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Published: Monday, 9/9/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

New virus afflicting dogs can be deadly

No cases have been reported in the area

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Symptoms associated with a new virus are similar to those exhibited in dogs that died in Cincinnati and others that were sickened in the Akron-Canton area over the last several weeks.

The illness is believed to be canine circovirus. Affected dogs have exhibited similar symptoms including vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy.

Several Toledo-area veterinarians said they had not seen any cases resembling the disease but are keeping an eye out for it.

“We haven’t seen this in our practice and I hope we never will,” said Dr. Jennifer Tate, a veterinarian at SylvaniaVET.

Officials at the Toledo Area Humane Society and Lucas County Dog Warden’s Office also said they have not seen any cases.

“We have seen the information and have reached out [online] to see what other shelters are experiencing,” said Dr. Deb Johnson, a veterinarian and director of operations at the humane society. “We have not seen any cases of this here.”

One area vet said the virus might be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms — bloody diarrhea and vomiting, extreme lethargy, neurological problems, and a lack of appetite — are common to many illnesses.

“It is a pretty broad category of symptoms,” said Dr. Gary Thompson, a veterinarian at West Suburban Animal Hospital in Sylvania Township.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health has taken reports of severe dog illnesses in several parts of the state for the past three weeks. Three dogs in the Cincinnati area died and a dozen more were sickened last month.

Dogs that have had symptoms of what might be canine circovirus are being treated with supportive therapies for the individual symptoms, said a spokesman with the department. For example, intravenous fluids would be used to fight the dehydration resulting from diarrhea.

There is no "cure" for the disease nor is there a vaccine to prevent it.

“While we continue to work diligently to identify what is making these dogs sick, we are asking Ohio’s veterinarians to help by contacting our laboratory for consultation if they suspect they are treating a related case,” state veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey said in a statement.

Vets are recommending that owners of dogs with similar symptoms contact their veterinarian immediately. The department also recommends that dog owners take standard precautions used to reduce the spread of viral infections, including monitoring the animal closely for signs of illness and refraining from co-mingling them with other dogs.

“The most important thing dog owners can do is call their veterinarian if they have concerns about the health of their pets. Your veterinarian is the best person to help determine if your animal is ill and what steps should be taken to help them recover,” said Dr. Forshey.

The department found the presence of canine circovirus in a fecal sample recently taken from an ill dog in the state. This is the first laboratory detection of canine circovirus in Ohio. Further work is being done to verify the significance of this finding.

“The laboratory confirmation is important because the virus is newly isolated, however we are not prepared at this time to confirm that canine circovirus is the cause of the dog illnesses,” said Dr. Forshey. “Because the symptoms being exhibited can also be linked to other known illnesses, additional analysis and information is needed to determine if this virus alone or in co-infection contributes to illness and death in dogs."

There is very little information available about where canine circovirus came from and how it spreads. The limited research available shows that the virus can cause vasculitis and hemorrhaging in infected dogs.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will continue to investigate the situation and urges veterinarians who believe they are treating dogs with similar symptoms to consult the laboratory by calling 614-728-6220.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066 or @TanyaIrwin.



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