Population study of free-roaming dogs in a remote community in Central Australia
SummaryStudy of the population and health status of free-roaming dogs in a remote Aboriginal community
Free-roaming dogs are domestic dogs that are not confined. They may be owned, but allowed to roam freely, or they may be strays. Under optimal conditions, a given population of dogs will nearly triple every year.
The aim of this three-year study, comprising twelve visits to the Tanami Desert, was to obtain information on the population dynamics of the free-roaming dogs in a very remote Aboriginal community. This was necessary before implementing fertility control to reduce dog numbers to tolerable levels. It was apparent that some factors were already regulating the dog population and these were investigated.
Despite being scavengers, most dogs had acceptable fat scores but there was increased mortality of pups during the wet when tick infestation was greatest. It was concluded that a major extrinsic factor controlling the dog population in this remote area was infection with Ehrlichia platys, either on its own or as co-infection with Babesia canis. Both organisms are suspected of being transmitted by the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, which was found to be a common external parasite on the dogs.