Lance Mackey gives CBD to his Iditarod sled dogs. The race’s chief veterinarian does not approve.

NIKOLAI — Four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey augments his dog food with CBD, along with other more standard things like psyllium and nutritional supplements.

It helps dogs keep going during the 1,000 mile race, he said.

“Look here in about an hour, I’ll come over here and feed them and they’ll get up and start screaming,” Mackey told Nikolai Tuesday afternoon. “Their recovery time is impressive.”

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant. It can be produced from the hemp plant and is federally legal. In recent years, CBD supplements have been increasingly used for humans and pets for relaxation and pain relief.

Mackey said he started using CBD just before the 2019 Iditarod. However, race officials have not approved such use.

Mackey said the Iditarod’s chief vet, Stuart Nelson, called him and respectfully asked him not to give his dogs CBD. Mackey said he respectfully declined to follow that request.

Mackey said there is no rule against CBD, he will continue to use it. Cannabidiol is not among the hundreds of prohibited substances described in the race’s drug testing manual.

When Nelson was asked about Mackey’s use of CBD for his dogs on Tuesday, he was taken aback.

“So he said he was giving it away?” Nelson asked a reporter.

“I don’t even want to talk about that,” he said, then walked away.

Mackey said Nelson told him there wasn’t enough information about the product. But Mackey said he’s only heard positive things. He said he conducted his own study on nine retired sled dogs, with nine separate issues. Although this is far from a scientific analysis, Mackey said he saw improvements in all nine dogs.

“That was enough for me,” he said.

He said he’s also seen results among his active sled dogs, including a 5-year-old leader who once had a seizure.

“Put her on it, I didn’t even have the slightest sign of a seizure,” he said.

The only other Mackey musher who uses CBD is Tolsona’s Dennis Kananowicz, a recent convert who is also competing in this year’s race.

“We’re going to have all the teams from the Iditarod, the Quest and all the middle-distance sprint dogs before too long,” Mackey said.

Mackey said his dogs consume $100 worth of CBD tincture a day, but he doesn’t pay for it. He’s partnered with The High Expedition, a dispensary in Talkeetna, so he gets it for free. On Tuesday, he had a patch advertising the store on his snow bibs.

CBD is a bargain compared to vet prices, he said.

“I barely walk into a vet and it’s $350 before I know what’s wrong with my dog,” he said.

Mackey uses a human version of the product twice a day. He is a cancer survivor who admitted to using marijuana on the track during his championship reign, which began in 2007. Prior to the 2010 race, the Iditarod added marijuana to its list of banned substances for the mushers – a decision Mackey said at the time had been pushed by riders jealous of his success. He went on to claim his fourth consecutive Iditarod win in 2010.

Mackey helped Talkeetna Dispensary find the formula. The dog form is branded “PET CBD” and the bottle includes a special statement: “Approved by Lance Mackey.”

[From 2019: Drake takes fashion cue from Iditarod legend Lance Mackey in new music video]

[From 2019: For four-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey, there’s only one thing harder than racing: Not racing]

[From 2016: Why mushing fans support Lance Mackey, no matter what]

[From 2010: Iditarod history repeats itself: Mackey wins 4th straight]

Bette C. Alvarado