Is a Mutated Pig Virus Killing Ohio Dogs?

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Dogs in Ohio may be falling sick with a virus that’s made a jump from pigs to canines.

So far eight dogs have been struck with similar and debilitating symptoms: vasculitis (destruction of blood vessels), severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fluid around the lungs, rapid heart rate, and weakness. Four dogs have died.

All of the dogs were in the Akron-Canton and Cincinnati areas of Ohio, and fell sick within the past three weeks. Veterinarians and the Ohio Department of Agriculture are working together to identify the cause of the illness.

A Mutated Virus

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One dog’s feces tested positive for circovirus, a virus which has only ever been found in swine. “Viruses mutate all the time,” said Dr. Melanie Butera, the veterinarian at Elm Ridge Animal Hospital who treated four of the dogs. “We see that in human viruses, and sometimes mutations allow the virus to cross into a different species.”

But nailing down circovirus as the cause may not be that simple. Two of the sick dogs tested negative for the virus, yet Patricia Pesavento, a veterinarian at UC Davis and the pathologist who worked on the testing cautions that false negatives are possible.

Moreover, since this virus is completely new to dogs, it’s simply not known what kind of test — feces samples, blood samples, or tissue samples — will be the most reliable for pinpointing this virus.

What To Do

As always, be on the lookout for symptoms of illness in your dog. If your dog ever has blood in their vomit or diarrhea, see a vet immediately or go to a pet emergency clinic.

Melissa Weber from Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine cautions that “the dog that survived [in Cincinnati] was the one who got into the vet quickly and was administered fluids immediately.”

Find a vet and get your dog in to see them if they experience these symptoms!