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Dangerous dog virus yet to hit Montana

Published On: Nov 15 2013 07:07:10 PM MST   Updated On: Nov 15 2013 08:24:50 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

You may have seen posts on Facebook and other reports detailing a dangerous dog virus that may be making its way across the county. State agriculture departments are investigating possible cases of the canine circovirus in three states so far -- California, Michigan and Ohio.

The number of cases, so far, is relatively small. Reports indicate that over the month of September, six dogs with symptoms similar to circovirus died in Michigan but they also tested positive for other forms of disease.

We spoke to a veterinarian to find out if you should be concerned. We met Gordy Gollehon at Cooper Park, spending time with his rescue dog, Rook. He tells us he's heard of circovirus but he's not concerned.

"I haven't heard of anything around here," says Gollehon.

We went to 360 Pet Medical to learn more about the virus. Veterinarian Dawn McDonald explains pig and bird versions of circovirus have been around for decades but says the separate, distinct dog version was only discovered in June of 2012.

"Vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, collapse. You get a really sick dog," McDonald says.

McDonald tells us it can also cause vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, that can lead to a whole host of other serious problems. It can aggravate the illness and even lead to death.

"It does seem to be a tag-along, although it can also be found in healthy dogs," says McDonald.

She says the virus often comes along with other illness.

Plus, McDonald says in one study, 14 out of 204 healthy dogs tested positive for the virus without showing any clinical signs.   She says the virus is treated with aggressive therapy and there's no vaccine. So, how do folks prevent their pups from getting sick?

"Good hygiene is the cornerstone of prevention. It is something that can be transmitted by casual contact, so if dogs are ill, they should not go out. If they have vomiting, diarrhea, definitely contact a veterinarian...It's something that can be anywhere, dog parks, obviously day cares, kennels," explains McDonald.

Close to 200 dogs come through Montana Murray Kennels' doors every week, so we stopped by to speak with the owner about how he ensures the health and safety of the dogs he boards and trains.

"Really, protecting our environment is goal number one," says Montana Murray Kennels owner Ron Murray.

Murray tells us they're very cautious about the dogs they take in to board.

"We have to check them to see, are they sneezing, coughing? Are they exhibiting signs that they could be sick?" Murray explains.

Murray says whenever folks come in from out of town to board their dogs, he always checks in with their vets back home to see what issues they might be having in that area and what vaccines the dog has had. He says he also has the owner fill out a questionnaire regarding what the dog's been exposed to.

Murray says it's good practice for all kennels.

Back at 360 Pet Medical, Dawn McDonald tells us it's good to keep an eye out, but right now she says we are relatively safe here in Montana.

"We don't see a lot of it and, honestly, a lot of the cases that are suspected to be circovirus have not been confirmed to be," explains McDonald.

NBC Montana learned one common misconception about circovirus is that it can cross species boundaries. At this point, there have been no documented cases of humans getting the pathogen from their pet and the circovirus scientists have found in pigs and birds is not the same one found in dogs, so at this point, cross-contamination does not seem possible.