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Deadly Dog Virus, Possibly Circovirus, Strikes Michigan, Killing 6 Pets

10/04/2013 01:00 pm ET
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Authorities say that a deadly virus may be spreading among dogs in Ann Arbor, Mich. -- one that's already claimed the lives of six pets.

One possible culprit may be circovirus. Two cases of canine circovirus have been identified in Michigan as of Oct. 3, Thomas Mullaney, acting director of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University, said in a statement.

The circovirus sickened animals last year in both San Diego and possibly Ohio. It's a small contagious virus that is most often seen in pigs and birds. It's been known to cause vomiting and diarrhea since being discovered in dogs in 2012.

"However, both animals also had simultaneous infections with other organisms; therefore identification of the circovirus was not necessarily linked to the cause of the disease shown by the animals," the statement by Mullaney read. The center will now do full diagnostic post-mortem work-ups of the animals to determine which illness actually killed these pets.

There is no evidence yet that canine circovirus can be transmitted to humans or cause human disease. But veterinarians told WXYZ-TV they believe that humans may be unknowingly transferring the virus to their pets. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) notes that direct contact with an infected dog or its vomit or diarrhea would present a higher risk of circovirus infection.

Dr. Lindsay Ruland of the Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Scio Township, which has seen hundreds of dogs come into her clinic in the past year with similar symptoms, thinks that the virus could be a mutated form of influenza.

She told MLive that the dogs in her clinic have been brought in with severe abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy and blood in the stool or diarrhrea. What's more, she and other clinic employees have also become sick after working with their dogs, as have their families. Ruland and her staff said they have had symptoms including abdominal pain, common cold and pneumonia.

Officials aren't even sure that circovirus causes disease. “It is important to note that circovirus has been found in the feces of healthy dogs. Also, the initial research shows that nearly 70 percent of dogs showing clinical signs of illness and found positive for circovirus were also infected with other viruses or bacteria known to cause disease. Currently, circovirus by itself is not associated with a specific disease process,” said Mullaney in the statement.

Dog owners whose pets show signs of illness, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, should contact their veterinarian and seek diagnosis and treatment, the AVMA said.

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