Rescue dog tests positive for potentially deadly virus at Calgary animal shelter

The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) in Calgary is in outbreak after a rescue dog’s test came back detecting a potentially fatal virus.

“We had a dog test positive for distemper,” says AARCS executive director Deanna Thompson.

“So we went into full lockdown here at AARCS and have a number of dogs in quarantine. Sadly we had two puppies also come down with it (who) had to be put down.”

The shelter believes the virus was introduced to the shelter two weeks ago after it took in several unvaccinated rescue dogs from a community east of Calgary.

“Sadly if they were vaccinated, they never would have gotten it in the first place,” says Thompson.

“I think that’s what we really want to get across to the public is get your animals vaccinated so that they don’t have to go through what these guys did.”

Distemper is an incurable airborne illness primarily occurring in unvaccinated canines.

Shelter veterinarian Dr. Marta Gunn says once a dog is infected, the virus has to run its course, affecting its respiratory, gastro-intestinal and nervous systems.

“In these dogs, we’ll see seizures,” says Gunn.

“We will see ataxia where they can’t walk properly, involuntary muscle twitching and if they do progress to neurologic signs, often those symptoms, even once they’ve recovered, they can be long term,” she adds.

The shelter will keep more than a dozen dogs quarantined as a precaution for two weeks with the plan of testing the dogs now and again in fourteen days.

However, with the cost of vet bills, they are now appealing to the public to help.

“We expect the cost just to maintain our quarantine to exceed $15,000 over the next couple of weeks,” says Thompson. “So, we are reaching out to the public in hopes that they will come forward and help us get through this.”

The shelter says there have been several reported cases of distemper across the province.

Dog owners at a nearby dog park say they’ve taken the necessary precautions against the preventable virus by vaccinating their animals, knowing the virus could be out there.

“But at the same time, I can’t let it prevent me from exercising my dog and coming out here. He enjoys this a lot so to take that out of his life, I don’t think that would be healthy either,” says Calgary resident Phoebe-Anne Worby.

“You can only do so much though,” explains Neel Reniga, who says his dog needs the exercise, ”so we got to come out, but she’s, you know, part of the family so we get her out but we’ll also take our proper precautions as we need to,” he concluded.