Survey of rabies virus antibodies in confined, hunting and roaming dogs in Ogun and Oyo states, Nigeria
In view of the recent upsurge in adoption of exotic and local dogs as pets in Nigeria associated with increased contact between the dogs and their owners, and the traditional close relationship between hunters and their dogs, there is a need for studies to determine the level of protection of these dogs against rabies. In this study, a community-based approach involving administration of questionnaires to dog owners was adopted to screen for rabies virus (RABV) antibodies in apparently healthy confined, hunting and roaming dogs. Sera from 230 (80 confined, 92 hunting and 58 roaming) dogs in some urban and peri-urban communities in Ogun and Oyo states, southwestern Nigeria were screened for RABV antibodies using the indirect ELISA method. Analysis of administered questionnaires showed that of 80 confined dog owners, 37 were aware of anti-rabies vaccination (i.e. they were informed) while 17 were negligent and 26 uninformed. Of the 230 sera tested, only 13 (5.7%) from vaccinated confined dogs in Oyo state were positive i.e. had optimal RABV antibody titres (mean 0.54; 95% CI: 0.42 – 0.67) while all confined dog sera in Ogun state were negative. Eleven (12.0%) and 14 (24.1%) of the hunting and roaming dogs respectively had sub-optimal RABV antibody titres while the rest were negative. Evidently, these groups of dogs are a totally unprotected and susceptible dog population that can serve as potential reservoirs of RABV in the study area. Moreover, the presence of sub-optimal RABV antibody levels in unvaccinated hunting and roaming dogs suggests they have had field exposure to rabies or rabies-related viruses. Responsible pet ownership, vaccination of hunting and roaming dogs, integration of veterinary and public health services in implementing mass dog vaccination programmes and community-based active rabies surveillance are therefore advocated in Nigeria.
Keywords: Rabies virus, antibodies, confined, hunting and roaming dogs, southwestern Nigeria.