Veterinary Sled Dog Care Guidelines
Guiding Principles: No drugs or artificial means may be used to drive a dog or cause a dog to perform or attempt to perform beyond its natural ability or to mask underlying illness or injury.
● No topical, oral, or injectable substance which may suppress the signs of illness or injury may be used in a dog.
● Mushers or their dog handlers shall not administer any substance to a dog topically, orally or by injection with a syringe and needle unless approved or prescribed by an attending race veterinarian.
● No food or water may be given orally to a dog by syringe(basting)
● Personal prescriptions written for and carried by the mushers may not be used on the dogs.
● The use of the following therapeutic devices during competition is prohibited:
o use of needles, including those for acupuncture
o use of EMS(Electric Muscle Stimulation)
o use of TENS(Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
o use of therapeutic laser(Low Level Laser Therapy)
o use of therapeutic ultrasound devices.
● The use of local or general anesthetics will not be allowed in any form unless the dog is withdrawn from the race or unless otherwise directed by a race veterinarian.
● To ensure the safety, health, and welfare of dogs, race veterinarians may utilize any of the above listed therapeutic modalities and the below listed drugs or other prohibited substances to treat any medical condition that may arise during a race. However, such use requires the dog be withdrawn from the race.
● Although some medications may be allowed during competition to maintain dogs in good health, continued research should be done to determine factors in races that may predispose dogs to needing treatment, and thereby allowing races to change to minimize and eventually eliminate the need to use medications.
● The guiding principle is to minimize the use of medications in racing dogs. The lists below are meant to be guidelines, but the absence of mentioning a specific drug does not mean it is allowed.
● For competitors, any questions regarding the use of specific medications should be addressed to the Chief Race Veterinarian as described for the supervised medications below.
List of Prohibited Substances for Dogs
The use of the substances (and their metabolites) belonging to the following drug classifications is prohibited in sled dogs during competition.
● Anesthetics (e.g., local, topical, and general)
● Analgesics (prescriptive and non-prescriptive)
● Antibiotics other than as noted on Supervised List or as approved by the Chief Race Veterinarian.
● Anti-inflammatory drugs including but not limited to:
o Corticosteroids (including but not limited to glucocorticoids) other than topicals as noted on Controlled List
o Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – NSAID - (including but not limited to aspirin and other salicylates)
● Appetite stimulants
● Immunosuppressives or immunomodulators including but not limited to cyclosporine, oclacitinib, and similar medications
● Cough suppressants
● GI (gastrointestinal) motility modifiers including loperamide, any medication containing salicylates, diphenoxylate or atropine
● Anti-emetics (e.g., metoclopramide, maropitant/Cerenia, ondansetron, dolasestron, etc)
● Muscle relaxants (e.g., methocarbamol)
● Sedatives, tranquilizers, and narcotics including but not limited to:
o anti-epileptics - phenobarbital, potassium bromide, and others like imepitoin
o opiates and opioids
o opioid-like drugs(e.g., tramadol)
● Stimulants (specified and non-specified, including caffeine and theobromine)
● Hemp oil/ CBD or other cannabinoids either topically or systemically Substances having the same effect as those listed herein.
List of Supervised Substances for Dogs
A musher medicating a dog with any of the substances listed below requires approval by the Chief Race Veterinarian for the event and be noted in the event’s musher journal (if applicable).
● Antibiotics administered orally. If antibiotic treatment must be initiated on a dog prior to an event, the musher must provide a written statement from the treating veterinarian indicating the diagnosis and treatment. Upon review of the statement and examination of the dog, the Chief Race Veterinarian has the right to prevent the dog from competing depending on the medical condition of the dog or on local Animal Welfare Laws. It is recommended that the Athlete contact the Race Veterinarian in advance of the event.
● Topical eye, foot, or wound ointments or drops containing antibiotics may be allowed after evaluation of the Dog by the Race Veterinarian.
● Topical eye or foot medications containing low levels of corticosteroids may be allowed for specific medical reasons by the Race Veterinarian.
● Antiulcer medications – H2 antagonists and proton pump inhibitors may be allowed if permitted by the Chief Race Veterinarian or race rules.
● Thyroid hormone supplements may be given orally but the musher must provide a written statement from the treating veterinarian indicating the diagnosis and dosage of treatment. Please note that racing sled dogs have lower thyroid hormone levels as compared to other breeds of dogs (Lee et al, Effects of racing and nontraining on plasma thyroid hormone concentrations in sled dogs. JAVMA, 2004;224(2):226-231).
● Reproductive hormones, related substances, and their releasing factors, antagonists, modulators and related substances for estrous cycle suppression.
o The administration to spayed bitches of estrogenic substances under veterinary prescription, if required to avoid urinary incontinence, but the musher must provide a written statement from the treating veterinarian indicating the diagnosis and treatment.
o The use of all reproductive hormones must be initiated at least 28 days prior to racing to allow for appropriate observation of the dog to ensure that there are no adverse side effects on the dog’s health.
The use of any other drug not included on this list and deemed necessary for the health of the dog by the musher’s veterinarian will be reviewed on a case by case basis by the Chief Race Veterinarian.
Supplement Use in Dogs
Mushers may administer the following compounds to their dogs orally provided that these compounds are maintained in their original containers with labels indicating their contents. However, it is recommended to check with their veterinarian or a race veterinarian prior to use:
● any dietary supplements marked as such
Herbal and Homeopathic Compounds
Due to the potential for adverse side effects if these supplements are not used properly, the Chief Race Veterinarian should be consulted before their use.
- The use of salicylate-containing compounds or supplements (e.g., wintergreen oil, etc.) is prohibited. Likewise, supplements or holistic medications that are known to be poisonous or toxic to dogs should not be used (e.g., 90-100% concentrated tea tree oil). (Reference: Khan et al. J Am Med Assoc 2014).
- The use of herbal and homeopathic medications, tonics, oral pastes, and products of any kind (the ingredients and quantitative analysis of which are not known in detail) is not recommended, as it may result in race-enhancement and positive drug tests. Many of these products can contain one or more prohibited substances. For example, many homeopathic or herbal tinctures may have an alcohol base or aspirin-like compound. The use of an herbal or natural product may result in a positive test result, contrary to the claim by the manufacturer or marketing agent. For example, many pharmacologically potent and readily detectable forbidden substances (e.g., salicylates, digitalis, reserpine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana) have their origin in plants and may be regarded as serious rule violations. This warning is common to all major canine regulatory authorities.
- Be aware that the flavorings of supplements which contain substances like cacao powder or green tea, because their metabolites could cause a positive on a doping test.
Testing for Prohibited Substances
The race event Board of Directors or appropriate race rules governing body reserves the right to collect blood and/or urine samples, at the discretion of the Chief Race Veterinarian(s), at random, any time commencing from the official Vet Check to the beginning of the awards ceremony of the respective race.
The musher or handler designated by the musher must assist the veterinarian or the drug testing personnel in collecting samples whenever requested.
If blood or urine testing of a dog reveals any of the prohibited drugs in the dog, this rule has been violated regardless of when such drugs were administered to the dog.
Sled Dog Race Healthcare Guidelines
● Dogs must be maintained in good condition and maintain an adequate body condition score throughout the duration of the race.
● All water and food must be ingested voluntarily.
● Adequate bedding must be provided.
● There will be no cruel or inhumane treatment of dogs. Cruel or inhumane treatment involves any action or inaction, which causes preventable pain or suffering to a dog, including refusal of appropriate treatment.
● Appropriate rest times for the dogs must be provided during the race.
● Safe resting accommodations, based on race weather conditions, shall be provided to dogs. Resting accommodations shall provide appropriate ventilation, thermal protection, and food and water access. Special attention must be observed if dogs are housed in enclosed spaces, such as, cars, dog boxes, etc. to avoid overheating.
ISDVMA Sled Dog Monitoring Criteria
The following physical exam criteria are indicators of health problems in racing sled dogs requiring the withdrawal of a dog from the race:
● Cachexic(too thin) body condition
● 7% - 8% dehydration
● Irregular heart rhythm or heart rate 120 beats per minute or higher after 30 – 60 minutes of rest with or without a prolonged capillary refill time
● Lung sounds with evidence of edema, rales, or cough or evidence of increased respiratory rate and effort or dyspnea
● Hyperthermia or fever: Body temperature greater than 103F / 39.4 C after one hour of rest
● Hypothermia: a body temperature less than 99 F / 37.2C Vomiting and/or non-responsive diarrhea with blood associated with weight loss or dehydration
● Severe lameness, especially of the shoulder, that dog cannot be warmed out of
● Brown or red urine
● Neurologic: Seizures or changes in mental attitude, e.g., anorexia, depression, unwillingness to leave checkpoint
● Frostbite that cannot be protected from refreezing
● Injuries or illness requiring treatment with drugs on the List of Prohibited Substances