Veterinarian goes to the dogs at CopperDog event

CALUMET – The CopperDog 150 and the CopperDog 80 races attract mushers from all over the world, and such a race can involve more than 350 dogs. Each dog must be examined throughout the race in order to ensure it is healthy, fit to race and in no distress.

To see to the needs of these canine athletes, CopperDog, Inc., has as many as five veterinarians on hand throughout the two-day event.

According to the CopperDog rules, all dogs participating in the CD150 and CD 80 must undergo a physical examination by one of the veterinarians. Only dogs found to be in good health and fit to compete will be permitted to run in the race.

On the morning of this year’s race, Feb. 26, veterinarians will be at River Valley Bank in Calumet to inspect each dog long before the race begins that night.

“At the pre-race vet check, we’re looking for overall good health, and also for orthopedic and other problems that could impede the dog’s competing,” Dr. Jeff Labb, DVM said. Ladd, of Keweenaw Veterinary Clinic, has been the CopperDog Chief Veterinarian since the first Copper Dog race back in 2010.

Not only must the dogs be healthy and able to race, each musher must also have proof that each dog in his or her possession has current vaccinations.

“Everyone has to have proof of vaccinations up to date,” Ladd said.

“All dogs entered in the race must be current with vaccinations for parvovirus, distemper and rabies,” according to rules posted on the CopperDog website. “Proof of valid rabies vaccination from the musher’s state of residence signed and dated at least two weeks prior to the race by a licensed veterinarian is required. Dogs coming from Alaska having valid certificates by Lay Vaccinators will be accepted.”

The rules are very strict and are designed to protect each dog present, whether that dog races or not.

“Proof of purchase for valid vaccines for other vaccinations must be submitted for inspection,” the rules state. “Proof of distemper and parvovirus must come from a veterinarian or administered by owner or driver; records must include type of vaccine, proof of purchase (i.e., receipt) and date of vaccination in writing for each dog. Race veterinarians will not vaccinate dogs during the vet check.”

While each dog receives thorough attention at the pre-race check, Ladd said the end of the first stage of the race, at Eagle Harbor, is not a mandatory vet checkpoint, but there will be veterinarians on hand if one is needed or requested, he said.

At the end of the second stage of the race, however, veterinarians again check the dogs. This time, however, in addition to checking the dogs’ paws and other potential orthopedic issues, the veterinarians also look at other factors that might affect the health of the dogs.

“At Copper Harbor, metabolic parameters are checked, that will tell us of the dog’s ability to recover before they continue,” Ladd said. “We’re still concerned about the dogs’ orthopedic matters. We’re relying on the mushers to tell us those things.”