FORT WAYNE – Don’t fear the hype.
That’s the message from animal health officials after news of a new dog virus spread through social media claiming the disease has killed dogs in Ohio and Michigan, including six in the Ann Arbor area alone. Those reports are untrue, officials said.
Yes, there is a relatively new virus infecting dogs in the Midwest. Called circovirus, it first appeared on the West Coast in 2012. Like many viral infections, it causes flu-like symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea.
Left untreated, those symptoms can kill through dehydration and other problems, and officials say anytime your animals show symptoms like that, you should take them to a veterinarian. But circovirus does not appear to be the cause of dog deaths trumpeted by local TV stations in Ohio and Michigan, and in most cases, it was not even present in animals that died.
“Don’t give in to the media-driven rumors,” the website for the American Veterinary Medical Association said.
A veterinary practice in Ann Arbor suspected circovirus in several cases, but the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine says only two cases in the state have been confirmed, and both of those dogs also had other infections.
“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,” the college’s Thomas Mullaney said of the virus. “Currently, circovirus by itself is not associated with a specific disease process.”
The AVMA reports that circovirus is no longer being considered the primary cause of the illnesses seen in Ohio dogs, and in fact, only one of the sick dogs was found to be carrying circovirus at all.
There have been no cases reported in Indiana.
“This virus does not appear to be the primary cause,” said Denise Derrer, spokeswoman for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. “It seems to be in combination with other viruses like parvo or coronavirus.”
But that hasn’t stopped rumor-driven TV news reports, including some that made the leap to suggest that the virus may be passing between humans and dogs.
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine officials said there is no evidence of circovirus passing between humans and dogs.
Derrer said dogs with circovirus respond well to treatment, though there is no vaccine.
Officials at Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control referred questions to the State Board of Animal Health, as the local agency does not track animal health.
Derrer said any time your animals appear sick, they need to see a doctor.
“If you’re seeing something that isn’t right with your dog … get them in there,” she said.