The consumption of oral rabies vaccine potentially harmful to dogs

1.11.2016 08:53

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea have compiled a report on dogs' adverse reactions to oral rabies vaccine baits. Reactions have been detected in single hunting dogs that have consumed vaccines intended for red foxes and raccoon dogs.

The report covers the nine adverse reaction reports received by authorities from veterinarians or dog owners between 2011 and 2015. All reports concerned the northern parts of the vaccination area and hunting dogs.

"It is highly unlikely that all cases of adverse reactions are reported to the authorities, but the number of reports still remains very small if you consider the total number of baits distributed", comments Senior Researcher Tiina Nokireki from Evira's Veterinary Virology Research Unit.

Rabies vaccine baits are dropped along Finland's south-east border every year. The goal of this is to prevent rabies occurring in wildlife from spreading to Finland. Each year 160,000 - 360,000 baits have been dropped in the forests.

"The oral rabies vaccine baits have been successfully used for several decades in various parts of the world with the purpose of combating forest rabies. Spreading vaccine baits in nature has proved to be the only efficient method of eliminating rabies also in larger areas", Nokireki states.

Dogs' adverse reactions mostly concern intestine health
The rabies vaccine is not harmful to dogs, but side effects may occur. For example, signs in the digestive tract have been detected in dogs, and behaviour changes have also been reported, for example depressive and restless behaviour.

The signs with dogs that have consumed the vaccine are likely the result of the aluminium and PVC plastic cover of the bait and the dogs having eaten several baits.

A dog must be vaccinated in accordance with the regulations and recommendations, even if the dog has eaten a rabies vaccine bait. If you suspect that a vaccine bait has caused adverse reactions to an animal, you should always report the case to the Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea.

Rabies vaccine baits are dropped in the autumn
Oral rabies vaccine baits are distributad in the forests in the autumn. The raccoon dog and red fox populations are at their largestin the autumn, the animals are old enough to consume vaccine baits and the weather conditions favourable for distribution of the vaccines. Raccoon dogs hibernate in the winter, whereas the temperatures are too high in the summer.

"This is an attenueted live vaccine virus and it will only work if it enters the animal's body alive and in sufficient volume. viruses are destroyed in high temperatures", Nokireki points out.

The results have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal
Nokireki, T., Nevalainen, M., Sihvonen, L., Gadd, T.
Adverse reactions from consumption of oral rabies vaccine baits in dogs in Finland.
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2016: Vol.58, No. 53, 1 p. 

Photos on vaccine baits The text is in Finnish.

Additional information:
Senior Researcher, Head of Section, Tiina Nokireki, tel. +358 50 413 1687


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