One of the prerequisite to participate in the Ivakkak race is that all dogs must be vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a virus transmitted by saliva of infected animals and is an important disease for humans because it is considered lethal.
In Nunavik, rabies is maintained in both the arctic and red foxes populations. This disease is difficult to control and eradicate given the vastness of the territory. Therefore, vaccination of domestic animals is utterly important in order to create a barrier between humans and infected wildlife.
Animals infected by the virus can be affected by the classical “furious form” and exhibit different behaviors such as loosing their fear of humans and of other animals, aggressiveness, chewing objects and biting. The “paralytic form” can also occurs and animals are slowly paralyzing and salivating excessively.
Sled dogs are at risk of being bitten by infected wildlife because they are usually attached or roaming outside without human surveillance. This risk occurs during the Ivakkak race but is also present in their home villages. Just to give you an idea, during the first months of 2015, there were already 4 confirmed cases of rabies in or near villages of the Hudson Bay: two domestic dogs (Ivujuvik and Akulivik), one arctic fox (Ivujivik) and one red fox (Umiujaq).
Nunavik municipalities can participate to Quebec government’s vaccination program. Contact your municipality about your animal’s rabies vaccination. If you have any questions about rabies in Nunavik you can call 1-844-264-6289.
May I also take advantage of this tribune, to insist that any person who is bitten by a domestic animal or wildlife should always present himself to the local clinic.