MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Just like any athletes, the dogs planning to run in this weekend’s races had to pass a physical in order to compete.
Vet teams will be working with mushers to make sure everyone stays safe throughout the entirety of the U.P. 200.
“The typical dog that we’re going to see at a mid-distant event like this is usually going to be a hybrid dog or a crossbreed dog,” said Tom Gustafson, the chief veterinarian of the U.P. 200, Midnight Run, and Jack Pine 300. “As a group, they’re referred to as Alaskan Huskies. So, these are dogs that are bred and developed for their athletic traits and their abilities to run in these sorts of weather conditions and also do that distances that we’re talking about.”
Friday morning, mushers and their team took part in a pre-race vet check. Each dog met with a veterinary team to undergo a physical examination.
The purpose of that is to get some baseline values so we can take tracks of things during the course of the race to evaluate how the dogs are adapting to the race conditions making certain that they are staying safe on the trail,” said Gustafson.
“You know the vets are a big part of this race,” said Warde Wallin, who has mushed in the U.P. 200 since 1995. “They’ve got a great vet team and they’ve always had here. Since I’ve been doing it so long I know the majority of the vets very well and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”
Vets spent time with each dog running through multiple tests to make sure they were ready to take the trail.
“The key things that we look at to help us evaluate the dogs, one is their heart rates, so we’re going to listen to that,” said Gustafson. “We’re also going to listen to make sure their heart has a normal rhythm. We’re also going to assess what’s called their body condition score which is a level of muscling and body fat that they have on them. So, that gives us an idea of their reserve. Then we’ll do a brief muscle-skeletal exam to make sure we’re certain that there aren’t any problems that may be aggravated on the trail.”
“Well, they’re checking hydration, and they’re checking feet for any fissures in between the paws and then they’re doing the heart rate,” said Wallin. “The big thing is the heart rate. If a dog has too high of a heart rate then they will come back and check it a little bit later. Sometimes younger dogs at a vet check, especially if it’s their first vet check might be a little excited so they might have a little higher heart rate. Usually, they will settle down, the vets will come back and they will test it again.”
Vet teams are available for the mushers around the clock in case of an emergency.
“The dogs will have a mandatory checkpoint and Wetmore going up to Grand Marias,” said Gustafson. “At Grand Marais, we have a veterinary team available if there are any concerns. Then Wetmore downbound they will undergo another mandatory exam. Again, we’ll have a vet team at the finish.”
“You know the vets are there to help you. They’re not there to stop a dog from running. They want to assist you, they want to make sure as many dogs get to the finish line. There are little things that are going to happen, you’re going to get a sore wrist, dogs are going to be stiff. I mean, leaving checkpoints I’m pretty stiff and my body and it’s the same for the dog.”