Dog ownership, abundance and potential for bat-borne rabies spillover in Chile

F. Astorga, L. E. Escobar, D. A. Poo-Muñoz, G. Medina-Vogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Rabies is a viral infectious disease that affects all mammals, including humans. Factors associated with the incidence of rabies include the presence and density of susceptible hosts and potential reservoirs. Currently, Chile is declared free of canine-related rabies, but there is an overpopulation of dogs within the country and an emergence of rabies in bats. Our objectives are to determine potential areas for bat-borne rabies spillover into dog populations expressed as a risk map, and to explore some key features of dog ownership, abundance, and management in Chile. For the risk map, our variables included a dog density surface (dog/km2) and a distribution model of bat-borne rabies presence. From literature review, we obtained dog data from 112 municipalities, which represent 33% of the total municipalities (339). At country level, based on previous studies the median human per dog ratio was 4.8, with 64% of houses containing at least one dog, and a median of 0.9 dog per house. We estimate a national median of 5.3dog/km2, and a median of 3680 dogs by municipality, from which we estimate a total population of 3.5×106 owned dogs. The antirabies vaccination presented a median of 21% of dogs by municipality, and 29% are unrestricted to some degree. Human per dog ratio have a significant (but weak) negative association with human density. Unrestricted dogs have a negative association with human density and income, and a positive association with the number of dogs per house. Considering dog density by municipality, and areas of potential bat-borne rabies occurrence, we found that 163 (~48%) of Chilean municipalities are at risk of rabies spillover from bats to dogs. Risk areas are concentrated in urban settlements, including Santiago, Chile's capital. To validate the risk map, we included cases of rabies in dogs from the last 27 years; all fell within high-risk areas of our map, confirming the assertive risk prediction. Our results suggest that the use of dog population parameters may be informative to determine risk areas for bat-rabies spillover events. In addition, we confirm that dog abundance is a neglected and emerging public health concern in Chile, particularly within urban areas, which deserves prompt intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-405
Number of pages9
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015.


  • Bat-borne
  • Dog abundance
  • Dog ownership
  • Rabies
  • Risk map
  • Spillover


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