2015 Rabies Campaign Success!

Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs), 3rd and 4th year veterinary students, teachers from the Faculty of Agriculture, staff from local government offices and VWB team worked together to deliver the annual rabies vaccination campaign to dogs and cats in 11 villages outside of Vientiane, Laos. A total of 1160 dogs and 110 cats have been vaccinated and additional counts are still coming in. At the end of the primary campaign, we celebrated the success as a team with a group dinner and certificate presentation to all of the students who helped.

The success could not have been possible without the help of the owners of the cats and dogs. They are concerned enough about this deadly disease to bring animals that are not used to be handled to the vaccination site. All transportation means were used: rice bags, all sorts of baskets, motorbikes, tractors, fish nets, sweaters, cars, boxes, buckets, bicycles, wheelbarrows… and of course ropes used as leashes! PAHWs are still doing some follow up vaccinations for animals that were sick or too young at the time of the campaign and we are looking to achieve 80% vaccination coverage this year.












rabies celebration1

rabies celebration2

Meet Sra Luisa. She wants a permanent Veterinarian in Todos Santos.

Sra Luisa lives in Los Pablos which is a suburb of Todos Santos, Guatemala.  She is 54 years of age, and currently supports her three children as well as her son’s two children alone. Sra Luisa has two pigs, one which she intends to sell and one which will, one day, will feed her family. She has 34 chickens which she uses as a source of food as well as sells the eggs for money. She works as a midwife and also sews traditional clothing to support her family.

Sra Luisa has two dogs Supercon and Ducky, as well as a cat Dulce. Dulce means sweet in Spanish. Both of her dogs have been sterilized by Veterinarians without Borders. She used to have another dog but was forced to poison it. Her dog escaped from her yard, snuck into her neighbour’s house and stole some food. Her neighbour told her to “get rid of her dog” or he would report her to the municipality and have her put in jail. In Todos Santos, when hungry dogs are caught stealing the municipality will force owners to kill their dog. Since there is no veterinary clinic or humane way to euthanize animals in Todos Santos, people in the community are often forced to poison them with strychnine. When rabies was more common, people would throw sticks and stones at the dogs until they died.

Sra Luisa’s biggest concern in her town before Veterinarians without Borders came to work in 2008, was that she feared letting her children walk freely outside. People used to carry stones or sticks with nails in them to beat the dogs off them while walking the streets. Rabies was frequently reported in dogs in the area.

What Sra Luisa wants the most is for a permanent veterinarian to be situated in Todos Santos. She love’s the work Veterinarians without Borders does in her community and is grateful for it. She appreciates that the activities are directed toward public health as well as the animals. She will continue to support Veterinarians without Borders in her community and values their presence in Todos Santos.

In February 2014, Vets without Borders and 22 volunteers will return to continue working with Todos Santos.

To learn more about Vets without Borders work in Todos Santos, please visit our website. To support our work with Sra. Luisa and others from her community, please consider donating. To receive a tax receipt, please donate through our website. To receive some great perks, please donate through indiegogo.


Rabies campaign 2012

Between November 23 to December 7, 2012, 1,393 dogs, 121 cats and 1 monkey were vaccinated against rabies.  According to the dog count provided, this means we vaccinated 75% of the dog population, in line with the 70% recommended for mass rabies vaccination campaigns.

Thanks to the team from NUOL, volunteer students, partners and the PAHWs for all their hard work!  And thanks to  photographers Ernest Goh, Chung Hua Siong and Ore Huiying for their wonderful photos!  We are excited that the Lao government is developing a Rabies Eradication Strategy and will be happy to share information from our campaign to support this initiative.

Rabies vaccination campaign. Top, Senoudom village. Bottom, Veunten village. Photography by Ore Huiying/ The Animal Book Co.

Rabies Clinic in Kathmandu

Last week the KAT center team put on a “rabies clinic”, during which time we vaccinated two hundred dogs in two days. We loaded into (and onto) the KAT-mobile and drove around Budanilkantha and surrounding areas vaccinating free roaming dogs and dogs with “owners”. In some case, the term “owners” in the western sense of the word is completely appropriate, although far more commonly, dogs here are fed by a community and have a local territory but no one human best friend with whom they sleep each night, play fetch and slyly receive food from the dinner table.





The clinic was a huge success in my mind. Numerous locals joined in the fun, children constantly ran up with their puppies, and we always tried to get locals to hold the animals for vaccines when applicable. To the best of our ability we worked to educate the locals although in many cases I left this part to the Nepalese workers, as it is difficult to mime the benefits of rabies vaccinations and sterilization. The day was exciting, fun and it felt like we were making a real difference, for both people and animals alike. People here are often taught to fear the street dogs due to rabies. I have to say this is a pretty valid teaching. However, when locals see dogs with ear notches and red collars they know they have received treatment from the KAT center and therefore have been vaccinated. These dogs are then more likely to receive food and warmth from their community.


P.S. pictures of the clinic are up on Facebook

Volunteer needed in the Sahtu District, Northwest Territories, Canada

Veterinarians without Borders is looking for an experienced Small Animal Practitioner who is willing to volunteer for 2 weeks in late February, 2012. Rabies, distemper and parvo virus outbreaks happen far too often in animal populations in many northern districts like Sahtu, and the threat of disease transmission at the domestic animal/wildlife/human interface is a serious concern. Additionally, stray and loose dog populations can increase the risk of dog attacks – which is especially dangerous since rabies vaccination is not routine. Working alongside the Sahtu communities, local partners, and various wildlife specialists, the University of Calgary and VWB-VSF are beginning to develop sustainable animal health programs that address these specific concerns.
If you are interested in volunteering and assisting with health and sterilization clinics, please, download the call for volunteers.


Vaccination day in Paksapmai

Vaccination station

The first day of rabies vaccination in the Laos VEVEP Rabies Campaign was busy and productive. Eight students from the Veterinary (paravet) Program at the National University of Laos accompanied four faculty and VWB veterinarian Anne Drew, to Ban Paksapmei.  The three PAHWs – Primary Animal Health Workers – of the village met us at a corner store where a few villagers already waited with their dogs. Quickly stools and a table were set up to provide four stations. The first held the vaccination materials: muzzles and rope leashes, cooler with vaccine, needles and syringes, disposal containers for sharps and trash, and coloured neck markers for the vaccinated dogs. Then owners moved down a row providing recording and certificates, a short questionnaire on dog demographics and rabies awareness, and an information station where they received pamphlets in Lao and oral instruction. Emphasis was placed on what to do in the event of a dog bite and/or suspected rabies exposure: Wash the wound! Seek medical attention. Inform the authorities.

Lao dogs are rarely confined or leashed, but we had decided to require dogs be brought to a central location, rather than travelling house to house. This was due to time constraint – one day per village – and our feeling that given free vaccination, villagers could make the effort.  Some misgiving as to whether many would show up was quickly dispelled with the first rush between 8:30 and 10. Dogs came following their owners freely or carried in arms. Litters of puppies arrived with families of young children carrying one apiece. Some dogs walked, reluctantly, on ropes and chains. A number arrived by motorcycle – either in the basket carrier (loose!), or carried by a passenger. One lady even drove with her fully-grown dog clamped between her knees. The occasional upscale family brought dogs by car, and one gentleman had a wire cage on a traditional wooden handcart.

Dogs were vaccinated by a PAHW, under Faculty supervision, while students manned the remaining stations, and I circulated as troubleshooter. Although the vaccine is labeled for dogs over three months, in a rabies-control vaccination campaign it is recommended to vaccinate all dogs; research in Tanzania has shown that young pups mount a strong immune response. I’m personally less comfortable vaccinating under 4 weeks, so we chose this age as cutoff in our public announcements, but vaccinated any presented.

An occasional dog escaped when attempts were made to muzzle it, and the team is learning to make sure panicky dogs are well secured before proceeding. Lao dogs, though unused to restraint, are well treated and generally good tempered, and no one was injured. The team shared a lunch of chicken soup, papaya salad and rice, before proceeding to the afternoon location. In all, 148 dogs and 6 cats were vaccinated.  The Campaign will cover the remaining 10 project villages over the next 11 days, with a two day break for the Lao Boat Racing Festival, also the end of the three month Rains Retreat for Buddhist monks.

By Anne Drew

Help Make Rabies History!

While rabies is not something that most Canadians think about very often, it continues to be a daily concern for people living in other parts of the world where the disease kills nearly 150 people every single day. Sadly, over 55,000 people die annually – mostly children in Africa and Asia – from a disease we know how to prevent. With effective programming, community education and community involvement, the global rabies problem is solvable.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are joining together to recognize World Rabies Day. Veterinarians without Borders – Canada (VWB/VSF) is encouraging everyone to spread the word about rabies and help raise global awareness about this deadly disease.

Last year, the Veterinarians without Borders’ Rabies Campaign helped to fund a number of rabies prevention programs including partnering with the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls and Rotary District 7090 to support Veterinary Practitioners Without Borders Uganda (VPWB-Uganda) to deliver a rabies awareness campaign in the Masaka District of Uganda.The Anti-Rabies Campaign was carried out over two days and comprised of an education component which engaged elementary and secondary school aged children. VPWB-Uganda ran a vaccination program on the second day followed with more public engagement for community members. This video shows highlights from VPWB’s 2010 World Rabies Day activities.
This October, VWB/VSF will run our first rabies education and prevention campaign in Laos, where rabies is endemic and considered a priority zoonosis. The campaign will target 11 villages near Vientiane where VWB/VSF has trained and worked with local paravets for the last two years. As well as a vaccination program for dogs, the campaign aims to raise awareness about dog poplulation management, bite treatment and primary care. The VWB/VSF team will also conduct a baseline dog population count and observe dog behaviours and issues around free-roaming dogs. Follow the team’s activities on the blog.

Click here to learn more about VWB/VSF’s rabies prevention programs.

To date, VWB/VSF has raised and dispersed over $150,000 towards rabies prevention projects around the world, including projects in Guatemala, India, Malawi, northern Canada and Uganda. But there is still a lot of work to be done!

Today, 150 people and countless animals will die needlessly from this disease. With your help, tomorrow will be a different story.  Support VWB/VSF’s rabies programs and Help Make Rabies History!


* Top photo courtesy of Dr. Alex Wandeler.


Preparing for World Rabies Day in Laos.

This year Vets without Borders is launching a new rabies campaign in Laos. Many people and agencies who work with rabies recognise that despite being a fatal disease, it is often neglected by funding agencies and health programs. Yet the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Call for Action to eliminate rabies by 2020 is a promising backdrop. Rabies prevention is complex and is a perfect example of a ‘One Health’ problem which can be best addressed using ‘Ecohealth’ approaches.

Rabies is endemic in Laos and although there is no up to date surveillance data, a 2002 study in Vientiane showed that only 48% of sampled dogs had been vaccinated against rabies: recommended coverage to eliminate rabies from a population is at least 70%.

This October, the Laos VEVEP project, through the National University of Laos, will mobilise our 33 Primary Animal Health Workers to vaccinate dogs in their villages and reach maximum coverage. Dog vaccination is shown to be the cheapest and most effective way to prevent rabies. Its impact is even greater when combined with public education, responsible dog ownership, dog population management and access to human vaccine for bite victims. Long-term vet volunteer Anne Drew will be leading the team in October to help fight rabies in Laos, and cooperating with other agencies in the country. Let’s make rabies history!

Volunteers needed to help with 1st annual WRD Walk ‘n’ Woof!

Interested in contributing to VWB-VSF’s World Rabies Day initiatives?  Volunteers are needed to assist with the first annual World Rabies Day Walk ‘n’ Woof.  This event is for all people and their pets and will take place in Ottawa on Sunday, September 25, 2011.  Assistance with the organization of the event as well as during the event is required.  For more information, please visit the VWB/VSF volunteer opportunities webpage.

On Sunday, September 25th, 2011 in Ottawa VWB-VSF will be hosting the first annual Run-Woof for Rabies!   People and their pets are invited to participate by completing either 2 km or 5km to raise awareness and funds for World Rabies Day.   Veterinary clinics are encouraged to register teams and promote the event to their clients.   Please visit the VWB/VSF website for additional event information and see how you can become involved.