The New Dog Virus: Circovirus

September 11, 2013
dog with circovirus

Photo: WRGT-TV FOX 45 News

The internet has been buzzing with talk of an emerging and possibly deadly virus occurring in dogs. Concern about this virus is significant enough that even during a webinar I attended yesterday on using social media in veterinary medicine, dog circovirus received a mention. The Animal Medical Center’s Facebook friends have been discussing the virus and their concerns about their dogs, as well.

Circovirus?
I had actually not heard of the circovirus group until recently, probably because the majority of circoviruses infect birds. Until this new virus was isolated from sick dogs in April, pigs were the only mammal known to be infected with a circovirus, which causes pneumonia, gastrointestinal signs, and systemic inflammation. The genome of a dog circovirus was reported back in 2012, but the authors of that paper do not report where the virus was found or if the virus made dogs sick.

Sick dogs in California
In April of this year, Emerging Infectious Diseases published an article, “Circovirus in Tissues of Dogs with Vasculitis and Hemorrhage.” In California, a young dog, sick with signs of vomiting and bloody diarrhea, died and was autopsied. Tests for typical diseases causing bloody diarrhea, parvovirusSalmonella and Giardia, were negative. Researchers performed additional testing on the tissues, leading to the identification of a strain of dog circovirus. Fecal analysis of samples from both healthy dogs and sick dogs with signs similar to the dog in California found about 10% of fecal samples were positive for circovirus, but many dogs had other pathogens in their stool including coronavirus, Giardia and Salmonella. One common historical feature of these cases was group housing, such as a shelter or boarding kennel.

Sick dogs in Ohio
Last month, an astute veterinarian in Ohio treated several dogs, all with a history of staying at the same boarding kennel, and reported this cluster of cases to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The dogs had strikingly similar signs to one another and to the dogs reported in Emerging Infectious Diseases: bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and inflammation of the blood vessels. One dog had circovirus isolated from a fecal sample, and further testing is underway in one of the dogs that died to determine the cause of death.

Treat with common sense
Medical caution is indicated in this situation. Finding a virus in a sick patient does not automatically determine causality and much more research is necessary before circovirus infection can be added to the list of potential diagnoses for sick dogs. Our friends at the Veterinary Network News urge caution in attributing too many illnesses to this newly found virus.

The unknown can be scary. Since so little is known about dog circovirus, making rational recommendations is a hard task.

  1. Use common sense. Keep your dog away from sick dogs.
  2. Wash your hands after petting someone else’s dog and before you pet your dog.
  3. Report all illnesses to your veterinarian.
  4. Still nervous? Check for updates on the virus on The AMC website. We will recommend if it might be best to forgo the dog park, boarding kennel and doggie day care if the risks become more evident.

Dog Park Dangers

July 12, 2012

Dog parks are popping up all over suburban and urban areas, and for good reason. Daily exercise helps keep your dog healthy and gives her a chance to get out and socialize with other dogs and humans. In urban areas, dog parks provide a safe space for daily doggie exercise, but recent research suggests dog parks may not be as safe as we might think.

Parasites

A recent study of dog feces collected from Colorado dogs suggests gastrointestinal parasites may be on the list of dog park dangers. Two intestinal protozoa, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, were found more commonly in dogs frequenting dog parks than in dogs that did not. These two organisms are not controlled by heartworm preventatives as are hookworms and roundworms. Identification of these critters is one reason for your veterinarian’s recommendation of an annual fecal examination for your pet.

Infectious disease

A coughing dog visiting a dog park may be a dog park danger, if he is infected with the bacteria causing kennel cough or the virus causing canine influenza. These two infectious diseases are easily spread between dogs in a dog park and are characterized by non-stop coughing. Parvovirus infection is another infectious disease readily transmitted to a healthy dog when it comes in contact with the feces of an infected dog. The good news is vaccinations are available to prevent these diseases and diligent pooper scooping is critical to prevent transmission of parvovirus as well as intestinal parasites in dog parks.

Dog bites

I anticipated dog bites or other injuries related to aggression would be common in dog parks, but a 2003 publication reported on 72 hours of dog park observations and found little evidence to support my theory of dog to dog aggression as a major problem in dog parks. The authors hypothesize dog owners with aggressive dogs avoid dog parks because they recognize the danger their dog poses to others.

Dog parks danger for other animals

A study of California sea lion strandings showed leptospirosis (a waterborne infectious disease) was more likely to occur in sea lions found in areas with a high density of dog parks. The authors of the study suggest exposure to dogs in dog parks may be in some way associated with the infection in sea lions. Leptospirosis is a life-threatening disease of the kidneys and liver. Dogs, humans, and possibly even cats can be infected, usually through urine-contaminated water. Dog owners should ask their veterinarian if leptospirosis is a concern in their neighborhood and should consider having their dog vaccinated against this disease.

If you live in New York City, a list of dog parks by borough can be found here.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog plays in dog parks as this information will help direct your dog’s preventive healthcare plan.


Occupy Wall Street: Parvovirus Strikes Demonstrating Dogs

December 1, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration has been front and center in the news over the past six weeks. Until now, the news has been about humans, but recently the dogs of OWS have hit the newswire due to a parvovirus outbreak at the San Francisco encampment.

Parvovirus in Dogs
Parvovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs.

Infection can be fatal at worst and cause serious illness at best. Parvovirus is not a subtle disease: it is associated with the most severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting we veterinarians recognize in canine patients. Because the virus attacks rapidly growing cells, the bone marrow cells producing white blood cells are depleted, decreasing the white blood cell count and putting dogs at risk of contracting a serious infection on top of the severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Panleukopenia is the Feline Parvovirus
The dogs of OWS are not the only ones at risk for contracting parvovirus infection. Any dog coming in contact with the feces of a parvovirus infected dog is at risk, unless they are protected by vaccination. Cats have their own version of parvovirus – the panleukopenia virus. Infection by the panleukopenia virus results in similar clinical signs in infected cats as parvovirus infection causes in dogs. Fortunately, panleukopenia rarely occurs in my practice, but the few cases I have seen could not be saved. Vaccination protects against this frequently fatal feline viral infection. Veterinarians consider vaccinations against parvovirus and panleukopenia virus “core” vaccines, meaning these are vaccines nearly all pets should receive.

Close quarters with limited sanitation like OWS are the perfect place for an outbreak of a contagious disease and it would not surprise me to see an outbreak of canine influenza, kennel cough or intestinal parasites at an OWS camp.

Pet Owner Precautions
Pet owners taking their dog or cat to a location where it will come in contact with many other animals should first check with their veterinarian to confirm their pet has been adequately vaccinated. Cats boarding at a kennel for the holidays, dogs attending obedience classes or doggie day care, or any pet demonstrating as part of OWS have an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease simply due to increased exposure to other animals. Pet owners should keep their healthy pets away from other animals with signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea to help protect them against contracting a life-threatening illness.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Will that be One Lump or Two? A Guide to Lumps on Your Dog

August 4, 2011

My telephone and email have been ringing and pinging this week with questions about lumps on dogs.

Lump near the tail base of a standard poodle.

The subject line of the first email said “Lump on Rump” which sounded like a line from an oncology book written by Dr. Seuss. When I examined the dog, I found a firm mass below the skin just to the right of the tail. Since this was a standard poodle, I suspected a sebaceous cyst, a common lump in this breed. But since you can never determine a benign or malignant lump by observation, I performed a fine needle aspiration using the same size needle I would use to administer a vaccination. Within 24 hours the laboratory confirmed my diagnosis. The worried owners were relieved, especially since no surgery was required for this benign lesion.

Small pea sized lump on the shoulder of a dog

The second call was from an AMC colleague who has just adopted a foster dog. He’s been vaccinated, groomed and has a spiffy new collar. His owner was petting him and found a lump over his right shoulder. The combination of the recent vaccination and the location of the lump (right where he would have been vaccinated for distemper/parvovirus) made me think it was a small-localized vaccine reaction. Since this dog comes to AMC most days, we carefully measured it on the first day and again a week later and it was already getting smaller. I will continue to monitor this lump but suspect it will go away in another couple of weeks.

The third call was from a friend of mine who is a veterinarian. She had found a lump on her own dog and performed an aspiration which diagnosed a mast cell tumor.

Because these tumors sometimes require specialist level care, she wanted input from the AMC about how best to approach this tumor surgically and input from me regarding an potential chemotherapy.

If you have a lumpy dog, have each lump evaluated by your veterinarian. I keep a line drawing of a dog’s body in each dog’s medical record. On the drawing I sketch the lump, record the size based on measurements and indicate the date aspiration cytology was performed. This process makes short work of determining if this is a new lump or not.

If your veterinarian recommends aspiration cytology or a biopsy, go for it. Without additional information, it is impossible for me or any veterinarian, to give an owner bad news or good news about the lump on their dog.

Don’t hesitate to seek the opinion of a specialist. A dog with a lump in a difficult location may need a advanced imaging to define the tumor location, a specially trained surgeon to successful remove a lump or a cancer specialist to provide follow up chemotherapy.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183 other followers

%d bloggers like this: