Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race
on February 11, 2016
Posted in Dogs
The Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race started last Saturday. Last year some of my fellow veterinarians and I were up in the Yukon doing some research with these dogs to see how running this long distance of 1000 miles from Whitehorse to Fairbanks affected the dogs. We were fortunate for our research project that Brent Sass who won the 2015 Yukon Quest was one of our test teams. We learned a lot about these elite athletes from sampling his team. I am not there this year but a friend of mine is one of the race veterinarians.
This year the race starts in Fairbanks and ends in Whitehorse. Mushers and teams of 12 to 16 dogs cover that distance in 9 to 15 days. The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now comes alive each February with the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs. Up to 50 dog teams consisting of one human ‘musher’ and 14 canine athletes tread across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America.
The Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race is a true test of the capacity of humans and canines, and a tribute to the strength of the ancient bond that unites them. Thus, the Yukon Quest is dedicated to excellence in canine care. Quest sled dogs are elite, marathon athletes. Bred from stock that survived and thrived during the Klondike Gold Rush, no animal on earth can match them for endurance, dedication and ability to perform in the extreme conditions of the North.
All Yukon Quest dogs are checked by the race veterinarians and supported by the Yukon Quest Veterinary Program at checkpoints and dog drops throughout the race. Race veterinarians ensure every dog is fit to continue. Mushers are coaches, cooks, cheerleaders, and companions to their dogs.
The veterinarians are all volunteers and they put in long hours making sure the dogs are healthy. They concentrate on the dogs’ cardiovascular systems to make sure they are healthy enough to run as well as their legs, feet and joints. This year all the dogs must be vaccinated for kennel cough before they can compete in the race.
These dogs are amazing and love what they do. The Mushers truly care for their dogs and if there is any doubt about their health or fitness, they are removed from the race by the checkpoint veterinarians.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan