checkpoints lacked veterinarians or officials when she [Barbara Moore] arrived.”

- Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

No veterinarians at Skwentna checkpoint:

“There was no veterinarian at Skwentna so [Emmitt] Peters fed and rested his dogs and headed on to Finger Lake, where a vet could look at [his dog's] leg.”

- Jones, Tim. The Last Great Race: The Iditarod, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

No veterinarians until Ruby checkpoint:

“The first place I ran into the vet was in Ruby. He looked at the dogs and that is when I found out that they had the flu. The vet gave me some antibiotics.”

- Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Veterinarian encourages mushers to leave checkpoint

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Dogs and mushers rest at checkpoints.]

“After taking care of the dogs in a somnambulant daze I stumble up to the checkpoint in the village community center. It is deserted except for half a dozen mushers sprawled out on the benches along the walls. The checker and the vet have retreated to their bunks elsewhere in the town after exhorting us to leave as soon as we can.

Lisa [Moore] and Andy [Sterns] and I aren’t pleased at the implied kick in the pants…” “We need no urging to try to finish the race in a timely manner, and we don’t appreciate all but being tossed out of town just because we’re the last people in the race.”

- Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

These dogs raced 1,000 miles to Nome. They weren't even given shelters to protect them from the frigid cold, snow or wind. The dogs could easily fight because they are tethered so close to each other.

These dogs raced 1,000 miles to Nome. They weren’t even given shelters to protect them from the frigid cold, snow or wind. The dogs could easily fight because they are tethered so close to each other.

Dog's heart arrhythmia: Ignored or missed?

The day before the Iditarod started, Zoya DeNure’s dog Demon was kicked by a moose. Iditarod vets examined Demon and allowed him to start the race. Did these or other veterinarians ignore Demon’s heart arrhythmia or did they fail to diagnose it?

“DeNure also described the encounter in a series of Facebook posts, reprinted here with permission:

7 p.m., Friday
‘Calling out for all prayers! My team just got tangled with a moose or Tozier track! Demon was kicked in the head, sounds like he’s hurting pretty bad. My race sled got hammered, too! Demon is on his way to see the vet team right now!’

8 p.m., Friday
‘Demon has been seen by ITC vets, he’s sore on his side and shoulder, apparent bruising and area is swollen– he’s not out just yet. We’ll apply cold and hot compress all night. If he can’t run, we’ll know soon enough and we’ll have a great race for him this year.’”

- Kyle Hopkins, Iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2012

Demon has a heart arrhythmia:

“Zoya has decided to take her 24 at McGrath. Seems Demon has a heart arrhythmia and needs to shut down.”

- John Schandelmeier, Zoya DeNure’s Facebook page, March 7, 2012
- John Schandelmeier is Zoya’s husband.
[The McGrath checkpoint is 300 miles from Willow where the Iditarod officially started on March 4, 2012.]

Dogs eating steroids

“Iditarod rule 39 — Drug Use” allows mushers to put cortico-steroids on dogs’ feet. The Iditarod does not regulate how much steroid cream a musher puts on a dog’s foot. Once the cream is applied, the Iditarod cannot control how much cream a dog licks off and swallows.

Pre-race tests, exams are of little value

Blood tests, electrocardiograms or physical exams would only identify those dogs with obvious or worst conditions. Nevertheless, just because a dog is considered healthy one day, this is not an assurance that he or she could withstand the rigors of this type of arduous race.”

- Veterinarian Nedim Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, February 15, 2013

Every year, some Iditarod dogs receive bloods tests and ECGs many days before the race starts.

– For example:

The 2013 Iditarod starts March 2.
In 2013, blood work will be done and ECGs will be given to the dogs on February 8, 9, 10. 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20.

All the dogs are supposed to get vet checks on February 27, 2013.

- Scheduling information is from an Iditarod press release dated January 24, 2013.

Did the EKG probes register through the dogs’ thick fur?

“Mikhail Telpin, 59, from Chukotka, Russia, is another member of Team Beringia. Telpin also brought his dog team with him to Alaska. His dogs are a breed called Chukchi and are quite different from Ulsom’s more traditional Iditarod team. Telpin’s dogs are stockier than the typical Alaska Husky. Their coats are so dense that during the required Iditarod health checks veterinarians had trouble getting the EKG probes to register through the dogs’ fur.”

- Julie Anne St. Louis, Anchorage Press, March 7, 2013

Dangerous conditions for dogs in Nome

Drunks wander around dog yard and dogs get loose:

“From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Shinkai is in charge of monitoring the lot [with roughly 300 dogs] with a staff of up to six other volunteers and over the years has dealt with everything from drunk people wandering around the lot at night to dogs becoming loose from the line.”

 - Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat, April 23, 2013

How many dogs have been injured by the drunks wandering around?

How many dogs who got loose were never found?

Why don’t veterinarians insist on dogs being kept safe and secure?

Veterinarian would have failed dogs on their heart screenings

“[Dr. Gretchen] Love said back home, she’d have failed maybe 80 percent of the dogs on their heart screenings.”

- Dr. Gretchen Love, DVM, was an Iditarod veterinarian in 2013.
- John Marks, Lake Wylie Pilot, March 26, 2013

Veterinarian only had one minute to examine each dog

“Balancing animal care with mushers often ‘delirious’ from just a couple hours sleep per stop was a challenge, especially given [Dr. Gretchen] Love only had about a minute with each animal.”

- Dr. Gretchen Love, DVM, was an Iditarod veterinarian in 2013.
- John Marks, Lake Wylie Pilot, March 26, 2013

Extreme cold damages stethoscope tubing and prevents Iditarod veterinarians from accurately hearing a dog's heart and lung sounds.

Extreme cold damages stethoscope tubing, which prevents Iditarod veterinarians from accurately hearing a dog’s heart and lung sounds. Photo attributed to surroundsound5000 on flickr

Frozen stethoscopes

In the bitter cold, stethoscopes freeze up:

“’You have about a minute before your stethoscope freezes up,’ she [Dr. Gretchen Love] said.”

- Dr Gretchen Love, DVM, was an Iditarod veterinarian in 2013.
- John Marks, Lake Wylie Pilot, March 26, 2013

Extreme cold causes stethoscope’s tubing to harden and take an undesired shape:

“Keep your stethoscope away from extreme heat, cold, solvents and oils.”

- 3M Littmann Stethoscopes, website article”

“DO NOT subject the stethoscope to extreme heat or cold.”

- GF Health Products, Inc., Instructions for Use, 2013

“Exposing your stethoscope to extreme heat or extreme cold can cause the tubing to take on an undesired shape and harden. To avoid this, do not leave your stethoscope in the sun, on hot surfaces, or in extremely hot or cold environments, and do not hang your stethoscope on your vehicle’s rearview mirror.”

- MDF Instruments, Warrantee, 2013

Damaged stethoscope tubing prevents veterinarians from accurately hearing  a dog’s heart and lung sounds:

“The function of the tubing in a stethoscope is to magnify the sound waves by making them narrow enough to be heard at an accurate timing through the ear canal.”

- ask.com, website article

Veterinarians gave awards to mushers who raced sick dogs

Veterinarians allowed Jake Berkowitz to race sick dogs:

“Jake Berkowitz says his dogs have a bug and are lethargic.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, Tweet, March 10, 2013

“Another top contender, Big Lake musher Jake Berkowitz, is sick and so are his dogs, he said. The huskies have been vomiting and, like several teams, suffering from diarrhea.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2013

“Jake Berkowitz’s dogs also caught the stomach bug that’s going around.”

- Emily Schwing, KUAC Fairbanks, March 12, 2013

Veterinarians gave Jake Berkowitz Humanitarian Award for good dog care:

“Jake Berkowitz, the Big Lake musher who made it to Nome with 15 dogs in harness, won the award for dog care Sunday at the Iditarod finishers’ banquet in Nome.”

- Anchorage Daily News, March 18, 2013

Veterinarians let Ed Iten race sick dogs and gave him Humanitarian Award for good dog care:

 “Considering his dogs struggles with diarrhea from Day 2 of the Iditarod all the way to his 24-hour stop in the ghost town of Iditarod, he’s [Ed Iten's] pleased. ‘I saw my first turd today,’ he said.”

- Kevin Klott, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2007

After the 2007 Iditarod, the veterinary staff gave Ed Iten its Humanitarian Award.

– Iditarod website, 2007