Mortality causes of owned, free-roaming puppies enrolled in a health and demographic surveillance system in South Africa
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Introduction: Rabies, causing an acute viral encephalitis, is still endemic in developing countries within Africa and Asia. Canine rabies in dogs and humans can be controlled through the mass vaccination of dogs against the virus based on the concept of herd immunity. Herd immunity is influenced by demographic factors. The aim of this research was to investigate causes of mortality in puppies from birth up to 120 days old in an owned, free-roaming dog population in South Africa; and to estimate the degree of achievable mortality rate reduction in this population by subdividing the mortality causes into avoidable and unavoidable. Results: A total number of 105 puppies were born alive. From this number 36 puppies got lost, 36 puppies died and 33 puppies were still alive. Mortality causes resulting from the verbal autopsy questionnaires were subdivided into accidental, starvation, infection or euthanasia. Conclusion: By assuming that avoidable mortality causes are starvation, infection and euthanasia, 81% (95% CI: 67.8%, 94.8%) of the total puppy mortality could have been prevented by providing good animal nutrition and veterinary care. The remaining 19% consisted of accidents. We concluded that puppy mortality could be reduced by 81% by providing good animal nutrition and veterinary care.