The Ohio Department of Agriculture is trying to determine whether four dead dogs - three in Cincinnati and one in the Akron-Canton area - had the same illness and whether that illness was caused by a newly detected virus. On Friday, the department asked Ohio veterinarians to watch for the symptoms of vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy, and to contact the state if they suspect the illness.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is trying to determine whether four dead dogs — three in Cincinnati and one in the Akron-Canton area — had the same illness and whether that illness was caused by a newly detected virus.
On Friday, the department asked Ohio veterinarians to watch for the symptoms of vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy, and to contact the state if they suspect the illness.
Owners whose animals have the symptoms should call their vet, said Erica Hawkins, communication director for the department.
“We feel obligated to make sure pet owners are aware this is happening,” Hawkins said. “ Supportive therapies can be helpful if started early enough. But we don’t want people to get too worried.”
Three dogs died in mid-August in Cincinnati after staying in the same kennel.
Dr. Melanie Butera, the veterinarian for the dog in the Akron-Canton area, contacted the Agriculture Department. She also treated several dogs with similar symptoms that survived.
The department began investigating all four deaths and sent a fecal sample from one of Butera’s patients to a research lab in California. That sample tested positive for canine circovirus, a newly isolated virus.
Hawkins said little is known about the virus, including where it comes from or how it spreads. The virus can cause hemorrhaging and vasculitis, which is an inflammation of blood vessels.
Butera told the Agriculture Department that the ill dogs she treated had both hemorrhaging and vasculitis.
Dr. Tony Forshey, the state veterinarian, said he hasn’t confirmed whether circovirus caused the illness of the dog that tested positive.
“Additional analysis and information is needed to determine if this virus alone or in co-infection contributes to illness and death in dogs,” he said.
A research paper about the virus, published in the online journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in April, concludes the virus is in the same family as a similar disease suffered by pigs worldwide.
Melissa Weber, a spokeswoman for the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, said the center did a necropsy on one of the three Cincinnati dogs and could not determine the cause of death. She said the clinic has turned over some of the samples it obtained from the sick Cincinnati dogs to the Agriculture Department for further testing.
She said no dogs suspected of having the illness have been treated at OSU. She said she has heard of one dog in Columbus that had symptoms of the illness and died last week.
“We don’t know if it’s the same illness or if it died of something else,” she said. “It could be completely unrelated.”
Hawkins said the department recommends that dog owners monitor their animals for illness and avoid contact with other dogs.
She said no particular breed of dog seems more at risk than others.