FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) With the Yukon Quest just around the corner, the 15 mushers and their dogs participating in the thousand mile journey between Fairbanks and White Horse are in their final phases of preparation for the race.
On Saturday, the Quest’s mandated vet check took place in a warehouse in the Van Horn industrial area. Over the din, head veterinarian Dr. Nina Hansen and a team of veterinarians and volunteers checked the pooches to make sure they’re fit for the grueling slog they have ahead of them.
“We’re doing physical exams on every dog before they start the race to make sure that they’re fit to start,” Hansen explained. “We assess their cardiovascular status, their hydration, [and] their musculoskeletal system.”
Although vet checks are required by all major races, including the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, Hansen says that unhealthy dogs are rare. “We almost never see dogs that are not healthy enough [to race]. Mushers care about their dogs, and they’re not going to be a competitive dog musher if their dogs aren’t in good shape.”
Despite this, she adds that vet checks are also there to catch anything a musher might have missed.
The dogs are also microchipped to make sure that the same ones who begin the race are the ones finishing it. Their body fat is also measured to make sure that they can survive any weight loss they might incur over the course of the long race.
According to Hansen, the Quest will feature this check before the race, but the dogs will be examined four more times on their route to the finish line. There will also be less formal checks throughout which will simply examine each dog’s demeanor along the Quest.
In preparation for the vet check, Swedish Yukon Quest rookie Nora Själin says that it’s business as usual. “I think I do what I do always with the dogs. Just making sure they’re happy and healthy.”
According to Själin, this includes not just feeding, cleaning, and spending time with the dogs, but taking them to the chiropractor and for whatever other needs they may have.
Both Hansen and Själin are looking forward to the beginning of the race.
The Yukon Quest begins in Fairbanks on February 1 at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center at 11 a.m.
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