Dr. Tocci, is in Alaska at the Iditarod race as part of the veterinary support team. She will be sending us blogs when satellite is available . Here is her first edition. The rest of the story can be viewed on our Facebook page and subsequent blogs.
“I am so excited to be part of the 2016 Iditarod -the Last Great Race on Earth
I arrived in Anchorage Alaska and participated in the pre-race veterinarian checks, performed at Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla Alaska. All mushers are required to have the team finalized and checked by veterinarians 3 days before the start of the 1000plus mile race. For me this was a fabulous opportunity to meet the teams, mushers and of course the dogs. The most common problems encountered in sled dog athletes are orthopedic problems (sprains and strains in the forelimbs from pulling), as well as heat stress and diarrhea. Sled dogs burn 10-12,000 kcal per day and weight loss is also common as the race goes on.
I was fortunate enough to attend the ceremonial start of the race on Saturday which is a huge gathering of people lining the streets to show their support for the teams. Shortly after the start they flew me out by small float plane to Skwentna the second checkpoint along the trail. We spent Sunday and Monday morning preparing the checkpoint for the arrival of the teams. If a musher chooses to stay at the checkpoint the veterinary team of 6 is responsible for examine all the dogs of each team. We have a focused evaluation focusing on heart and lungs, vomiting or diarrhea, weight and orthopedic. This year there are 85 teams. Each musher has 16 dogs. They arrived at the check point between 9pm and 6am, so the vet team worked thru the night. Thankfully temperatures according to Alaska standards were warm! 22 degrees and no wind. In between team arriving I got to stand by a bonfire, and observe the northern lights.
The veterinarians work very closely with the mushers to keep the team s healthy. We really are the first line to keeping those dog athletes happy and healthy along the trail.”