Alert on virus found in Ohio dogs

A new virus showing up in some Ohio dogs is similar to a virus commonly found in pigs.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the virus first was detected in June 2012 during a genetic screening for new viruses in canine samples. This past April, the virus was found in a California dog at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The dog had vomit containing blood and diarrhea. Beyond that, a dog infected with the virus also shows lethargy and weight loss.

“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,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey. The symptoms are similar to those of dogs who died in Cincinnati and the Akron-Canton area. Canine circovirus is newly isolated, and there is very little information available about the virus, where it came from and how it spreads.

Jessica Smith, along with David Spindler, is a veterinarian at Green Meadow Veterinary Hospital, 3000 State Route 26. Smith said, at least in their practice, she hasn’t seen anything like what other vets statewide are seeing.

“We do see cases of vomiting and diarrhea on a pretty regular basis, but nothing we suspect as being circovirus,” Smith said.

The virus, she said, can be spread easily, either through the respiratory tract or feces.

“Right now, they don’t know if it’s that virus that’s causing the deaths,” Smith said. “They aren’t sure if there is another disease process going on.”

If a dog is suspected of having the virus, Smith said a fecal sample is sent to the Animal Health Section of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Steve Herron, manager of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley on Mount Tom Road, said the virus has been found mostly in the western part of the state, referring to four cases in Cincinnati.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with that this year,” he said.

Herron recalled a new strain of parvo was discovered two or three years ago that caused a few cases locally.

“It must not have been too widespread here,” Herron said. “What we are dealing with here is still treatable.”

Smith said dogs with suspect symptoms should get care, including hospitalization with IV fluids to rehydrate the dogs. When dogs have severe vomiting, they can become severely dehydrated, Smith said. Sometimes, the dog’s temperature can go below normal, and they should be kept warm. In some cases, antibiotics might be necessary.

“If anybody suspects their dog might be sick, they should contact their vet and let them know what they are seeing with their dog,” Smith said. “(Owners) should limit the area they are accessing. They should keep them out of public areas. If it’s going to be shedding that virus, they are going to shed a lot of it, and it’s going to put a lot of other dogs at risk.”