An international team of 40 specialized veterinarians takes part in sled dog races like Finnmarksløpet and Femundløpet to follow up the four-legged athletes. This year, five of the vets from RaceVets also traveled to Alaska to work at the Iditarod.
- Working with sled dogs is incredibly exciting. Veterinarians are usually working with sick animals, but in this case we get to follow top trained athletes from start to finish, says Arild Magnus Jøssund, Head of RaceVets.
The non-profit organization was started in 2017 to establish a permanent and competent group of veterinarians to cooperate with race organizers, dog mushers, researchers, officials, and other veterinary sled dog organizations. Their primary motivation is to ensure excellent dog welfare.
The vets work as volunteers.
- Some spend most of their holidays working with us; full days, several days in a row. The team is really passionate about what they are doing. Ideally, we should have a core of 60-70 vets to be present with 18-24 people at the races. If someone wants to join the team, please reach out to us.
To become a member of RaceVets, you have to be a veterinarian. You should be interested in dog mushing, but experience in the sport is not required.
- Our team will train new vets. We have experts in anything from emergency to physiotherapy. You have a unique opportunity to learn and develop as a veterinarian with us, Arild says.
The work these enthusiasts put down is supported by Non-stop dogwear, among others. We have provided all vets with extreme winter clothing, so that they can stay warm and fully focus on their tasks during the races.
RaceVets are doing an incredibly important and good job. We are proud to cooperate with them, says brand manager and founder Kristoffer Grøtan Olsen.
Both dog mushers, race organizers and vets now know exactly what is expected at races. By implementing predictable routines before, during, and after races, the statistics show a decrease in sickness and injuries.
Before every race, the dog mushers have to make sure that all dogs in the team have the necessary vaccines. All the dogs also have to pass a standardized PreRaceCheck to ensure they are fit and healthy for the challenge a long-distance race is. This check is done by RaceVets before start, or by the musher's local veterinarian. They go through everything from the dog's paws and coat to the heart, lungs and the so-called body condition score (BCS).
The BCS is a tool RaceVets have developed specifically for sled dogs and working dogs to track their weight and condition. Every dog's BCS is followed closely throughout the race and noted down in the Veterinary book each musher carries.
- In long-distance mushing, there are several checkpoints. It is mandatory to stop at some of these. Other checkpoints, you can pass straight through. Each checkpoint have veterinarians that go over all dogs to check that they are doing well. They check everything from respiration to how the dogs are moving. If a dog seems tired, sick or injured, the vets will recommend the musher to take the dog out. However, this is usually unnecessary, as the dog mushers know their dogs well. They will see that their dogs are getting tired at an early stage. In these cases, we are there to help the mushers make good decisions for their team. You are never stronger than the weakest link, and the mushers does not want a sick or injured dog to continue with the race. The bare is low to drop dogs at the checkpoints, which is good.
The team of veterinarians also checks all dogs after they finish the race.
Do you want to know more about RaceVets and what they are doing? Visit their website!