Disease control through fertility control: secondary benefits of animal birth control in Indian street dogs.

Rabies vaccination and neutering can benefit untreated stray dogs in the same population

Source: A.J. Yoak, J.F. Reece, S.D. Gehrt, I.M. Hamilton
Preventive Veterinary Medicine, vol 113 no 1, Jan 2014 pp 152-156

Stray dogs can pose a risk to human health, from dog bites and rabies, and there are an estimated 36,580 stray dogs in the Indian city of Jaipur while an estimated 24,853 stray dogs live in Jodhpur. Vaccination and neutering are used to counter the health threats to humans. Neutering appears to benefit the neutered dogs, and this study investigated whether vaccination and neutering can benefit other stray dogs in these locations that have not been neutered or vaccinated.

These two Indian cities have long-term neutering and vaccination programmes. Jaipur´s has been operating for 17 years, and Jodhpur’s for seven years. Some 80% of bitches are sterilised in these cities. In contrast, Sawai Madhopur is a city which lacks a neutering or vaccination programme. The three cities are in Rajasthan, India.

A total of 240 sexually intact dogs from these three locations were checked for signs of infection, and they, and a further 50 dogs were checked for infestation with ticks or fleas, fight wounds, and for general body condition, in autumn 2011. The dogs in Jaipur and Jodhpur showed fewer signs of antibodies to infectious diseases like canine distemper, leptospirosis, infectious canine hepatitis and Ehrlichia canis, compared with dogs in Sawai Madhopur. Their body condition was better, they were less infested by fleas, and they had fewer wounds from fights. The prevalence of Brucella Canis and Canine parvovirus did not differ significantly between cities.

The better health of the dogs in cities with neutering and vaccinating programmes may be because the dog population had dropped through neutering, so there was more food per dog, and infections were less likely to be transmitted. Neutering may also have reduced fights. Dogs from Jaipur and Jodhpur did show more brown tick infestations, though this problem could be tackled by treatment for ticks alongside neutering and vaccinations.

This study shows that neutering and rabies vaccination programmes geared to tackling human health problems can also help populations of stray dogs as a whole.