Vanak, A. T., Belsare, A. V. & Gompper, M. E. 2007. Survey of Disease Prevalence in Free-Ranging Domestic Dogs and Possible Spill-Over Risk for Wildlife – A Case Study from the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra - India. Final report submitted to the Rufford Small Grants Foundation, UK. Pp 1-13
Domestic dogs are the world’s most common carnivore, and yet the ecology of free-ranging dogs has rarely been investigated. Many dog populations are subsidized by humans resulting in high population density, which presumably also have contact rates above the critical threshold that allows diseases to persist enzootically within the population. Domestic dogs are the reservoir of infectious diseases that have led to epidemics of rabies, canine distemper and canine parvovirus in several wild carnivore species, yet little is known about the disease ecology of domestic dogs in India, and the potential for spill-over risk to wildlife. This project was carried out to assess the disease exposure and health status of free-ranging domestic dogs in the vicinity of a wildlife reserve in central India. We carried out a sero-prevalence survey of canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus (CPV) and rabies in the dog population surrounding the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Maharashtra. We sampled 74 dogs from four villages surrounding the wildlife reserve and obtained blood samples for testing for IgM and IgG antibodies to CDV and CPV. We also collected salivary swabs from 31 dogs to test for rabies antigen. Antibodies to CPV were detected in 93.3% of the sampled dogs, while 90.7% of dogs had evidence for recent or past exposure to CDV. This suggests that these diseases are enzootic in the dog population, and may pose a significant threat to wild carnivores if disease control measures are not implemented. Rabies was also detected in 2 (6%) of the dogs tested, raising human health concerns as well. We recommend a comprehensive vaccination and dog population control policy as well as an education campaign on responsible dog ownership among villagers.