Veterinarians perform check-ups on UP200 dogs ahead of race day

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Race day has officially arrived, and the mushers and dogs were up early this morning for their first veterinarian check-ups.

There are two head veterinarians, Tom Gustafson and Jean Wilcox. Along with about a dozen other veterinarians checking the dogs. For consistency, all the vets follow certain guidelines set by the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Jean Wilcox has been a veterinarian for the UP200 since 1995. She said that the check-ups for the pups this year so far went better than they expected.

“We listen to their heartrate, we listen to their lungs, we body condition score them. These are all baseline numbers for our checkpoints after they’ve started running,” said Wilcox. “We always ask if there’s anything specific that a musher wants us to look at because at this time of year the dogs have been in several races.”

The first leg of the race is about 65 miles long. The musher’s job is to monitor the dogs so they don’t exhaust themselves too early into the race.

“That’s usually where the problems start is at the very beginning of the race, and you don’t see the problem maybe until the middle of the race. It takes a lot of talent on the mushers’ part to observe their dogs carefully and make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Wilcox.

Veterinarians will be at three different checkpoints during the actual race to watch for problems and check the dogs.

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