The New Dog Virus: Circovirus

September 11, 2013
Photo: WRGT-TV FOX 45 News

The internet has been buzzing with talk of an emerging and possibly deadly virus occurring in dogs. Concern about this virus is significant enough that even during a webinar I attended yesterday on using social media in veterinary medicine, dog circovirus received a mention. The Animal Medical Center’s Facebook friends have been discussing the virus and their concerns about their dogs, as well.

Circovirus?
I had actually not heard of the circovirus group until recently, probably because the majority of circoviruses infect birds. Until this new virus was isolated from sick dogs in April, pigs were the only mammal known to be infected with a circovirus, which causes pneumonia, gastrointestinal signs, and systemic inflammation. The genome of a dog circovirus was reported back in 2012, but the authors of that paper do not report where the virus was found or if the virus made dogs sick.

Sick dogs in California
In April of this year, Emerging Infectious Diseases published an article, “Circovirus in Tissues of Dogs with Vasculitis and Hemorrhage.” In California, a young dog, sick with signs of vomiting and bloody diarrhea, died and was autopsied. Tests for typical diseases causing bloody diarrhea, parvovirus, Salmonella and Giardia, were negative. Researchers performed additional testing on the tissues, leading to the identification of a strain of dog circovirus. Fecal analysis of samples from both healthy dogs and sick dogs with signs similar to the dog in California found about 10% of fecal samples were positive for circovirus, but many dogs had other pathogens in their stool including coronavirus, Giardia and Salmonella. One common historical feature of these cases was group housing, such as a shelter or boarding kennel.

Sick dogs in Ohio
Last month, an astute veterinarian in Ohio treated several dogs, all with a history of staying at the same boarding kennel, and reported this cluster of cases to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The dogs had strikingly similar signs to one another and to the dogs reported in Emerging Infectious Diseases: bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and inflammation of the blood vessels. One dog had circovirus isolated from a fecal sample, and further testing is underway in one of the dogs that died to determine the cause of death.

Treat with common sense
Medical caution is indicated in this situation. Finding a virus in a sick patient does not automatically determine causality and much more research is necessary before circovirus infection can be added to the list of potential diagnoses for sick dogs. Our friends at the Veterinary Network News urge caution in attributing too many illnesses to this newly found virus.

The unknown can be scary. Since so little is known about dog circovirus, making rational recommendations is a hard task.

  1. Use common sense. Keep your dog away from sick dogs.
  2. Wash your hands after petting someone else’s dog and before you pet your dog.
  3. Report all illnesses to your veterinarian.
  4. Still nervous? Check for updates on the virus on The AMC website. We will recommend if it might be best to forgo the dog park, boarding kennel and doggie day care if the risks become more evident.

Comments

We lost our mini-dachshund to this virus 2 wks. ago in Myrtle Beach, SC. Then last week our Springer Spaniel came down with it as well. With the immediate use of subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics she has been able to make a full recovery!
So sorry for the loss of your mini-dachshund. Thankfully you were able to save your other dog!
September 14th my Roxie a beautiful 13 year old maltese...never sick a day in her life died from this. I had her at my vet immediately, and numerous times... the vet had no idea what it was. We tried blood transfusions and all sorts of medications. By the time I took her to AMC it was too late. 4 days start to finish.
We are very sorry for your loss. For resources to share with other dog owners, please visit http://www.avma.org/kb/resources/pages/circovirus-in-dogs-frequently-asked-questions.aspx
my next door nahbiors dog 7 yearold golden died 2 weeks ago from unknown illness was severley ill for 2 days then just died the nahbiors vet could not help couldent even figure out why dog was ill the vet bill was 700 dollars could have been circovirus? this happend sept.6 2013 in livonia michigan get the word out people are dogs are at risk!
My dogs have had something our vet never comfirmed it was the virus but strange how they got sick all I can tell anyone is ask for Cerenia [maropitant citrate] tablets it stops the symptoms my little girl has not thewup for 6 hrs. now it's last 24 hrs. one tablet

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