AMES, Iowa – Veterinary students hosted a free rabies vaccination clinic for pet owners at the Meskwaki tribal settlement in Tama, Iowa, last month, vaccinating 48 dogs and four cats. Vaccinating the pets though was only part of the mission.
The student volunteers took to the road to raise awareness about public health and zoonotic diseases like rabies, internal parasites, and sarcoptic mange (a skin condition caused by parasitic mites), all of which can be transmitted to humans. Vaccinating pets against rabies is one measure to protect pets and people from a disease that can be fatal. The vaccination protects pets by reducing the likelihood of transmission of the virus from wildlife to pets (and vice versa) and acts as a barrier to the reintroduction of rabies into an area where it has been eliminated. Vaccination of pets also reduces the risk of human exposure to rabies. Most animals also received oral deworming medication and topical flea and tick prevention. Students also tested most dogs for heartworm disease and had the opportunity to see and address other diseases, including demodectic mange (another form of mange caused by an external mite).
Hosting a free rabies clinic had been discussed by the club for a couple of years, but this year the club was determined to make the event a reality. Members agreed that the clinic would be
held in a community that doesn’t typically have access to veterinary care and public health
education. The State Veterinarian as well as the State Public Health Veterinarian suggested the Meskwaki Settlement.
The clinic was supervised by Dr. Radford Davis, associate professor at ISU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the club’s adviser, and Dr. MeLissa Ciprich, also at the College of Veterinary Medicine and adviser on tribal outreach. “Public health is an inherent duty of every veterinarian,” Dr. Davis said. “This clinic blended clinical skills, public health, client relations, animal care, disease prevention and community service. It also taught us all how to build relationships with another community.”
“It took half an hour before the first couple of pet owners arrived; after that, we had a steady stream and, at times, owners had an hour-wait,” said Nicola Seda, fourth-year veterinary student and president of the student public health club at Iowa State University. “The pet owners were very appreciative and asked when we would return.”