We are so proud of our own, Dr. Jennifer Pearson, currently volunteering as a veterinarian on the Iditarod! Referred to as “The Last Great Race on Earth,” 67 sled dog teams, 1,000 dogs total race the 998-mile Iditarod race in Alaska.
This incredible two-week adventure puts Dr. Pearson right in the action. She is one of 50 volunteer veterinarians stationed at the 24 checkpoints along the race. At each stop, dogs are examined and evaluated for health concerns, the biggest issues that veterinarians see are exhaustion, dehydration and ulcers. During the race, well over 10,000 routine checkpoint veterinary examinations take place.
What happens if a dog is determined to be unfit to continue? That dog will be flown back to Anchorage for follow up veterinary care.
Dr. Pearson’s responsibilities of ensuring that the dogs are healthy began before the race started. According to the home page for the Iditarod’s Veterinary Center, each dog receives extensive medical tests before racing begins.
Here are some of other requirements for veterinarian volunteers and mushers:
• Within 30 days of the race start, each dog receives an ECG evaluation to check for heart abnormalities
• Each dog receives a microchip implant
• A complete pre-race physical examination is performed on each dog by a licensed veterinarian within 14 days of the race start
• Vaccinations must be current
• Mushers participate in approved qualifying races (usually a 2-year process) to learn the proper care for dogs such as hydration, nutrition, and rest.
• A complete medical record or “Vet Books” are carried by each musher and presented to the veterinarians at each checkpoint.
• A dog determined to have medical concerns will be monitored continuously by the veterinary staff, including routine re-evaluations after their return to Anchorage.
We will be posting Dr. Pearson’s photos when she returns. What a way to spend your two week vacation!