Canine Circovirus - Should you be concerned?

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Do I need to worry about dog circovirus?

The recent reports of a mysterious illness causing death in Ohio dogs may have you wondering, do I need to worry about circovirus in my dog?

First, what is a circovirus?

Circoviruses are small viruses that have been shown to infect birds and pigs. The dog circovirus was first identified in a sick dog from California in 2012. Following discovery of this new virus researchers evaluated blood and stool from sick and healthy dogs and found the virus in about 11% of dogs with diarrhea and in 7% of healthy dogs. Researchers also confirmed that the virus is NOT the same virus that infects birds or pigs.

Is circovirus responsible for illness in those Ohio dogs?

Circovirus was recently detected in the stool from one dog in Ohio with vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lethargy. This is the first time dog circovirus has been identified in that state, however, it is unclear as to whether or not circovirus played a role in that case. Remember, circovirus has been found in the stool of perfectly healthy dogs.  It is possible based on evidence in pigs and on research done in California that circovirus is more likely to cause symptoms when there are other infectious diseases present in the same dog. In summary, circovirus has NOT been confirmed as a cause of illness/death in dogs in Ohio.

What are the signs of infection?

Ohio veterinarians have reported several dogs that have presented with severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea and some of these animals have died.  The signs quickly start making the animal very ill. Hospitalization for intravenous fluids and nursing care is often required for recovery.

Melrose

What should I do?

There are many causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Some result in only mild symptoms whereas others result in life-threatening disease. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, contact your family veterinarian or the Veterinary Medical Center.  Depending on the severity you may be encouraged to bring your pet in to be examined by a doctor. Hesitating to seek veterinary care could allow your pet to become more ill, potentially resulting in an increased cost and worsened outcome.  In particular, if your pet’s vomit and/or feces contains frank red blood or looks like brown coffee-grounds, if your pet will not eat, or if he/she is weak or collapses, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

How can I protect my dog?

There is still a lot we do not know about circovirus in dogs. Although there is no vaccine for this virus, there are several measures you can take to protect your dog from infectious causes of vomiting and diarrhea in general. First, do not allow your dog to have contact with sick dogs. Many viruses and bacteria that cause diarrhea in dogs are spread through the mouth and nose during normal interactions with other pets and feces. Equally important, do not allow your sick dog to come into contact with other pets until he/she is fully recovered. Cleaning up after your pet immediately after elimination is always encouraged to help minimize the spread of disease. Finally, maintaining a yearly preventative health schedule with your veterinarian helps minimize the risk of other infectious diseases that could worsen clinical signs if your dog were to come into contact with circovirus.

In conclusion, there is little evidence that circovirus is a risk to dogs in Central New York at this time. There is no need to change your daily routine with your pet.  However, if they develop vomiting or diarrhea, do not hesitate to contact your family veterinarian or call the Veterinary Medical Center at 315-446-7933.

Heather White

This blog post written by Dr. Heather White, DVM, DACVIM- Specialist in Veterinary Internal Medicine at VMC of CNY