Vets on the trail of mysterious dog virus

Vets in a couple of states have been tracking a mysterious illness afflicting dogs.Veterinarians in New Jersey and Ohio have been reporting a rash of cases where dogs already vaccinated against the flu are coming down with related illnesses. However, while the stories are cause for concern, many vets who are handling the cases believe they are closing in on the cause of the virus, and thus are beginning to better understand how to treat it.

New Jersey clinic seeing more flu-like symptoms in vaccinated dogs

Since the beginning of May, the St. Francis Veterinary Center in Swedesboro, N.J., has seen about 75 vaccinated, well-cared for dogs with the same problem – they have been exhibiting flu-like symptoms.1 It’s left the professional vets and certified veterinary technicians at the clinic baffled as to the cause.

“The sheer number of cases has us suspicious that it has to be something a little different (than kennel cough or canine-fluenza),” Dr. Karyn Collier, a vet at the clinic, told Philadelphia CBS affiliate WKYW.

The dogs are exhibiting symptoms like suppressed appetite, coughing and nasal discharge. And the staff at St. Francis has sent samples to a vaccination company in an effort to solve the mystery.

Ohio clinic see same problem

New Jersey isn’t the only place where this enigmatic flu has been spreading. In Ohio, vaccinated dogs have been falling prey to flu-like illnesses throughout the state, according to The Mansfield News Journal.2 The first several cases that stood out came in Norwood, near Cincinnati, but it has since spread across much of the state.

However, based on recent lab results, veterinarians in Ohio believe they have at least begun to get an idea of what is causing an illness that has even resulted in death in certain cases.

“The laboratory confirmation is important because the virus is newly isolated; however, we are not prepared at this time to confirm that canine circovirus is the cause of the dog illnesses,” state veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey told the Journal. “Because the symptoms being exhibited can also be linked to other known illnesses, additional analysis and information is needed to determine if this virus alone or if co-infection contributes to illness and death in dogs.”

Important lessons from the outbreak

While most people think of diseases and viruses only in terms of their implications for humans, people who work in the animal care profession know that they are just as common, if not more so, in pets. For that reason, it’s important that diagnosis and handling of viruses is an important part of veterinary and veterinary technician training.

1 Bryan, Cleve, “Veterinarians Seeing an Increase in a Flu-Like Virus Affecting Dogs,” Sept. 9, 2013. http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/09/09/veterinarians-seeing-an-increase-in-a-flu-like-virus-effecting-vaccinated-dogs/
2 Hill, Todd, “Experts Close in on Dog Virus; Veterinarians Say ‘Don’t Panic’,” Sept. 12, 2013. http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20130911/NEWS01/309090044/Experts-close-dog-virus-veterinarians-say-don-t-panic-