What Is Brucella?

Brucella, or Canine Brucellosis as it is also known is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Brucella Canis. It can affect several organs in a dog and impacts the dog’s ability to breed. It is zoonotic meaning it can spread to humans and cause disease in people. Dog to human transmission is rare, but the disease and outcomes can be serious, especially with the young, old, anyone who is immunocompromised or pregnant.

Where is Canine Brucellosis found?

There has recently been an increase in the number of dogs being diagnosed with B. canis in the UK with 3 diagnoses pre-2020 and 97 diagnoses in 2023 (to June 2023). Most cases have been in dogs imported into the UK from Eastern Europe, or linked to imported dogs from Eastern Europe.

All UK cases have been in dogs that have either been imported, have mated with an imported dog, have had contact with the birthing products of an imported dog, or are the offspring (puppy) of an imported dog.

How is Canine Brucellosis transmitted?

Brucella is transmitted via bodily fluids (most commonly; vaginal discharge, semen, birth fluids and urine, but also; blood, milk, saliva, and faeces). Birth and breeding are the most common times for transmission of the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Brucellosis in Dogs?

  • Lethargy

  • Lameness or difficulty walking (due to back pain)

  • Miscarriage, infertility or weak, small and sickly puppies

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Persistent vaginal discharge or swollen testicles

  • A rash on their scrotum

  • Ocular changes

What does Canine Brucellosis do to humans?

In humans Brucellosis can cause fever, chills, headaches, night sweats, swollen lymph glands, fatigue and weight loss. In severe cases, the lining of the heart or central nervous system could be affected. Rarely, sepsis or long-term illness can occur. In pregnant women there is a greater risk of miscarriage, foetal death and premature labour.

What is the treatment for Canine Brucellosis?

As Brucella is a notifiable disease, you are legally obliged to report a positive Brucella test to the APHA (The Animal and Plant Health Agency).

As there is no treatment that is likely to cure the disease (antibiotics can be used for months but rarely eliminate the disease so infected dogs can remain infectious and a risk to others, for life), it is likely that APHA will recommend your dog is euthanased.

This is not compulsory but we strongly agree this is the safest thing to do for everyone. If you decide not to carry this out then treatment including months of antibiotics and neutering will be advised to reduce spread but, as above, this is unlikely to eliminate the disease and the surcharges above will be charged during any consultation or hospital stay.

Our Brucella Policy

In order to keep our team and our clients safe, we ask you to follow the following guidelines.

  • Please let our team know if your dog originated from a country outside of the UK

  • We recommend that all imported dogs are tested for Brucella

  • If your dog has previously been tested for Brucella, we will happily accept certification of tests carried out more than three months after the date of import.

  • If you decide against Brucella testing, we will revert to our infection prevention protocol which will include the use of full PPE during your consultation.

  • We will be unable to carry out any procedures which risk the transfer of bodily fluids on untested, imported dogs. This includes blood testing, anal gland expression, surgery and dental procedures.

  • If your dog is imported and requires emergency treatment, we will conduct in in-house snap test which will highlight if the dog is carrying Brucella prior to conducting any treatment.

  • Due to varying reliability of the in-house tests, we will also take bloods and send them to the APHA for testing.

Please note, NO DOG will be declined emergency medical care under these rules but we will take the necessary measures to protect our staff.