VET’S VIEW: Being vigilant about rabies still important

IT IS now relatively simple to take your pet cat or dog abroad.

Thursday, 30th January 2014, 11:00 am

Provided they have been implanted with a microchip and vaccinated against rabies, they can go with you across Europe, the only other requirement being that dogs will need a worm treatment before returning to the UK.

These precautions have helped to keep our country rabies-free, so it is easy to forget how much of a problem the disease still is in other parts of the world.

I was reminded of this recently, when my partner, Michael Jacklin, went to India to volunteer in a vaccination programme.

Each year, around 55,000 people die from rabies, and a third of these deaths occur in India. Much of the problem is down to ignorance about the seriousness of the disease, and people in remote rural areas not having access to prompt medical treatment, but the disease is endemic in India’s dog population and vaccination is the only proven way to eliminate it.

Mission Rabies is an initiative by UK-based charity Worldwide Veterinary Services to tackle this issue, and the bold plan is to vaccinate some two-million dogs over the next three years.

So, it was that Michael found himself heading out last September, with an enthusiastic team of 80 international volunteers.

Working in ten Indian cities, with the support of local animal welfare organisations and local authorities, they vaccinated more than 60,000 dogs in 30 days, exceeding their target and making a great start to the campaign.

Last year, rabies was found in a cat in France, reminding us that we still need to be vigilant, even in Europe. But woouldn’t it be great if, with the help of volunteers like Michael, we can make it a rarity in other parts of the world, as well.