A mixed-methods approach to understanding domestic dog health and disease transmission risk in an indigenous reserve in Guyana, South America

Marissa S. Milstein, Christopher A. Shaffer, Phillip Suse, Aron Marawanaru, Daniel A. Heinrich, Peter A. Larsen, Tiffany M. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) can transmit a variety of pathogens due to their ubiquitousness in urban, rural and natural environments, and their close interactions with wildlife and humans. In this study, we used a mixed-methods approach to assess the role of domestic dogs as potential intermediaries of disease transmission from wildlife to humans among indigenous Waiwai in the Konashen Community Owned Conservation Area, Guyana. To address these objectives we 1) performed physical examinations and collected biological samples to assess Waiwai domestic dog health, and 2) administered questionnaires to characterize the role of dogs in the community and identify potential transmission pathways between wildlife, dogs, and humans. We observed ectoparasites on all dogs (n = 20), including: fleas (100%), ticks (15%), botflies (30%), and jigger flea lesions (Tunga penetrans) (80%). Ten percent of dogs were seropositive for Ehrlichia canis/ewingii, 10% were positive for Dirofilaria immitis, and one dog was seropositive for Leishmania infantum. All dogs (n = 20) were seronegative for: canine distemper virus, Brucella canis, Leptospira serovars, Try-panosoma cruzi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum/platys and Borrelia burgdorferi. Our questionnaire data revealed that the Waiwai remove ectoparasites from their dogs, clean up dog feces, and administer traditional and/or Western medicine to their dogs. White blood cell, strongyle-type ova, and eosinophil counts were lower in dogs that were not frequently used for hunting, dogs that did receive traditional and/or western medicine, and dogs that were frequently kept in elevated dog houses, although differences were not statistically significant. While our results suggest that the Waiwai have developed cultural practices that may promote dog health and/or prevent zoonotic disease transmission, more research is necessary to determine the efficacy of these practices. Our study provides important data on the health of dogs and the potential for disease transmission to humans in a zoonotic hotspot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0010469
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MSM, TMW, CAS and PAL received funding from the University of Minnesota Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility and Center for Animal Health and Food Safety Consortium on One Medicine One Science(COMOS) Seed Grant. MSM, TMW, CAS received funding from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment Mini Grants Program. MSM and TMW received funding from the Van Sloun Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.We thank the Environmental Protection Agency of Guyana and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs for granting us permission to conduct this research. We are grateful to Christina Valeri for helping us obtain research permits, as well as Erin Burton, Christie Mayo and Carlos Rodriquez for providing invaluable insights on the diagnostic testing used in the study. Lastly, we are sincerely grateful to the Waiwai of Masakenari Village for permitting us to conduct this study and welcoming us into their lives.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Milstein et al.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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