Evaluating the contact rate between companion dogs during dog walking and the practices towards potential cases of rabies among dog owners in Japan.
This study aimed to examine the habits of dog walking in Japan using an internet survey of insured dog owners. About 96.4% of the respondents (n=1,151) reported that they would take their dogs for a walk and they most frequently walk their dogs once or twice a day (75.9%) for 30 min to 1 hr (83.1%). The probability of a companion dog having contact with other dogs during dog walking was estimated to be 0.83 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.81-0.85), and the associated daily contact rate was estimated using log-normal distribution with a mean of 2.73 (95% CI: 2.42-3.11) and a standard deviation (SD) of 6.39 (95% CI: 5.18-7.84). Multiple linear regression revealed that the contact rate is mainly influenced by the social behaviour of the owner and to a lesser degree by his/her demographic characteristics including the area of residence, the breed size of dog and the age of the owner. In addition, ten Likert items measured on a 5-point scale were designed to assess the practices towards potential cases of rabies among dog owners. The respondents (n=972) achieved a mean score of 2.99 (out of a full score of 4) with a SD of 0.90 in responding to situations related to dog bite incidents and injury from stray cat scratches during dog walking. They achieved a higher score in responding to situations related to sighting a stray or wild animal during dog walking and situations related to non-specific clinical signs of rabies and bite injuries from stray dogs or wild animals during dog walking with a mean of 3.70 (SD =0.58) and 3.84 (SD=0.34), respectively. The level of best practice was also proved to be significantly associated with the demographic characteristics of the dog owner.