Did Circovirus Jump Species From Pigs to Dogs?

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(Photo credit: daoro)

A new canine virus in Ohio has the veterinary community and dog owners on high alert. More than a dozen cases of what is suspected to be Canine Circovirus have appeared in the past month.

Circovirus is normally found in pigs, and had not previously been diagnosed in dogs before two cases appeared in California this past April.

In both the California and Ohio cases, vasculitis was seen. Vasculitis is a condition which damages blood vessels until they fail. While tissue samples appear to be similar in the  cases from both states, scientists are testing for conclusive evidence of the virus.

Much remains unknown about the cause of the recent cases, includeing how it is spread. One theory is that it may be spread by contact with infected stool. Circovirus can survive for just a few days, so a widespread epidemic is unlikely. Indications of the virus have also been found in healthy dogs, which may indicate some dogs have a natural immunity.

An article in Dogs Naturally magazine speculates that the virus may have jumped species from pigs to dogs as a result of a contaminated vaccine. It is not unusual for animal cells, including pig cells, to be used when vaccines are manufactured. The article mentions a human vaccine, Rotarix, which was pulled off the market because it had been contaminated with porcine circovirus. Rotarix was temporarily pulled off the market for 3 months in 2010, and approved for sale again after it was determined the contamination had no adverse effects.

The symptoms seen in the Ohio dogs suspected of contracting the virus have included bloody diarrhea, vomiting, extreme lethargy, neurological problems, and a lack of appetite. It is recommended to contact a veterinarian immediately if your dog experiences any of these symptoms.

Local coverage of these cases was published by the Columbus Dispatch and the Akron Beacon Journal.

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