In recent weeks dogs in two states have been sickened by a serious
disease called canine circovirus. Headlines all over the different media
outlets have created quite a stir about the illness and concern for
dogs everywhere. However, all is not quite what it seems on the surface.
So what are the realities of the outbreak and how serious is it really?
The outbreak began among dogs staying at an Ohio boarding kennel and doggy daycare. They presented with severe symptoms of illness. The animals had bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. In several cases the illness progressed to vasculitis, a serious inflammation of the blood vessels. Three of these dogs died.
The local veterinary community took proactive steps as they realized that an unusual cluster of cases could be indicative of a larger problem. They quickly notified one another, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Problems with pet food were quickly ruled out as a cause of the illness.
The idea that these dogs died of circovirus was a bit premature. Samples from the deceased dogs were sent for testing. It turned out that only one of the three dogs had circovirus.The truth is that authorities still don't know exactly what killed these animals.
They do know that the circovirus was present in at least some of the dogs. In the porcine version of the virus, which affects pigs, the presence of the virus can lead to worsening of the symptoms of other types of illness. This is the real reason that veterinarians are so concerned. It would be way too easy to blame circovirus and ignore the real root causes of the disease -- like a "vector borne illness" (from an insect like a tick), another, different virus, or even the circovirus working in conjunction with another pathogen.
One of the important things to remember here is that the best infectious disease specialists in the world are working on the problem. Just because it may not be circovirus doesn't mean that they have let the matter drop.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the dogs who survived got prompt veterinary attention. If your observe any changes in your dog's habits or routines that concern you in any way, don't hesitate to call you vet. It could make all the difference in the world to your dog.
The symptoms of circovirus include: vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, neurological problems, a lack of appetite and lethargy. If you dog is exhibiting any or all of these symptoms time is of the essence. The disease progresses rapidly and can kill in as little as 48 hours. These same symptoms can also be indicative of a number of illnesses so they don't necessarily mean that your dog has circovirus.
A total of four dogs in the Cincinnati and Akron areas have died of the mysterious illness. Last spring several dogs in California died in similar circumstances. Circovirus itself has only recently been discovered and little is known about the disease.