Canine Brucellosis

What is Canine Brucellosis?

Canine Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the Brucella canis bacteria. The disease is not considered endemic in the UK but true case numbers in the UK are unknown. The disease is found in many other countries in the world (in some countries the disease is considered endemic).

There is growing concern around this disease because of the large number of dogs imported from some countries, especially Romania (and other Eastern European countries), where it is known that Brucella Canis is prevalent. In the UK we have seen increasing numbers of dogs imported from Romania, where the disease is classed as endemic. There have also been increasing numbers of imported dogs which test positive for the disease in recent years. One significant concern is that these dogs often appear clinically well and it must be remembered that Brucella canis is zoonotic, which mean that it can infect humans and cause disease in humans.

How is Brucella canis transmitted between dogs?

Brucella canis primarily enters the body by ingestion (through the nose and mouth) and via the genital tract.

Common causes of transmission:

  • Aborted material, birth fluids, placenta. It is shed for several weeks following birth
  • Mating
  • From mother to puppy in the womb or ingestion of infectious milk
  • Vaginal discharge when in season
  • Semen
  • Urine
  • Blood

What are the clinical signs of Brucella canis in a dog?

  • Abortion
  • Failure of a bitch to conceive, male infertility with abnormal semen quality, enlarged painful testicles
  • Brucella can cause many non-specific clinical signs such as: lethargy, fever, behaviour anomalies, weight loss, back pain, stiffness, lameness, paralysis, eye disease, and generalised lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes)
  • Many dogs may show no clinical signs. However, these dogs can still be infectious and pass the disease on to other dogs and people. Dogs that show no clinical signs but are infected can go on to develop clinical signs later in life

Zoonotic risk

Dogs infected with Brucella pose a risk to owners and veterinary teams when handling them. Many dogs may be carrying the infection without showing signs, which poses a greater challenge as it is not known that the handlers – owner or veterinary team- may be at risk of being infected.

Testing for Brucella canis is becoming more common especially in imported dogs even if they do not show clinical signs or ill health. Testing will help identify individuals that may pose a risk of passing the infection on to their owners and veterinary teams. This is important so that veterinary teams can use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves when handling cases that have been shown to test positive.

Brucella may pose a greater risk to those individuals with underlying health conditions or who are immunocompromised. As such we will always advise the undertaking a pre-treatment assessment and act upon the result.

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Highfield Veterinary Centre

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