Fighting Rabies in the North, one Vaccine Clinic at a Time

News Type: 

GNWT staff have been helping keep communities and their furry friends healthy and safe.

Responding to recent positive rabies tests in foxes and dogs in Tuktoyaktuk, two veterinarians (from Vets Without Borders and ENR) traveled to remote northern communities to help with community-run free rabies vaccine clinics for dogs.

Residents of Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, and Sachs Harbour were able to get their pet dogs vaccinated at day clinics offered in each community.

“These kinds of clinics are so important to the management of rabies in the NWT,” said Dr. Naima Jutha – Territorial Wildlife Veterinarian and Chief Veterinary Officer for the NWT. Rabies is a naturally occurring disease in arctic foxes, and can pose a serious threat to people and pets.  “It was a really great turnout and we helped get lots of dogs vaccinated – having that protection is hopefully going to help folks breathe a little easier.”

Stacey, lay vaccinator in Tuktoyaktuk working with the veterinarians.

The team went beyond just helping with free vaccine clinics while in the communities. They also provided information to community members to increase awareness of rabies and take steps to protect their pets.  Continuing the clinics was supported by the communities.  

This year, one of the objectives of the visits was to build teams of “lay-vaccinators” – community members without formal veterinary training – to get them comfortable with giving shots to animals who need them between vet visits.

A 7 year old girl who may want to work with animals and become a vet when she grows up, learns how to listen to a heart.

In one community, a seven-year-old girl got to play vet-for-a-day when she was taught how to listen to her dog’s heart and watched as Smore got his vaccines and vet check-up.

 And of course, just like the COVID-19 vaccine selfies overtaking your newsfeed, there were a ton of great post-vaccine pics – this time featuring some very good boys and girls.

Finally, Dr. Michelle Tuma, and Dr. Naima Jutha take a vaccine selfie

Clinics were offered in partnership with Vets Without Borders Canada, Arctic Paws Spay & Neuter Assistance Program, NWT Veterinary Services, and the Hamlets of Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour, and Paulatuk, including a Vets Without Borders full spay/neuter and pet wellness clinic in Paulatuk.

Simple Steps to Rabies Protection

  • If you trap or harvest wolves, foxes, or other carnivores regularly: get your rabies vaccine every two years. It can be fatal to humans.

  • Get your dog vaccinated for rabies every year to protect them, you and your household.

  • Keep your dogs indoors at night, if possible.

  • Stay away from unfamiliar animals (including someone else’s pet or a stray dog).

  • Do not pick up, pet, feed, or handle any wild animals, especially foxes.

  • Teach your children to stay away from wild or stray animals and to avoid feeding or handling wildlife.

  • Do not touch dead or sick animals, and report them to your local ENR office when you see them.

  • Avoid leaving garbage or other wildlife attractants outside.               

Reporting Suspected or Confirmed Rabies

Report any animals suspected of having rabies to your local Renewable Resource Officer, Bylaw Officer or Environmental Health Officer.

If an infected animal bites a pet, report the incident to your local ENR office or EHO. Depending on the level of risk, immediate action may need to be taken. Officers will help you out.

To learn more about rabies prevention, visit:é-environnementale/rabies-prevention