It’s easy to get complacent about rabies, even when you live in an endemic region. While we have ample bat rabies, Arctic fox rabies and raccoon rabies in Ontario, spillover into domestic animals is relatively rare. Success can breed complacency, though. When control measures work, it’s easy to forget why they are so important.
That’s my rambling but somewhat relevant introduction to a case of rabies in a dog in Ontario. The dog, from Wainfleet, Ontario, is the first canine rabies case in the Niagara region in over a decade. Contact tracing is underway to determine if any people need post-exposure prophylaxis and if any other domestic animals might have been exposed to the dog.
Typing of the rabies virus is presumably underway to determine what strain it is. We don’t have canine rabies in Canada (i.e. a rabies virus strain that is adapted to circulate in the dog population). This is presumably spillover from raccoon-variant or bat-variant rabies. Raccoon-variant rabies in this dog would be a likely given where the dog lives and the gradual spread of the virus into this region over the last few years from the outbreak that started in Hamilton in Dec-2015. Spillover into domestic animals and potential exposure of people is a reason the outbreak is a major concern, and why a lot of time, effort and money are being spent to try to eradicate terrestrial rabies again from southern Ontario.
While rabies is rare in domestic animals here (and in many regions), the threat still exists. Vaccination of pets is important to protect the animal and prevent spillover of wildlife rabies into people. More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.