11 years of regular access to subsidized veterinary services is associated with improved dog health and welfare in remote northern communities

Prev Vet Med. 2021 Nov:196:105471. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2021.105471. Epub 2021 Aug 23.

Abstract

Access to veterinary services can have positive impacts on animal health and welfare, and on human mental and physical health and well-being; however, many communities worldwide lack access to such services. At their request, the 5 communities of the Sahtu Settlement Area, Northwest Territories, Canada, have received annual access to preventive veterinary services through the University of Calgary's Northern Community Health Rotation since 2008. To determine the reach of the program, we conducted a dog census in 2017. We then conducted a chart review of 11 years of dog medical records from 2008 to 2018 to evaluate how the reach of the program, the uptake of veterinary services, and dog population demographics, health and welfare measures changed over the duration of the program. In the chart review, we used either multi-level logistic regression or generalized linear models, to determine how seven variables, including age, sex, breed, body condition, deworming, vaccination, and sterilization status upon clinic entry, changed over the course of program delivery. Our results suggest that program reach, veterinary service uptake, and dog demographic, health and welfare measures improved over time. We observed high rabies vaccination coverage in some communities (48 %-83 % of the dog population) and moderate overall sterilization status (25 %-56 % of the dog population) with female dog sterilization more common than male (75 % of dogs leaving the 2017 clinics, compared to 43 %). Several dog demographic, health, and welfare measures, including age, body condition, and vaccination, deworming, and sterilization status, were significantly better in later years of the program (all p < 0.001). Differences among communities, both in dog population numbers from the 2017 census (40-89 dogs) and in the uptake of veterinary services in 2017 (48 %-83 % of the dog population), were notable. Vaccination uptake was directly related to clinic attendance, but sterilization was impacted by additional factors, including community members' acceptance of the procedure. Some unintended consequences were noted, however, including the potential effect of sterilization on the availability of traditional dog breeds in the communities. Overall, our study findings demonstrate that subsidized veterinary services provided over a regular and extended period of time benefit animal population demographics, health and welfare, and could have positive impacts on human well-being. The framework of community collaboration and long-term commitment developed through this program serves as a model for achieving common health goals among communities in need and veterinary service providers.

Keywords: Chart review; Dog health; Dog welfare; Indigenous; Preventive veterinary medicine; Rabies.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Dog Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Male
  • Northwest Territories
  • Public Health
  • Rabies / prevention & control
  • Rabies / veterinary
  • Rabies Vaccines / economics
  • Vaccination* / economics
  • Vaccination* / veterinary
  • Veterinary Medicine / economics*

Substances

  • Rabies Vaccines