Circovirus In Dogs

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by Lorie Huston, DVM on December 22, 2013

Some of my colleagues have been receiving a lot of questions about circovirus, particularly those that live and/or practice in Ohio, Michigan, or California, where this virus was originally thought to have played a part in the deaths of several dogs. Though I’m not located in any of those areas, even a few of my clients and readers have read about the circovirus and have asked me about it. So, I thought would be a good time to tell you what we know about the virus. As you’ll see, there’s a lot we don’t know as well. This is still a new and potentially an emerging disease.

*Circovirus is a relatively new virus that has been discovered in dogs and first identified in June 2012. Circovirus was suspected in the illnesses and deaths of a small number of dogs in Ohio, Michigan and California early in 2013. Further testing by state agriculture departments have concluded that this new virus was not the primary cause of illness in the Ohio dogs.

*Although circoviruses also affect birds and pigs – these are distinctly different viruses than the canine circovirus.

*Symptoms of circovirus include vomiting and diarrhea, both which may become severe. Symptoms may rapidly worsen and result in hemorrhage into the chest or abdomen, shock, or coagulation problems. Unfortunately, these symptoms are very non-specific and common in many canine diseases.

*Current research indicates that circovirus may act as either a primary or perhaps a co-infection with other pathogens to cause this illness.

*Circovirus has also been isolated from the stool of completely healthy dogs. So, just because a dog tests positive for the virus doesn’t mean it will get sick. There is still much to learn about circovirus and how it plays a role in illness.

*Circovirus is so new that not much is known about it. Sick pets can have many other viruses, bacteria or other germs concentrated in the vomit or feces. Direct exposure to feces and vomit can transmit disease, or can contaminate shared surfaces or equipment.

*Just like we saw in the 1980’s with parvovirus, many gastrointestinal viruses have no specific cure and cause very generalized symptoms, but infected dogs are treated with intense supportive care including intravenous fluids, antibiotics for secondary infections, and other therapies. Early and aggressive medical care is one important factor believed to have improved survival for some dogs in earlier suspected cases.

*A vaccine is not available at this time. This is a new virus, and it should be recognized that it takes years to get a vaccine tested and approved for use in pets. Again, we saw this same concern and development with the parvovirus decades ago.

*It’s important to not panic. There are many reasons why dogs develop vomiting or diarrhea such as dietary indiscretion, pancreatitis, parasitism, parvovirus, or bacterial agents. Consult with your veterinarian if your dog develops symptoms consistent with circovirus.

*As far as we know now, this virus does not affect cats.

*To keep your dog safe, use common sense measures. Clean up your pet’s waste, avoid contact with sick animals, and keep your pet up to date on other preventative measures like vaccinations and dewormings.

*There is no concern in taking your dog to a veterinary hospital, as strict measures of isolation and sanitation should always be followed by veterinarians and technicians.

*If your dog shows any of the symptoms mentioned, please call your veterinarian immediately.

That’s what we know so far about circovirus and how it affects dogs. I’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

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