Almost half of the dogs imported from Russia without vaccine protection from rabies

21.6.2018 11:59

During 2018, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has investigated the levels of rabies antibodies in dogs imported from Russia. The dog's body forms antibodies when it has been successfully vaccinated against rabies. Of the 36 dogs examined, 15 (42%) did not have antibodies against rabies. Almost all the dogs examined were street dogs. Rabies is also transmitted to humans and there is no cure. Symptomatic rabies is always fatal.

"Based on the results from dogs tested by Evira, it seems fairly certain that not all dogs have been successfully vaccinated with an appropriate rabies vaccine. The reason may be that, despite the entries on the certificates, the dog has not been vaccinated at all. In that case, the documents are forged", says Kitty Schulman, Head of Section at Evira.

For individual dogs, the result of the antibody test may not be the whole truth. Some individuals, albeit very few, do not produce measurable antibodies. An extensive scientific study shows that approximately one per cent of dogs do not produce antibodies at all even though they have been successfully vaccinated with an appropriate vaccine. The lack of antibodies may also be a consequence of the improper storage of vaccines, an incorrect vaccination method or the dogs' extremely poor condition when the vaccine was administered.

Prevention of rabies essential for public health

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system of all mammals, including humans. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite by an infected animal. A rabies infection cannot be diagnosed before the symptoms begin.

Rabies is prevented to protect the lives of animals and humans alike. An infection is invariably fatal for animals, because animals cannot be treated after exposure.

Importers of dogs play a key role

Rabies vaccination is mandatory for all dogs imported from Russia. The EU does not, however, require a certificate of adequate antibody levels from dogs imported from Russia.

According to the import documents, all commercially imported dogs have been appropriately vaccinated.

Evira recommends that before a dog is imported to Finland, its rabies antibody level is tested by an EU-approved laboratory at the initiative of the importer. According to street dog rescue organisations, street dogs are imported even from areas where rabies is present in both wild animals and dogs.

List of laboratories performing rabies antibody testing 

For further information, please contact:
Kitty Schulman, tel. +358 40 163 2531, Head of Section, Veterinary Border Control and Intra-Union Trade
Tiina Nokireki, DVM (Ph.D.), tel. +358 50 413 1687, Head of Section, Veterinary Virology Research Unit

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