Wasilla, Alaska – Monday, February 13, 2012 – Dr. Gayle Tate, DVM has been selected to be a trail veterinarian for the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which covers approximately 975 miles from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The race will start on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Forty volunteer veterinarians will move along the trail to Nome, which typically takes 14-15 days for all dog teams to finish. To be selected, veterinarians must have at least five years of clinical experience, and be prepared to work long hours in arctic conditions. Since there is no road access, volunteers travel by small airplane to the checkpoints. Accommodations vary from wilderness wall tents to small community buildings in native villages.
During an average year, approximately fifteen percent of those veterinarians selected to the staff are rookies to the race, with the remainder being veterans. Dr. Tate is a veteran to this year’s race. Rookies are required to attend a three-day training seminar prior to the race start. Working with the mushers and their exuberant canine athletes, meeting other enthusiastic volunteers, visiting with residents of remote villages, and experiencing the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, are all reasons why veterinarians choose to volunteer year after year.
To be eligible to enter the race, each canine athlete must pass a physical exam and undergo comprehensive screening, including electrocardiography (ECGs) and blood tests (CBCs /Chemistry Panels). In addition, all are permanently identified by a microchip implant.
It is estimated that over 10,000 routine veterinary examinations are performed along the race course. Heart rate and rhythm, hydration, appetite, attitude, body weight, lungs, and feet, are typically evaluated. Each musher carries a dog team diary which is presented to a veterinarian at every checkpoint. These serve to document the physical exams.
During a 24 hour period, dogs will run a total of twelve hours and rest twelve, usually in six hour cycles. Mushers and veterinarians receive far less rest!
For more information on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race visit: www.iditarod.com or contact Chief Veterinarian Dr. Stuart Nelson, Jr., at (907) 351-1459.