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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
An extremely contagious virus, once only found in pigs and birds, is now attacking man's best friend.
"The primary symptoms of circovirus to date have been extreme lethargy - combined with vomiting and diarrhea," said Dr. Travis Wodiske with Family VetCare in Mesa.
There aren't any documented cases of canine circovirus in Arizona, but the disease is now on the radar.
There have been cases in California, Ohio and Michigan.
"Usually, it's the symptoms of dehydration [caused by extreme vomiting and diarrhea] that ultimately can lead to death," Wodiske said.
News of a potentially deadly virus, for which there is no vaccine, worries dog owners like Elsbeth Pollack, of Phoenix.
"It is very scary actually because there's already so much to think about when taking care of a dog," she said.
But Wodiske told CBS5 News the circovirus is not a death sentence for your dog if it's quickly caught and treated.
"We essentially treat all of the symptoms to help those dogs battle through the crisis," he said. "And oftentimes if we can get through the crisis - those dogs will live completely healthy, happy, normal lives."
Because canine circovirus is so new, veterinarians aren't even sure how it came to be in dogs – since previous carriers were pigs and birds – but they have a good idea of how it's being transmitted.
"For instance, a dog that is having some diarrhea and another dog - gross, but true - if they lick, eat, chew, anything of that nature - that's one way in which a dog can get it," said Wodiske.
The same thing goes for contact with an infected dog's vomit.
"They [dogs] love to sniff whatever's on the ground and want to know where a dog pooped or what was going on with things," Pollack pointed out. "You never know what they'll get into."
Wodiske stresses it's not normal for your dog to throw up and have diarrhea - so if your pet has these symptoms, see your vet right away.
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