Making man’s best friend disease-free

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They are known to be our best friends. They have walked with us, from the Stone Age to the modern age, as our most loyal companions, guards, and friends. This friendship we share with them is at least 15,000 years old.

Scientifically known as the Canis lupus familiaris, the modern domestic dog has been a great contributor to our civilisation and our tiresome journey throughout the centuries. Our ancestors and their ancestors first built a friendship while both species were living in the forest as hunters. And that loyal friendship shaped the history of mankind and the history of the Canis species, as it has never happened to any other species ever. 

This relationship not only shaped the journey of mankind but also shaped the fate of the Canis lupus familiaris species forever.

This early human- and early wolf (modern dog’s ancestors) relationship gave birth to the species we know today as the modern dog.

As time flew by, the man-dog bond became deeper and they even started sharing social and cultural aspects together. Also, as the two species were extremely close to each other, sometimes, they would impose threats on each other, especially when it comes to diseases.

Among such diseases, rabies is one deadly virus that can be transmitted to humans from dogs.

It must be noted that dogs are not the only carriers of this deadly disease, but there are a large number of mammals who are rabies carriers. However, as the two species shares their space together, the chances of being infected by a sick dog are higher than contracting the disease from other mammals.

Rabies has no cure. It is fatal. And the worst part is that an animal or human that is infected by rabies suffers greatly before they succumb to an extremely agonising death.

Therefore, prevention is essential. The good thing about rabies is that it can be prevented. Although rabies does not have a cure, it has anti-rabies vaccination. If vaccinated in due time it is 100 per cent preventable. As we cannot vaccinate all the other mammals who are rabies carriers, we of course can vaccinate our best friends.

It is the responsibility of dog owners and caretakers to make sure their dogs are vaccinated against rabies. This is to avoid the spread of the disease and to make sure the environment is safe for humans and dogs. It is also an act of gratitude to our best friends, as we are saving them from a deadly disease.

Community dogs – dogs which are living in an open space among a human community and being taken care of by the humans of the community – should be vaccinated against rabies. Understanding this responsibility, the University of Sri Jayawardenepura, took measures to vaccine the dogs as well as the cats living within the university premises. Last year too, the University took measures to vaccinate all the dogs and cats on the premises.

This year’s Rabies Vaccination Programme happened on 27 August at the University premises.

The university’s medical faculty took the initial steps in making arrangements with the approval of the Vice Chancellor, Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage. The Dean of the Medical Faculty, Prof. Aloka Pathirana was the lead in this charitable cause. Dr. Darshani Abeysekara and Prof. Isha Premathilaka coordinated the programme.

The rabies vaccinations were given by the Anti-Rabies Unit of the Ministry of Health. The University Public Health Officers (PHI), Wasantha and Balasooriya coordinated the vaccination programme.

Anushika Jayarathna, Keith Salintha, Vimansa Yapa, Vidusha Adithya, Malka Mendis, Senumi Ithara, Vidumini Walgamage, Kavindu Kawishka, and Gayanka Nimshan are medical students of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sri Jayawardenapura who also contributed greatly to make this programme a success.

Approximately a total number of 80 dogs and cats within and around the University premises were vaccinated against rabies on this day.

It also must note that these medical students have taken steps to find a forever home for a puppy that was living in the faculty and vaccinated the seven dogs living in the faculty against distemper. They also made sure that the two faculty cats – Sarana and Eveready – were vaccinated against rabies.

The University of Sri Jayawardenepura has a history of being kind and compassionate towards the dogs and cats living within the university premises. Senior Professor Hemanthi Ranasinge initiated the university’s first animal welfare organisation, known as ‘Divisarana’, under which a large number of dogs were treated for illnesses and taken care of. In the year 2016, a group of students and staff members initiated J’pura Animal Lovers, including Udeshika Jayapali and Hely Rajakaruna, and they made sure that no animal starved during the pandemic times and vacation times. They also have sterilised and neutered almost all dogs and cats within the premises to make sure the population does not grow and they do not spread any disease and will not be a menace to the people around them.

The team of compassionate animal welfare students of the medical faculty would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to the Prof. Pathirana, Dr. Abeysekara and Prof. Premathilaka, PHIs Wasantha and Balasooriya, and to the dedicated and enthusiastic team of the Anti-Rabies Unit of the Ministry of Health.

The University of Sri Jayawardenepura sets a great example for all institutes of the country, and takes the lead, as it does in many other aspects as well, and in this situation; in animal welfare, being echo-friendly, and being concerned about public health. 

Be responsible; vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies.

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy