Naayi naayi! Vaccine, vaccine!

September 26, 2013 in Newsletters

Now that was a phrase I heard a lot recently, with “naayi” meaning dog in Tamil; the language of the Indian province I recently visited.  I just got back from a trip to South India, where I took part in Mission Rabies – a nation-wide vaccination campaign against rabies. The aim of the 3-year campaign is to vaccinate as many dogs as possible against this fatal disease, which is also highly contagious to humans.

Rabies kills around 55,000 people around the globe per year.  Of those, 25,000 are in India…and over half of them are children.

This disease makes dogs much more aggressive.  Add to this the fact that the infection is spread through a bite from an infected dog, and you can see why it is so easily spread.  Here in Malta, we should count ourselves lucky that we live in a rabies-free country.  Many other countries, including some very close to us, have a problem with rabies.

While in India, I saw quite a few cases of canine diseases that used to be very common in Europe, such as “canine distemper”.  This disease is often fatal, and affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems of dogs.  Nowadays, these diseases (in Europe) have been almost or completely eradicated, thanks to increased awareness of the need to vaccinate our dogs against them.  Although canine distemper still wreaks havoc all around the world, vaccinations have significantly reduced the number of new cases and hence the number of deaths attributed to this disease.

It is recommended that you keep your canine friend up-to-date on all their vaccinations.  Some of the diseases that we vaccinate against on a regular basis include canine distemper, parvovirosis (a disease fatal to many unvaccinated puppies), Rubarth’s hepatitis, canine parainfluenza and leptospirosis.

I personally have seen many cases of leptospirosis in Malta recently.  This disease is transmitted by contact with infected urine – mainly from rats and mice – which causes meningitis, liver failure and kidney failure.  It affects both dogs and humans and it is unfortunately quite common in Malta.

In conclusion, I cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinating our dogs against these diseases and working towards eradicating them once and for all.  Many people are very diligent in giving their new puppy its vaccinations.  However, too many people – for whatever reason – do not follow up on these vaccinations with regular booster shots.  Unfortunately, most canine vaccines require regular boosters.  If these boosters are not given to the dog, the dog will lose its immunity against these illnesses and is therefore at great risk of contracting these diseases.