Some Updates to the Mysterious “Ohio Virus”


This morning, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association issued an email to all Ohio veterinarians with statements from the state veterinarian at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  They have confirmed the presence of circovirus in one dog, but test results have not come in yet on the other seven, and it may be weeks before they are finished. Testing takes time, which is, of course, frustrating for everyone, since we all want answers.

Dr. Tony Forshey, the state veterinarian very strongly urged caution before jumping to any conclusions. He said, and I quote, “We don’t yet know the role, if any, that circovirus played in the death of that one dog. ” Nevertheless, people do jump to conclusions and it quite disappointing that some of the people indulging in speculation are out-of-state veterinarians. One of them is any anti-vaccine crusader who has been circulating the baseless rumor that dogs have contracted the virus from circovirus-contaminated vaccines.

The other is an “internet sensation” (“America’s Pet Advocate) who gained fame by sitting in a hot car with a thermometer to show that if you sit in a hot car parked in the sun in a place where palm trees grow that in twenty minutes it gets pretty hot in there. This time, he is circulating grisly necropsy photographs with big red letters heralding the arrival of a “killer virus” which he identified as circovirus. Very much jumping to conclusions, and he advised all who asked to “talk to their vet about circovirus.”

So far, the only deaths identified as caused by circovirus were in California last spring. Does that mean that these deaths are not circovirus? No, it just means we still don’t know, and it would be good for veterinarians to keep an open mind about what they’re dealing with. The fact of the matter is that many of these cases may be “normal” illnesses that vets are already familiar with:  parvovirus or coronavirus, camphylobacter, cryptosporidium, giardia etc.  Many of these have the same supportive treatment: address the symptoms while testing.

Because Dr. Forshey is certain that the means of transmission is fecal, you can best protect your dog by keeping him or her away from the fecal material of other dogs– he specifically mentioned avoiding dog parks. We will add pet areas at rest stops are also a haven for fecal-borne illnesses. Some individuals have taken to washing their dogs feet, with the thought that dogs perspire through their feet. Does it help? Who knows?  But like hand-washing, it can’t hurt!

And please, remember to pick up after your dog.

The OVMA email also mentioned that the Department of Agriculture is now compiling cases that may be this mysterious illnesses, and encouraged veterinarians to contact them if they believe they have or have had cases. Their number is (614) 728-6220.

Finally, as always, if your dog shows any of these symptoms: vomiting, bloody diarrhea and/or foaming at the mouth, get them to a vet. Don’t try to ride this one out, don’t try to treat at home. Dogs that get prompt treatment are recovering well.

Mysterious Virus Kills Dogs in Ohio


Okay, folks ****IMPORTANT UPDATE REGARDING THE OHIO VIRUS**** I spoke to Dr. Forshey, the state veterinarian for Ohio, this morning (Friday, September 6), at length. He said that it is TOO soon to state definitively that the problem is a circovirus. The tissue tested did test positively for circovirus, and it is likely that it is circovirus, but they do not know if that is what’s making the dogs so sick. They are still awaiting test results on several other dogs. THEY DO KNOW THAT THE MEANS OF CONTAGION IS THROUGH FECES. They do not yet have a handle on the period of incubation. Dogs cannot “catch” this virus from pigs, He said the best thing that dog-owners can do is to behave as people do in a flu epidemic. Dog parks, especially, should be avoided. As for dog shows, he says that it is up to individuals to determine their own comfort level regarding risk. Clearly, do not allow your dogs to be near the poop of other dogs. It will be incumbent on dog day care providers and boarding kennels to keep their premises very clean. Probably this virus is NOT confined to Ohio. We may just be the first state to recognize that this is it’s own problem. He said they expect to have more information, but it may be a couple of weeks, these tests take time. Please remember, if your dog has any of these symptoms–vomiting, bloody diarrhea, foaming at the mouth; get them to a vet immediately. Do not try to ride this out, don’t try to treat it at home.


Please note, as of this evening, September 5, the virus has been positively identified (by the veterinary lab at University of California at Davis) as one of the circoviruses. Transmission may have something to do with pigeons. Or not. There is still very little information. But we are including this, in case it is helpful to anyone trying to rule out or confirm a diagnosis. 

The symptoms mimic many other things: parvo, giardia, salmonella, coronavirus. The State Veterinarian for Ohio, Tony Forshey, has indicated that samples from multiple cases have been tested for these well-known illnesses, but have all come back negative. Tissue samples with the virus have been sent to the veterinary labs at the University of California at Davis, and test results are expected back on Monday, September 9, at which point the Ohio Department of Agriculture is expected to make a formal statement about the virus.

A statement issued August 16th by Dr. Forshey’s office indicated only that they were dealing with an unknown virus, and that testing was continuing. Since then there have been only informal updates, including one through Jill Brown, DVM of the Village Animal Clinic in Columbus Ohio, who issued the following statement:


I talked to Dr Forshey, the state veterinarian, and he confirmed that they are working on identifying the cause of death in several dogs. They suspect that it is a virus, possible Circo virus. This virus has not been found in dogs before (it’s found commonly in pigs). They have sent tissue samples to UC Davis, which is the only lab that can identify the virus. Ohio State has already ruled out common causes like salmonella, parvovirus, campylobacter, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE).

He thinks they will have it figured out by Monday and will have a national news release. Ohio is the only state seeing it so far (figures!).

The important thing is that dog owners need to get their dog to the vet ASAP at the first sign of vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Dr Forshey indicated that most of the dogs are surviving if treated early. There is, of course, no vaccine available.

Please share this information to your own Facebook feed so we can reach as many dog owners as possible.

We spoke to Dr. Forshey’s office today, Thursday, September 5 and they confirmed that they are still awaiting test results from California. They have, understandably, been inundated with calls.

There are no websites about this virus, no studies, and certainly no vaccine yet. Whether or not the vaccine for one of the porcine circovirus will be employed is only speculative at this point. We are at the tip of the iceberg with this one, and every one is understandably concerned. The biggest question is how is this virus transmitted, and simply put, no one knows the answer yet. Although it is said to have only been found in Ohio so far, the chance of that statement being accurate is probably nil. As we learn more about this, I think we will find that it is far more widespread and that we may have been dealing with it longer than we think.

As to how contagious it might be, this is yet to be determined. Three dogs died at a Dog Day Care in Norwood– but other dogs in the same facility did not even get sick.

The good news is that dogs who are treated promptly have been making good recoveries, though the treatment is sometimes intense and arduous. Since no one knows quite what they are dealing with, care has come in the form of treating the symptoms and keeping the dog well supported throughout. Please! If you have any concerns about this, contact your veterinarian.

Be alert to your own dog’s health. If there is vomiting, bloody diarrhea, foaming at the mouth– in any combination– not all symptoms may be present, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

As to whether or not to attend shows, take your dog to dog parks, or to day care or boarding kennels– only you can make this decision. If you will be leaving your dog somewhere, alert the caregivers to this situation. Keep your dog’s immune system hale and hearty. If you have specific questions, the best person to answer those is your vet.

Feel free to share this post. We only want to educate folks to be on the lookout for this. As we get updates, we will post them here and on Fort St. Clair’s Facebook Page.  If you are a veterinarian and you need further assistance with this, the number for the State Veterinarian’s office is  (614) 728-6220.