What is Canine Brucellosis?

What is Canine Brucellosis?

Canine Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Brucella Canis. It can cause signs associated with the reproductive tract in both male and female dogs including pregnancy abortion, failure to conceive, male infertility, swelling of the testicles and prostate or swelling of the uterus which may predispose to pyometra (life-threatening womb infection). Other body systems can also be affected including eyes, brain, joints, spine and lymph nodes.

Some dogs can show no clinical signs but can carry the disease and still potentially infect other dogs and people or can develop these clinical signs later in life.

At present Brucella Canis is not considered endemic in the UK but true case numbers are not accurately known. It is prevalent in many European countries and further afield. With more and more dogs being imported into the UK from countries where the disease is prevalent we are starting to see more confirmed cases of Canine Brucellosis over here.

Why is it so important?

Canine Brucellosis is what we call a Zoonotic Disease – this means that the bacteria can pass from dogs to humans and cause clinical disease in both species. In humans the disease symptoms are usually quite vague and generally fairly mild – intermittent fever, aching joints etc but if you are immunocompromised in any way (medically, pregnant, < 5 years old), or unlucky the disease can become more severe or turn chronic and never fully go away.

How is Brucella canis transmitted between dogs?

Brucella canis primarily enters the body via ingestion or inhalation (nose or mouth) or can travel through the genital tract.

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

So what do we need to do about it?

Dogs infected with Brucella canis pose a risk to owner and veterinary teams when handling them. Many dogs could be carrying the disease without showing any outward clinical signs but could still pose a potential risk to humans and other dogs.

We strongly recommend that imported dogs are tested for Brucella canis via a blood test before being imported into the UK, however this test will need to be repeated about 3 months after they have reached the UK as it can take between 2 weeks and 3 months for the Brucella antibodies to be detected in the blood. It is also possible that young dogs and puppies may test falsely negative until they are over 12 months old because of their immature immune system. We therefore recommend testing after they are one year of age.

If your dog has ever lived abroad, we will require blood testing for Brucella canis before any routine surgery can be performed, in particular neutering.

Operating, on the reproductive tract especially, puts our veterinary team at a very high risk of exposure to Brucella canis and therefore to keep our team healthy and safe from this disease we require a negative Brucella antibody test at least 3 months after returning to/entering the UK and once over 12 months of age.

Please speak to a member of our Veterinary Team if you require any further information about Brucellosis and infection screening.