An exploratory analysis of demography and movement patterns of dogs: New insights in the ecology of endemic Rocky Mountain-Spotted Fever in Mexicali, Mexico

Andrés M. López-Pérez, Libertad Orozco, Oscar E. Zazueta, Maria Fierro, Paola Gomez, Janet Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

An outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) transmitted by the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato) has emerged as a major human and animal health concern in Mexicali, Mexico. Due to high rates of brown dog tick infestation, susceptibility, and association with humans, dogs serve as sentinels and have a key role in the ecology of RMSF. A cross-sectional household questionnaire study was conducted in six rural and urban locations to characterize dog ecology and demography in RMSF high-and low-risk areas of Mexicali. In addition, we tracked movement patterns of 16 dogs using a GPS data logger. Of 253 households, 73% owned dogs, and dog ownership tended to be higher in high-risk areas, with a mean dog:human ratio of 0.43, compared with 0.3 in low-risk areas. Dogs in high-risk areas had higher fecundity and roamed more, but the dog density and numbers of free-roaming dogs were comparable. There was a higher proportion of younger dogs and lower proportion of older dogs in high-risk areas. The high proportion of immunologically naïve puppies in high risk areas could result in a lack of herd immunity leading to a more vulnerable dog and human population. The marked increase of space use of free-roaming dogs in high-risk areas suggests that unrestrained dogs could play an important role in spreading ticks and pathogens. As means to limit RMSF risk, practical changes could include increased efforts for spay-neuter and policies encouraging dog restraint to limit canine roaming and spread of ticks across communities; due to dog density is less impactful such policies may be more useful than restrictions on the number of owned dogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0233567
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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