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Characteristics of owned dogs in rabies endemic KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa

By Melinda Hergert, Kevin Le Roux, Louis H. Nel

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Background: Canine rabies has been enzootic in the dog population of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa since the mid-1970s and has been associated with high rates of human exposures and frequent transmissions to other domestic animal species. Several decades of control efforts, consisting primarily of mass vaccination programs, have previously failed to sufficiently curb rabies in the province. Despite this history of canine rabies, the target canine population has never been extensively studied or quantified. For efficient and effective vaccination campaign planning, the target population must be evaluated and understood. This study reports evaluated observations from survey records captured through a cross sectional observational study regarding canine populations and dog owners in rabies enzootic KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. The objective of this study was to aid government veterinary services in their current and ongoing efforts to eliminate canine rabies in the province by gaining information about the size and distribution of the owned dog population.

Results: Thirty-eight percent of the households owned one or more dogs, with rural areas surveyed containing a significantly higher number of owned dogs than urban areas. The mean dog/person ratio for this study was 1:7.7
(range 1:5.4–1:31). The provincial sex ratio was 1.5:1 male to female, with the percentages for male dogs across the communities ranging from 53 to 61.5%. The age structure of this dog population indicates a high turnover rate. Dogs were kept mostly for guarding homes or livestock. Eighty-four percent of dogs had received a rabies vaccine at some point in their lifetime, almost all during a rabies campaign.

Conclusions: The study indicates the majority of owned dogs can be handled by at least one member of the household, thus can be made readily accessible for rabies vaccination during a campaign. Characteristics of owned dogs
in the province were similar to those studied in other African countries; however, there were remarkable differences in age, sex and husbandry practices compared to dogs in eastern or northern Africa. These geographical differences lend credence to the theory that canine populations are heterogeneous; therefore, target populations should be evaluated prior to intervention planning.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title BMC Veterinary Research
Volume 14
Pages 10
ISBN/ISSN 1746-6148
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Mammals
  4. open access
  5. Pets and companion animals
  6. populations
  7. Rabies
  8. South Africa
  1. open access