Circovirus: Why This Fatal Dog Virus Should Be Taken Seriously

Dog with circovirus with ice pack on his head

Vets and pet owners in Ohio are on the watch for a new virus that can kill dogs in as little as 48 hours from the onset of symptoms. So far, three dogs in the Cincinnati area have died and several more have been affected. Their symptoms include bloody diarrhea and vomiting, extreme lethargy, neurological problems and a lack of appetite.

These symptoms are similar to a disease that killed several dogs in California in the spring and pathologists suspect the Ohio outbreaks are the same disease. Necropsy results from affected dogs in Ohio show the presence of the virus that affected the dogs in California: circovirus.

A New Virus

dog with circovirus symptoms on skin

Circovirus is a novel virus from “a family of viruses that has not been known to cause disease in dogs prior to this year,” said Dr. Melanie Butera, a veterinarian and owner of Elm Ridge Animal Hospital in Canal Fulton, Ohio.

The affected dogs in California were affected with vasculitis, a skin condition, and research reports showed that the circovirus (called DogCV) was present and in some cases, seemed to appear as a co-infection with other pathogens.

This was the first time circovirus, a virus normally found only in pigs, had been shown to affect dogs.

Not A Novel Occurrence

Vets and experts are calling canine circovirus a novel virus, but the likely cause of this virus jumping species from pigs to dogs isn’t that novel at all. In fact, emerging viruses are becoming the biggest threat to our companion animals and ourselves. In the past 20 years, scientists have discovered around 30 new human diseases, at a staggering rate of one to two every year. And most of them, like the bird flu, are spread from animals to man.

There’s no doubt that scientists will soon be racing to formulate a vaccine to prevent canine circovirus. But the interesting twist is, like many other emerging and novel diseases, canine circovirus was likely caused by vaccination itself.

The human rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, was suspended in the US. The cause? The vaccine was found to be contaminated with porcine circovirus, the very same virus they are now finding in dogs.

The discovery that Rotarix was contaminated was made by a team of scientists at an independent research lab in San Francisco, where they used new technology to detect small amounts of viral material in vaccines using genetic sequencing.

After the research team made their conclusions, they contacted GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of Rotarix, who then contacted the FDA, who suspended the use of the vaccine.

Monkey, Pig And Cow Viruses In Vaccines

The contamination of the Rotarix vaccine is one in a long history of vaccine contamination issues that should force drug companies to question the use of animal cells and vaccines.

Vaccine manufacturers have been using animal cells for a number of years, including monkeys, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and rodents. Whenever animal cells are in vaccines, the potential exists for contamination with viruses that can be passed to the animal or person being vaccinated. These viruses, microbes and DNA from microbes can and do escape testing and make it into the final product.

In the case of Rotarix, porcine circovirus was contained in the vaccine because porcine trypsin, an enzyme in the pancreatic juice of a pig, was used to make the seed stock for the vaccine. 1

If porcine circovirus can be found in human vaccines, it’s a good indication that it’s also in animal vaccines, where testing and safety standards are lower.

SV40: The Mother Of All Vaccine Contaminations

Canine circovirus isn’t the only contamination risk in vaccines.

“Contamination of vaccines with animal viruses is not new”, says vaccine researcher, Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center. “In the 20th century, polio vaccines given to tens of millions of people worldwide were contaminated with simian virus 40 (SV40), which was found to cause cancer in animals and is associated with human brain, bone and lung cancers but the government denies SV40 is causing those cancers in humans.” 2 3 4 5

“There has been controversy about the link between experimental polio vaccines tested in Africa in the 1950’s and 1960’s that were contaminated with a monkey virus, simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Soon after the polio vaccine trials in Africa, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) emerged. 6 Many questions about the failure of researchers and technology to screen for monkey viruses in those vaccines remain to this day.”

“Sixty credible labs are still finding SV40 in the biopsies of human cancers, even today” says Patricia Jordan DVM. “Decades ago, congress ordered Merck to remove the SV40 contamination virus out of their vaccines. But the problem is they can’t!”

“There are lots of questions about how the manufacturer of Rotarix vaccine and the FDA both missed the pig virus DNA contaminating the original seed stock and all doses of Rotarix vaccine given to more than one million American children in the past few years” says Loe Fisher.

Parvovirus: A History Lesson

Canine parvovirus is very similar to the long known feline panleukopenia virus (FPV). Soon after its first appearance in the late 1970’s, parvo was classified as a mutation of FPV – in fact, the first vaccines used against parvo were FPV vaccines. Prior to the parvovirus outbreak, the only widely used vaccine for dogs was distemper. At some point, cats’ kidneys were used to develop the distemper vaccine and this was shipped around the world and injected into dogs. Did canine parvovirus evolve because the distemper vaccine was cultured on cat kidney cells that were infected with FPV?

A Wake Up Call

It’s alarming that independent research labs are finding contamination, but not the drug companies and the FDA. More alarming is the fact that when the lab in San Francisco found the porcine circovirus in the Rotarix vaccine, they contacted the vaccine manufacturer, not the FDA!

Vaccination is fraught with issues, not the least of which is contamination. The frightening growth of novel, emerging diseases isn’t likely to stop with the steadily increasing number of vaccines our dogs are subjected to. Any vaccine, given to any dog, has the potential to harbor harmful contaminants, not to mention their innate ability to cause autoimmune disease. It’s important to note that more than two thirds of the dogs infected with circovirus in California also had a co-infection with other diseases.

To reduce your dog’s risk of circovirus and other diseases, it’s important to protect his immune system. This means feeding fresh, whole foods and refraining from chemicals, pesticides, toxins and drugs whenever possible. This also means vaccinating only if necessary – and in most cases, routine vaccines aren’t necessary.

For more information on limiting vaccination, read What Every Vet And Pet Owner Should Know About Vaccines.


European Medicines Control Agency. Evaluation of Medicines for Human Use: Rotarix Vaccine (Control of Materials (Reagants) page 4). 2006.

Bookchin D, Schumacher J. The Virus and the VaccineThe True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed. St. Martin’s Press: New York. 2004.

Fisher BL. Congressional TestimonyThe SV-40 Virus: Has Tainted Polio Vaccine Caused an Increase in Cancer? U.S. House Government Reform Committee. September 10, 2003.

U.S. Congress. Congressional HearingPreventing Another SV40 Tragedy: Are Today’s Vaccine Safety Protocols Effective? U.S. House Government Reform Committee. November 13, 2003.

Carlsen W. Rogue Virus in the Vaccine: Early Polio Vaccine Harbored Virus Now Feared to Cause Cancer in Humans. San Francisco Chronicle. July 15, 2001.

Carlsen W. Quest for the Origin of AIDS: Controversial Book Spurs Search for How the Worldwide Scourge of HIV Began. San Francisco Chronicle. January 14, 2001.

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