Science

Vaccine failed to inoculate musher's dog, veterinarian says

A rabid dog that attacked a child in Rankin Inlet had been vaccinated. Such cases are almost unheard of, federal animal health officers say.

A rabid dog that attacked a child in Rankin Inlet last month had been vaccinated for rabies in November, health officials say.

The last time a vaccinated animal later developed rabies was five years ago, according to federal animal health records.

The two-year-old girl was medevaced to Winnipeg after being mauled by a musher's dog two weeks ago. The child has since been released.

Dr. Krista Howden, a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said that in Nunavut vaccines are often administered through public health officials, wildlife officers, or people who have some training in how to administer the vaccine.

The agency is responsible for investigating incidents of rabies in Nunavut.

Howden said in this case the vaccine was administered by the owner, and there's no record of the vaccination.

"Because the vaccine wasn't administered by one of the lay vaccinators or a licensed vet, we can't be completely confident the vaccine was administered properly or stored properly," she said.

Officials have to treat the rabid dog's teammates as if they weren't vaccinated, meaning the animals will be destroyed or quarantined for six months.

The owner has chosen to destroy some of the dogs on the team and has quarantined the others, Howden said.

John Hicks, who looks after more than 30 dogs at his lot in Rankin Inlet, said he was surprised to learn a fellow musher's dog had tested positive for rabies.

Hicks, the secretary-treasurer of the local mushers association, said vaccinating a dog in the Arctic can be tricky.

"If you have a vaccine that's been frozen or vaccine that's been in the sun, that will neutralize it, and it will be just like shooting water," he said.

Hamlet officials in Rankin Inlet said they have put down about 30 stray dogs since the biting incident.

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