Q: How many street dogs are there worldwide?
A: While many new surveying techniques are being tried and tested, the truth is there is currently no accurate estimate regarding the actual number of stray dogs worldwide. The estimates that do exist vary from 200 million to 600 million worldwide. Although these estimates vary wildly, we can all agree that there are too many dogs living their lives on the street. (1)[/toggle]
Q: Do street dogs live as long as other dogs?
A: Sadly, the life expectancy of street dogs averages between 1-4 years, depending on the region. (2)
Q: If dogs are living on the street, why bother them. Why is it a problem?
A: Not only do high density populations represent public health issues due to zoonotic diseases and dog bites, but the quality of life for the dogs is likely to be lower than that of a dog with access to shelter, veterinary care and proper diet.
Q: Aren’t there veterinarians that care for them?
A: Although there are thousands of vets practicing worldwide, some of them are large animal vets and others simply do not have the money to undertake the burden of providing medical care to countless street dogs.
Q: What are zoonotic diseases?
A: Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans.
Q: What types of zoonotic diseases are street dogs and humans living in close proximity susceptible to?
A: According to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, zoonotic diseases that pertain to dogs are as follows:
Cryptosporidosis is an infection of the gastrointestinal system caused by a parasite. Cryptosporidiosis has been found in people, cats and dogs living in the same environment, suggesting the potential for zoonotic transfer between species exists. Most people get cryptosporidosis from contaminated water, but be cautious with pet waste. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Giardiasis: Caused by the parasite Giardia, giardiasis is the most frequent cause of nonbacterial diarrhea in North America – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Influenza: While the highly-pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has yet to be discovered in the US, it is expected to be found here in the future. In central Thailand, where the H5N1 strain has been found, dogs have tested positive for its antibodies, suggesting infection in dogs is likely. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. In people, the symptoms are often flu-like. The risk of getting leptospirosis through common contact with a dog is low; the primary mode of transmission is through contact with contaminated animal urine. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA): Transmission of MRSA infections between pets and humans are increasing, with the most common being infections of the skin, soft-tissue and surgical infections. Dog or cat bites can result in infection, caused by bacteria from the animal’s mouth and on the patients’ body. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Ringworm (a fungus) is transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal’s skin or hair. Dogs, especially puppies, can pass ringworm to people – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria Salmonella. It can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment, although it can be fatal to those with fragile immune systems. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Toxocariasis (Roundworm): Adult roundworms are an intestinal parasite that resemble strands of spaghetti. Their eggs are shed through a pet’s feces and, while fresh feces are not infectious, the eggs become infectious over time as they sit in grass, soil or sand. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. It is only transmitted by a bite from a rabid animal. – See more at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs#sthash.t1VR9XVJ.dpuf (3)
Q: Can street dogs give me rabies?
A: The short answer is yes, but only if the dog is infected and you are bitten. (4)
Q: What do I do if I am bitten?
A: Immediately and vigorously wash the would with soap and water and seek medical care straight away. (4)
Q: Do many people die from rabies?
A: An estimated 55 000 people die annually from rabies (though this estimate is thought to be high), and bites from rabid dogs account for the vast majority of these deaths. (4)
Q: Where is the chance of contracting rabies the greatest?
A: Over 95% of human rabies deaths today occur in Africa and Asia as a result of being bitten by an infected dog and up to 60% of all dog bites and rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age. (5)
Q: Now that I see that the street dog population causes public health issues and welfare issues for the dogs living without shelter or care, how is the problem being dealt with?
A: There are a number of programs addressing the issue. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in some countries to utilize inhumane culling methods to try and reduce the population. (6, 7)
Q: Isn’t it necessary to use lethal methods if we want to reduce numbers?
A: Actually culling has proven to be an ineffective attempt at reducing population numbers and preventing rabies and it is inhumane, involving slow and painful deaths of many of the dogs as they are poisoned, crushed or beaten. (6)
Q: Is there any humane and effective way to reduce street dog populations?
A: There definitely is! Spay and neutering street dogs is the best way to reduce the growing number of street dogs. This is also a good opportunity to vaccinate the dogs, thereby reducing the spread of disease and preventing individual dogs from experiencing painful or life threatening diseases. (8)
Q: How can vaccination efforts prevent rabies?
A: Vaccinating 70 per cent of an area’s dog population creates a barrier of healthy, immunized animals which prevents this deadly disease spreading. With the barrier in effect, rabies cannot be passed between dogs and canine cases decrease. Over time, rabies in dogs is eliminated, as is the threat to humans (9)
1 Matter, H. C., & Daniels, T. J. (2000). Dog ecology and population biology. Dogs, zoonoses and public health, 17-62.
2 Jackman, J., & Rowan, A. N. (2007). Free-roaming dogs in developing countries: The benefits of capture, neuter, and return programs.
3 Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. (2011). Zoonotic Disease and Dogs. Available at: https://oregonvma.org/care-health/zoonotic-diseases-dogs
4 World Health Organization. (2013). Animal Bites. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs373/en/
5 Global Alliance for Rabies Control. (2013). World Rabies Day: Rabies elimination could save the world $124 billion annually. Available at: http://rabiesalliance.org/media/press/world-rabies-day-rabies-elimination-could-save-the-world-124-billion-annual#sthash.nDGfGibo.dpuf
6 Clifton, M. (2011). How not to fight a rabies epidemic: a history in Bali. Asian Biomed, 4(4),663. Available at: http://abm.digitaljournals.org/index.php/abm/article/viewFile/565/419
7 Rupar, Terri. (2014). Sochi’s dogs are being ‘taken into custody’ — but then what?, The Washington Post. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/02/05/sochis-dogs-are-being-taken-into-custody-but-then-what/
8 International Companion Animal Management Coalition. (2012). Humane Dog Population Management Guidance. Available at: http://www.icam-coalition.org/downloads/Humane_Dog_Population_Management_Guidance_English.pdf
9. World Society for the Protection of Animals. (2013). For a rabies-free future: The urgent economic case for mass dog vaccination. WSPA International, Available at: http://www.animalmosaic.org/Images/Rabies_free_future_economics_2013_tcm46-33220.pdf