Each of the 83 teams was composed of 16 dogs at the start of the competitive race in Willow. Mushers are allowed to drop dogs at any checkpoint, usually because of concern over their performance, but also or for their health. Veterinarians examine the dogs at each checkpoint, and also have the discretion to withdraw dogs. Dropped dogs are flown to Anchorage or Nome, where they are provided with medical care. Teams are usually reduced to between 9 and 12 dogs by the time they arrived in Nome.
An average of 3 dogs die each year. A necropsy by a board certified veterinary pathologist is conducted after every fatality to determine the cause of death.
- Yellowknife, a 4 year old male from Noah Burmeister's team, died on March 9 at 6:00 a.m.. Yellowknife was initially dropped at Rohn on March 7, and provided medical care in Anchorage. The preliminary necroposy indicated pneumonia as the cause of death, and further tests are being performed.
- Bear, a 3 year old male from David Sawatzsky's team, died on March 11 between Cripple and Ruby. The gross necroposy found no abnormalities, but additional tests are pending.
- Cupid, a 4 year old female from Jim Lanier's team, died on March 12 between Galena and Nulato. The gross necropsy found regurgitation and aspiration were the likely cause of death, and secondarily gastric ulcers. Additional tests are pending.
- Jack, a 5 year old male from Wisconsin musher Ron Cortte's team, died on March 18 at White Mountain. Jack was examined by veterinarians on arrival and appeared normal, but died of unknown causes 30 min later. Gross necropsy pending.
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