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Rev Sci Tech. 1993 Mar;12(1):51-71.

The ecology of dogs and canine rabies: a selective review.

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  • 1Agriculture Canada, Animal Diseases Research Institute, Nepean, Ontario.


Although dogs are the most widespread and abundant of all carnivores, the role of the dog in human cultures and its impact on the environment have rarely been studied. These subjects are reviewed in the context of canine rabies. To understand the epizootiology of canine rabies, the ecology and population biology of the dog must be considered. Information on dog populations (in relation to different habitats, cultures, social strata of human populations and epizootiological situations) was collected in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Tunisia. In Switzerland (and Western Europe in general), rabies is maintained and spread by red foxes. The low prevalence of rabies in dogs may be explained by restrictive practices of dog-keeping and high rates of vaccination. In the other areas examined, dogs are poorly supervised and their population densities are high enough to support rabies, although it is questionable whether canine rabies exists independently of a wildlife reservoir. Dog-keeping practices, high rates of exposure and various cultural factors may lead to a high human rabies mortality rate. Nevertheless, dogs in these areas remain sufficiently accessible for vaccination and well-executed control programmes could prove successful.

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