Deadly Dog Virus Strikes Midwest: What Vets Want You to Know

Dog VirusDog VirusThe deadly dog virus canine circovirus has been confirmed in two cases in Michigan, where six dogs have died of severe flu-like symptoms in the last week. Canine circovirus isn't necessarily the cause of the dogs' death, because the dogs tested positive for other viruses at the same time, Michigan authorities said in a statement.

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Over the last month, eight dogs have also died in the Cleveland and Akron areas of Ohio, all with the same symptoms, reports Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer. Only one of those dogs has tested positive for circovirus, however, and even in that case it doesn't necessarily mean that circovirus was the cause of the dog's death.

Circovirus was first reported in dogs in Ohio, in June 2012, says the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A similar virus was detected in a dog in San Diego, California in April of this year. Suspected symptoms for circovirus include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, lack of appetite and weight loss.

The virus may actually be spreading from humans to their pets, veterinarian Dr. Lindsay Ruland told ABC News. In her practice, the dogs that have come in with these flu-like symptoms seem to have owners who are sick as well.

"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," said Dr. Ruland.

The AVMA doesn't went pet owners to panic, noting that dogs infected with circovirus don't always become ill. The AVMA offers the following advice:

-If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, contact your veterinarian. Regardless of the cause, prompt treatment of vomiting and diarrhea gives your dog a better chance of a quick recovery, and can also cost you less in the long run. In the small number of cases of circovirus seen so far, prompt veterinary treatment was critical to a good outcome for that dog.

-Understand that even healthy dogs may shed circovirus in their stool. Dogs carrying the circovirus don't always become ill, but can still make other dogs sick. That's one of many reasons why it's so important that you pick up after your own dog and avoid contact with stool from other dogs when possible.

-Simple, common sense measures are in order, including the avoidance of contact with ill animals (and if your dog is ill, avoid contact with other dogs until your dog has fully recovered) and cleaning up after your pet passes stool.

-A healthy pet is more likely to have a fully functional immune system to fight infections, so keeping your pet healthy with good preventive care is always important.

- By Joslyn Gray

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