U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Veterinary Behavior 15 (2016) 20-24


U.S. Government Work


Rabies is responsible for an estimated 59,000 human deaths worldwide, and domestic dogs are the primary reservoir and vector of the disease. Among some nations, widespread vaccination has led to elimination of rabies in domestic dogs, yet dogs are still susceptible to rabies infection from interactions with wildlife reservoirs. On Tribal lands in the United States, less than 20% of domestic dogs are vaccinated for rabies, and parenteral vaccination is often unfeasible. Oral rabies vaccination may provide a solution, but a suitable bait flavor and vaccine must be identified. We evaluated 5 bait flavors (bacon, cheese, egg, fish, and sweet) in pairwise flavor-preference trials using placebo Ultralite baits in 26 domestic dogs on the Navajo Nation, Arizona. Each bait flavor was offered a total of 104 times. In all paired comparisons, bacon was more frequently preferred to the alternative. The sweet flavor (the flavor used operationally for oral rabies vaccine (ORV) distribution in Canada) was least preferred. Forty domestic dogs were offered baits containing ONRAB ORV: 14 received the sweet-flavored bait packet and 26 received bacon-flavored baits. Serum was collected from dogs before vaccination and at day 14 and 30 or 37 days after vaccination. Thirty-seven dogs consumed the baits, 2 baits (both sweet flavored) were chewed and spit out, and 1 (sweet flavored) was swallowed without apparent chewing (gulped). Eight dogs had preexisting rabies virus neutralizing antibody (RVNA) titers and 13 naïve dogs failed to seroconvert during the study period. Overall, 27 dogs (67.5%) showed increased RVNA titers after vaccination, including 1 dog who chewed and spit out the bait and all dogs with positive baseline RVNA titers. Geometric mean titers for all dogs that seroconverted during the study period peaked at day 14 (1.2 IU/ mL; n = 24) and decreased slightly by the final sampling day (0.8 IU/mL; n = 27).We conclude that bacon flavor may be a suitable bait flavor for ORV distribution in loosely kept or free-roaming domestic dogs. Seroconversion among dogs who ingested ONRAB-filled baits was variable. Why 13 dogs who consumed ORV baits failed to seroconvert remains unknown. Additional research to improve seroconversion rates in domestic dogs after vaccination with ONRAB is recommended.

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