Street dogs around the world have a constant battle against hunger, disease and indiscriminate breeding, resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering. Mayhew International believes free-roaming dogs should be able to live healthily side by side with people and our humane and sustainable projects work towards this goal.
A less well-known but common disease associated with free-roaming dogs worldwide is the Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour (CTVT). Here in the UK, the condition disappeared during the 20th century following the introduction of dog control laws, but in places like Afghanistan it can be found in as much as 10% of the dog population.
A CTVT is a naturally occurring sexually transmitted tumour that can be passed from dog to dog very easily. It is most common in young, unneutered dogs and free-roaming dogs are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Sadly Mayhew’s team in Kabul, Afghanistan have seen several cases during their work in the field vaccinating against rabies in the city.
CTVT is transmitted through direct contact with tumour cells from a diseased animal, usually during mating, but also through oral contact such as biting, licking or sniffing. It is spread by the transfer of living cancer cells between dogs and it presents as a red bulging mass on the surface of the genitals of both male and female dogs. The mass will be painful, uncomfortable and bleed easily, causing the dog to lick the affected area frequently. Un-neutered females are also at higher risk of developing fatal infections of the womb, known as pyometras, and cancerous mammary tumours from multiple litters of puppies. One female dog the team encountered, seen above with Mayhew Afghanistan Country Director, Dr Mohammadzai DVM, was suffering from TVT which had metastasized to a large mammary tumour and was causing the dog intense pain and discomfort. Sadly, there was nothing we could do to help this dog and the kindest thing was to put an end to her suffering.
Although owned dogs with CTVTs can be treated with chemotherapy, this option is simply not possible for the street dogs of Kabul. The best way to prevent them contracting and spreading this condition is to spay and neuter the dogs. Mayhew has long been an advocate of neutering as the most humane way to reduce the overpopulation of dogs, but it is also effective against reducing the risk of these sexually transmitted cancers and other diseases of the reproductive organs.
Mayhew Afghanistan is currently planning to implement a comprehensive neutering programme in Kabul to help control the free-roaming dog population, as well as combat the spread of CTVT and other diseases. This will ultimately reduce the suffering of street dogs in the city and start to build a healthier community. Our plan for 2019 is to neuter 6,400 dogs, which is 40% of the population, targeting primarily the female dogs.
Mayhew Afghanistan is also proud to be participating in a research programme with Cambridge University Vet School on the spread and development of CTVTs around the world.
We have calculated a cost of approximately £50 to Trap, Vaccinate, Neuter and Release (TVNR) one dog in Kabul, including catching the dog, bringing them to the clinic, pre and post-op care and 48-72 hours boarding, surgery, rabies vaccination, parasite treatment, identification and releasing them back to their own area.
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