Cause of dog's death remains unknown after necropsy

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch News

A necropsy -- the canine version of an autopsy -- done on a dog that died Tuesday in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race found no obvious cause of death, according to Iditarod race marshall Mark Nordman.

Further tests are under way, officials said today. Veterinarians say it is not unusual for a gross necropsy to fail to determine the cause of death. They note dogs die across the country every day due to unexplained heart arrhythmias and other reasons.

The Iditarod screens all the sled dogs for unseen heart irregularities prior to the race, but problems are not always detectable.

A study of 23 dogs that died in the race between 1994 and 2006 found that though 16 of the deaths were eventually explained after extensive study, the reasons for seven of the deaths were never determined.

Sometimes, veterinarians note, dogs just die without a clear cause.

The dog that perished Tuesday was a 6-year-old male named Victor. He was in the team of Jeff Holt from North Pole.

Holt, who is running a team made up largely of family pets, was on the trail between Rainy Pass and Rohn when Victor faltered. Holt was unable to revive the dog. He carried Victor in the sled to the Rohn checkpoint, where veterinarians pronounced the dog dead. Holt's team was the 50th of 65 teams to arrive in Rohn.

Given that Victor's death is unexplained and there is nothing obvious Holt could have done to prevent it, race officials said he was allowed to continue toward Nome.

Holt and the rest of the team were on the way to McGrath today.


By CRAIG MEDRED
cmedred@adn.com