Vets Clear Sled Dogs for the Races

Emily Ness
Updated: January 25, 2020 11:09 PM

Sled dogs set to compete in marathons that test strength and endurance are often in the best shape of their lives. But, before the dogs competing in this year’s Beargrease Marathon hit the trails, vets examine them with great detail and devotion.


“We’re listening to their heart rates, listening to their lungs, we’re looking for any, you know, rubs that they might have from their training on their feet or their harnesses. Just checking their attitudes, their hydration, their gum color. We’re trying to make sure that all of those things that could cause trouble on the trail are caught ahead of time,” Gregg Phillips, Head Vet of John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon said.

On Saturday morning, check-ups took place at Lake Superior College. Here, students from the University of Minnesota studying to become veterinarians examined dogs. According to Phillips who has been a part of the Beargrease races for eleven years, many of the veterinarian students return year after year.

“It’s a great race. The mushers love their dogs. I’ve seen many of them year in and year out. As do they see the same vets year in and year out. It’s a fun thing to do so there’s continuity of care," Phillips said.

Helping out with the races this year is 11 veterinarians, seven veterinary technicians and one EMT. In addition to being fun, Phillips says it is great experience for the students, who will go on to take care of the dogs throughout the course of the race.

"We kind of leap frog down the hill from check point to check point with some vets left behind taking care of the dogs that are at that check point, whereas, there’s another group that’s wait at the next check point to watch the teams come in, so we try to always orchestrate it so that there’s a group of vets there before the teams are gone from a check point and there’s a team of vets at the check points before the teams arrive,” Phillips said.

A four time champion of Beargrease's Mid-Distance Marathon weighed in on how this year's warmer temperatures could impact dog's health and well being.

"You just have to really monitor their hydration and how they're looking and feeling, where in cold, it's just a little bit easier when it's cold," Martha Schouweiler said.

Schouweiler said she remembered one really warm year when she would stop occassionally to cool her dogs off.

"There could be issues of them running too warm. You might want to be stopping the team to give them a little water snack or something," Schouweiler said.

In total, four to five hundred dogs were examined throughout the day Saturday—each part of a team that requires the vitality of one another.

Phillips said that the majority of dogs checked out for the races, but added that mushers had the opportunity to have a backup dog examined should anything be off.

“The dogs are in good hands,” Phillips said. “Lot of good, experienced vets and techs out here. 


Emily Ness

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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