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Healy, Alaska, musher Dave Dalton prepares to leave the starting chute Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, at the start of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in Whitehorse, Yukon. The 1,000-mile race finishes in Fairbanks, Alaska.

SAM FRIEDMAN/AP

A dog has died while competing in the gruelling, 1,600-kilometre Yukon Quest sled-dog race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Competitor Yuka Honda, who is racing for Japan, reached Dawson City early Thursday and reported her six-year-old dog had died just a few kilometres outside the community.

Race organizers have issued the preliminary necropsy results finding the dog, named Firefly, had an enlarged heart and had also eaten several of the booties used to protect its feet from snow and ice.

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According to the release from Yukon Quest organizers, final necropsy results will be available in the next two weeks.

Eighteen of the 21 mushers that started the race on Feb. 4 are still competing, including Honda, who is in 17th place.

Alaskan resident Brent Sass, who won the race in 2015, is currently first, with a nearly 50-kilometre lead over second-place U.S. racer Hugh Neff, following a mandatory rest for mushers and their dogs in Dawson City.

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