Insufficient immunisation of dogs imported from Russia and Romania

May 3/2019

A research on canine rabies antibodies supports the idea that the immunisation of dogs imported from Russia and Romania is insufficient. This was indicated in a research by the Finnish Food Authority (formerly the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira) conducted in 2018 on the levels of rabies antibodies in blood samples taken from dogs imported from Russia and Romania. The dog's body forms antibodies, when it has been successfully vaccinated against rabies. Of the 36 dogs examined, 14 had no antibodies at all, and in addition, the levels of antibodies in five of the dogs were below the internationally approved limit value of 0.5 IU/ml, even though the import documents state that the dogs were vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before being imported. In the control group of dogs vaccinated in Finland and exported abroad, antibodies were found in all dogs, and in 94 per cent of these dogs, the antibody levels were higher than the limit of 0.5 IU/ml. 

Besides animals, rabies is also transmitted to humans, and there is no cure. Symptomatic rabies is always fatal, which is why preventing rabies is considered crucial.

Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is prevented with vaccinations to protect the lives of animals and humans alike. The weak immunisation of imported dogs may increase the risk of rabies spreading from infected animals to other animals and people.

“In the research by the Finnish Food Authority, 14 of the dogs imported from Russia and Romania showed no antibodies at all, and the explanation could be that the dogs have not been vaccinated properly.  Rabies is encountered in wild animals and to some extend in domestic animals in both Russia and Romania. According to street dog rescue organisations, street dogs are imported even from areas where rabies is present”, says Head of Section, DVM Tiina Nokireki from the Finnish Food Authority.

Rabies vaccination is mandatory for all dogs imported from Russia. The EU does not, however, require a certificate of adequate antibody levels from dogs imported from Russia. Romania is a EU country, so the internal EU regulations regarding imports apply to it accordingly.

Therefore, the Finnish Food Authority recommends that before a dog is imported to Finland, its rabies antibody levels are tested by an EU-approved laboratory at the initiative of the party importing the animal. The Finnish Food Authority also recommends that no dogs with unknown origins be imported to Finland.

A scientific article based on the research is available with more detailed information
Kaila, M., Marjoniemi, J., Nokireki, T.
Comparative study of rabies antibody titers of dogs vaccinated in Finland and imported street dogs vaccinated abroad. Acta veterinaria Scandinavica 2019: 61, 15. 

Further information:
Head of Section Tiina Nokireki, tel. +358 50 413 1687, Unit of virology