The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 4, 2013

Dog-killing illness may affect humans, Michigan vet says

A Michigan veterinarian said this morning that a virus believed to be killing dogs in Ohio may be what has been sickening and killing dogs in her state for more than a year.

And she said the virus might be passing from humans to dogs and from dogs to humans.

Dr. Lindsay Ruland said her clinic in Ann Arbor, Emergency Veterinary Hospital, has seen hundreds of cases of dogs with the symptoms attributed to canine circovirus: vomiting and bloody diarrhea, quick onset of lethargy, abdominal pain and severe inflammation of the intestinal tract.

“This is like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and I don’t know if it’s multiple viruses in combination or just the circovirus,” said Ruland. She said she’s seen the symptoms mostly in dogs but in a few cats, rabbits and a swan.

It is not known if the virus is commonly found in the feces of dogs even when they are healthy, Ruland said.

She said the Michigan Department of Community Health and the state veterinary office are looking into the situation.

The Ohio agriculture department has been investigating reports of severe dog illnesses and deaths in Akron and Cincinnati for more than a month.

Erica Hawkins, communications director for the department, said it has had 36 samples tested from sick dogs in Ohio. Two samples were suspected to be positive for circovirus.

“At this point we feel that was not the primary contributing factor” that made dogs in Ohio sick, Hawkins said.

“We are continuing to look for other viruses that could have caused the illnesses.”

She said investigators believe the virus may be one they haven’t seen before.

There’s been no indication that owners of the sick Ohio dogs were sick themselves, Hawkins said.

Four dogs with symptoms of the circovirus have died in Akron and Cincinnati.

Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center did a necropsy on one of the dogs and could not determine the cause of death. Melissa Weber, the center’s spokeswoman, said she has not heard of any additional potential cases in Ohio.

Michigan State University’s diagnostic center is testing tissue samples from animals Ruland has treated but no results are available yet, she said.

Ruland said the symptoms have shown up at their emergency clinic during the human flu season, beginning in August, and appear to show up in dogs whose owners also have flu-like symptoms. She said she and her staff have had flu-like symptoms after treating dogs with the symptoms.

She said human symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea and breathing issues.

“You just feel crummy for a long time, but for the most part people here are able to work through it,” she said.

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