The UK has recently seen an increase in the number of dogs presenting with symptoms of Brucella canis. Brucella canis is zoonotic to humans and infected dogs pose a risk to humans especially veterinarians, when performing surgery, and laboratory staff, when handling blood or urine samples. Transmission to owners is considered low. Although human infection is rare in the UK it can be extremely severe and can lead to death. If diagnosed antibiotic therapy of infected humans is usually successful.
Brucella canis is a bacteria.
Brucella canis is present worldwide however Eastern Europe and the Middle East seem to higher infection rates than other Europe countries. One recent study showed that the prevalence of Brucella canis in Western Europe was around 5%.
Brucella canis is transmitted from dog to dog by sexual contact or from bitch to pup. In addition dogs coming into contact with reproductive tissues, discharges or urine of an infected dog may become infected.
Infected dogs are often asymptomatic, however, they show signs related to the reproductive system i.e. infertility, abortion, weak puppies, scrotal swelling or vaginal discharge. In addition dogs may present with discospondylitis – inflammation of the spine cord.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect test for brucellosis. The most accurate test at present is an antibody test which needs to be sent to a specialist laboratory.
Treatment and prevention:
It is very difficult to cure an infected dog and therefore currently treatment is not recommended due to the potential risk the dog poses to the public. Euthanasia must be a consideration as positive dogs must be isolated from all other dogs and shared dog environments. In addition contact with people must be kept to a minimum.
Leigh Sobye BVSc MRCVS