Is your pet imported from abroad? All you need to know about Brucella canis
Brucella canis, otherwise known Brucellosis, has been present in the dog population in many parts of the world, but has only more recently been seen in the United Kingdom. Within the last year the numbers of cases of dogs diagnosed with Brucella canis has increased significantly, from two previous reports in 2020 to forty in the last year. These cases are primarily dogs which have been imported from overseas, or those who have been in close contact with them.
Due to the recent increase in numbers and the concern that it can spread not only between dogs but also to humans, the Government Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have updated the condition to be a reportable disease.
What is Brucella canis?
This infectious disease is caused by a bacteria, Brucella canis, which cannot be cured. It affects a dog’s ability to breed and can also affect other organs. Found commonly in animals from Eastern Europe and in particular Romania as well as other EU countries, and elsewhere in the world. While dogs of all ages can contract Brucella canis, it is more common in mature dogs and is passed on through contact with infected bodily fluids.
What are the symptoms associated with this disease?
Many cases will show no signs of infection, but some may experience the symptoms below:
Weak, small and sickly puppies
Swollen lymph nodes
Persistent vaginal disease or swollen testicles
A rash on their scrotum
Typically most cases with Brucella canis will miscarry a first pregnancy and will then become infertile. If a dog did manage to become pregnant and reach full term, the puppies will be weak and are unlikely to survive.
How is Brucella canis spread?
It is spread through fluids from an infected dog which could be birthing fluids, vaginal fluids, semen, urine, saliva and blood. When these fluids come into contact with the eyes, nose, wounds or broken skin of a human or other dog the infection is passed on. High risk scenarios will include mating, giving birth or when your veterinary surgeon performs surgery or takes blood samples.
How are dogs diagnosed?
A blood test is used to test for antibodies of the disease. Brucella canis antibodies can take a period of up to three months to show, meaning false negatives could be seen if your dog is tested within this period after possible contact with an infected dog.
Zoonotic Risk (risk of spread to humans)
Infected dogs will pose a risk to owners and also your veterinary team during handling. As previously mentioned, many dogs may be infected without showing any outward signs, posing a greater challenge.
Through testing for Brucella canis, we can help identify individuals that may pose a risk of passing on this disease.
Considerations before importing a dog from abroad
If you are thinking about getting a canine companion from abroad, make sure to ask plenty of questions regarding their health, as well as asking for the testing to be completed in the country they are coming from. Your rescue centre or breeder should be able to provide a negative test before your new addition enters the UK. Brucella canis is just one disease that dogs from overseas can harbour, and it is important to ensure the pet is in a good health.
My pet is under Milton Keynes Veterinary Group’s care, what does this mean for my pet?
We want to ensure our clients are kept fully up to date with information as it is released from the government, as well as being aware of any procedures we are putting in place along with other veterinary practices in the UK.
We are asking our clients to let our team know if your dog was born or rescued from anywhere other than the UK. By notifying us, it is not only ensuring the safety of our team, but yourself as an owner and the wider UK dog population.
If your dog already has a certificate showing a negative Brucella canis test, we would kindly request a copy to keep on your pet’s file to prevent you being asked again in future.
For dogs that are imported and do not have a certificate, our veterinary surgeons would strongly advise your dog be tested. To do this, a blood sample will need to be taken and sent to the government laboratory. Results can take up to two weeks to be received and our veterinary team will let you know the outcome as soon as possible.
The testing is advisory, not compulsory. For our existing clients who chose not to test their dogs, our staff may choose to wear personal protection equipment (PPE) when your dog is seen at any of our branches. If surgery is required, we request that testing is carried out before the procedure. In cases where this is not possible (i.e. the surgery is urgent) full PPE will be worn and additional costs may apply.
What happens if the result is negative or positive?
In cases where the test has come back negative, no further action is required. If your dog has been in the UK for less than three months, it would be recommended to consider a retest after this time has passed to ensure no antibodies have developed.
In cases where the test result comes back positive, as a reportable disease we are obligated to pass information on to the Government via the APHA. APHA will contact you regarding the test and results. Unfortunately there is no treatment that is likely to cure the disease – antibiotics have been tried for many months, but majority of cases still remain infectious and pose a risk to others.
More Information can be found on the following websites :