Fortunately, this disease is currently uncommon in the UK. However, cases appear to be rising due to increasing numbers of untested imported dogs, some of which are infected. Because of mixing and breeding, the first identified cases of within-UK transmission of this disease have now occurred. The number of cases will slowly rise as more and more dogs are adopted from abroad. Before 2020, only three cases were recorded. Between 2020 and 2021 there were 87 recorded cases, and 54 in 2022. These numbers may well be the ‘tip of the iceberg’, as many infected dogs have no symptoms, and the disease has only recently become reportable. Brucella canis is known to be highly infectious.
What to do before importing a dog, or breeding from an imported dog
If importing a dog from abroad, especially a rescue dog or a dog that has or may have bred before, then it is advisable that the dog is tested for brucellosis in addition to testing for other diseases prior to import. This will help to avoid bringing infected animals into the country. Infected dogs will be an infection risk to other dogs in the UK, their owner’s family, veterinarians and veterinary staff, and anyone else coming into contact with the dog. Any newly acquired dog suspected of being infected should be quarantined (kept away from other dogs and people other than their owners) until testing is complete. Before breeding any dog, owners should be sure that neither the male or female dog are infected. If there is doubt (for example they may have been imported from a country where canine brucellosis occurs or have previously mated with a dog from such a country or are a contact of a confirmed case) they should be tested for the disease. This involves a blood (serology) test. Dogs should not be bred if they test positive for brucellosis. If the dog has only recently been imported or bred with an imported dog then testing on more than one occasion may be necessary to determine if it is infected. A negative test result from testing at least 3 months after potentially becoming infected should mean the negative test result can be relied on for an adult dog, but a young dog may not test positive after being infected until it is an adult (if at all). If there remains any suspicion that a dog may be infected, the dog should not be bred from.
What is Canine Brucellosis?
Canine Brucellosis is a condition that affects a dog’s ability to breed, but can also impact other organs as well. Human-to-human transmission is rare, but it does occur with the very young, elderly and pregnant women most at risk.
The disease is caused by a bacterium called Brucella Canis. It is most commonly found in animals coming from Eastern Europe and in particular, from Romania. You’ll also find it in other EU countries and elsewhere in the world.
Dogs of any age can contract Brucella but it’s more common in mature dogs. It is passed on through contact with infected bodily fluids.
What are the symptoms of brucellosis in dogs?
Many dogs will show no signs of infection at all, but these are some of the symptoms your dog might experience:
- Lameness (back pain)
- Difficulty walking
- Weak, small and sickly puppies
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Persistent vaginal discharge or swollen testicles
- A rash on their scrotum
Dogs with Brucellosis will often miscarry a first pregnancy and become infertile. If they do manage to become pregnant, they may go to term but the puppies can be weak and may die soon after birth. Apparently, healthy puppies can also be infected and suffer lifelong health problems.