So far, cases of the illness — known as circovirus — have been limited to only California, Michigan and Ohio, reports Atlanta CBS affiliate WWBT. If it goes untreated, the virus has the potential of killing an infected animal within days. High rates of infection have been observed in other animals, and scientists are still not entirely certain how it’s transmitted.
“They’re suspecting the dogs can bleed into their cavities, their chest into their abdomen, and those are some of the more serious ones that would bleed to their deaths,” VCA Total Care Animal Hospital Medical Director Dr. Olivia Pan told WWBT.
In years past, circovirus has predominantly infected pigs, and only recently made the jump to dogs. WWBT reports the virus can destroy a hog farm within a week. Some pet birds are also susceptible to infection, especially parrots, parakeets and cockatoos.
Circovirus may be present as a primary or co-infection with other intestinal pathogens, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Along with the virus’ rapid death rate, this makes diagnosis difficult.
“There’s no way of us knowing it’s the circovirus or not until you do all of these tests, and by then – you don’t get the results back for weeks,” said Dr. Pan.
The cause of infection is still unknown, but — like any virus — direct contact is believed to present a higher risk of infection, according to the AVMA. The association warns that any area with large amounts of dogs creates a higher risk of infection. This is especially concerning to boarding daycare facilities and kennels.