Saskatchewan

'We need to vaccinate,' Regina vet reminds pet owners after dog tests positive for rabies

Shepherd was euthanized on Monday after exhibiting telltale rabies symptoms

Dr. Maria Just

Dr. Maria Just says it's important to vaccinate your dog for rabies. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

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A Regina veterinary clinic is warning the public about the importance of vaccinations after a household dog tested positive for rabies this week.

The large-breed shepherd was brought into the 24 Hr Animal Care Centre on Monday exhibiting the telltale signs of the contagious disease.

"There were neurological signs. Little mini seizures, shaking, not able to drink, not able to swallow in general," said Dr. Maria Just, a veterinarian and owner of the clinic.

"By the time it was presented he was actually trying to bite even the air with any movement around the room. [Rabies] will trigger this behaviour." 

The symptoms were consistent with rabies so the doctor working at the time and the owner decided to euthanize the dog. 

24 HR Animal Care Centre

The dog came into the 24 Hr Animal Care Centre Monday exhibiting telltale signs of rabies. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Test results came back to the clinic Thursday confirming the diagnosis. 

It's likely the dog contracted the disease from wildlife while visiting a rural area near Weyburn. The virus that causes rabies can be transmitted to other animals and humans through saliva.

According to a representative with the animal health unit at Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture, dogs are most often infected after tangling with a skunk.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency usually tries to determine the virus strain in rabies cases, but it can take weeks for those results to come back.

The dog in this case "was not vaccinated, unfortunately," said Just.

"The big message here is vaccinate. Go to your vet, make sure that your vaccinations are up to date."

While the vaccination is not mandatory, Dr. Just said puppies should get vaccinated once they are about four months old and again at one year old. From there, vaccinations are recommended every three years.

"This is a serious disease, a fatal disease that can affect society in general because it will affect humans. So it is very important to be aware of it, remember that it still exists, and that we need to vaccinate." 

One dog has tested positive for rabies in the province each year since 2014.

According to the province's Rabies Response Program, in 2017 there were a total of 18 positive tests for rabies involving various species of animals, including 13 skunks.

Of those 18 cases, only one involved a dog, which tested positive in April 2017 in the rural municipality of Orkney.

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