Dog owners of the midwest, beware: there’s a deadly disease striking dogs, and it may be spreading to them by their owners. Flu-like symptoms may be present, and can be fatal within 12-24 hours of contracting it.
Cases of the virus similar to circovirus (typically associated with pigs) have been reported all across Ohio, and now six Michigan dogs have died from it. There is no name for the mysterious illness, because veterinarians and scientists aren’t exactly sure what it is yet.
“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 State Veterinarian Dr. Tony 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.”
Symptoms can include lethargy, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, and most notably, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Dogs displaying these symptoms should be rushed to a vet, especially if someone they’ve been in close contact with is also under the weather. Dogs can be saved, but only if they are treated immediately.
“Usually within about 12 to 24 hours of it starting,” said Dr. Lindsay Ruland of the Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Ann Arbor.
It is unknown how the virus is transmitted, but it may be spreading through saliva and feces. No humans or other animals are believed to have died from the virus, but doctors are recommending that people wash their hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and hot water before and after touching their pets and their pets’ food, bedding, toys, etc. For the time, none of these items should be shared between animals, especially if people around them have had flu-like symptoms, and contact between dogs should be limited, or avoided altogether if it is known that a dog (or its human) has been sick recently.
“Traditionally we don’t pass viruses to our pets. This year, I think that there is potential that we are passing it to our pets,” Dr. Ruland said.