SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – There have been a number of reports about a canine disease circulating called circovirus, previously thought to only be carried in pigs and parrots.

“For years, we thought the only mammal circovirus infected was pigs,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett with the San Francisco SPCA in today’s KCBS Animal Update. “But over the past year in California, Michigan and especially Ohio, there have been a rash of dogs that have come down with it – severe diarrhea, vasculitis, and sometimes even death. And they found this circovirus in their specimens.”

Dr. Scarlett said it is still unclear if this is something dog owners should be concerned about.

“This has received a tremendous amount of press, but researchers are on the fence as to whether or not this virus is the cause of this illness, or whether it’s co-infecting, this virus plus another virus,” she said.

The only state that has had a dog die and be diagnosed with circovirus is California, this past April. Dr. Scarlett said there are some warning signs to be aware of.

“Over the years, we’ve talked about the myriad of causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs,” she said. “What’s different about this disease is that it is oftentimes bloody and these dogs have something called vasculitis, meaning they slough their skin. In addition, they’re very lethargic. If you have a dog that is that ill, you need to go see your veterinarian and then talk about circovirus, because we don’t know how prevalent it is and whether it is the cause of this very serious disease.”

It is still unclear how the virus developed in the dogs.

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