Canada has a long-standing requirement for rabies vaccination of most categories of dogs and cats being imported from countries not considered free of non-bat rabies. While this requirement helps protect dogs and cats from rabies infection should they be exposed to endemic wildlife rabies that is present in Canada, it does little to prevent rabies in animals that were exposed to the virus prior to vaccination and importation. Two cases (July 2021 and January 2022) of rabies in dogs recently imported into Ontario, along with ongoing pressure from public health agencies for more regulatory control of canine importation, lead to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) prohibiting the importation of all commercial dogs from countries considered high-risk for canine rabies, effective September 28, 2022 (World Rabies Day).
Many members of the public and organizations involved in canine importation do not understand the rabies disease process, risk periods for virus shedding, and how and when rabies vaccination is or is not effective at preventing infection. Providing an explanation of these nuances in a format that can be relatively easily understood by members of the public is key to garnering support for and compliance with current and future canine import requirements regarding rabies, which helps support both animal health and public health efforts to reduce the risks from this deadly disease. The companion animal Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN) therefore undertook a project to produce the short whiteboard video below on this topic (which I think is pretty awesome, but I’m a bit biased!). Check it out on the OAHN website or directly on YouTube for links to additional rabies resources for pet owners and veterinarians.