What is Brucella canis in dogs?

Brucella canis is a bacterial infection that can cause disease in dogs and humans. Although it is rare in the UK, the number of cases are increasing as more people import dogs from abroad that haven’t been tested for this disease. It does have the potential to cause disease in humans.

What are the symptoms of Brucella Canis in dogs?

Brucellosis is most commonly associated with reproductive disease in dogs, although symptoms can be varied.

Infected females will either fail to conceive or abort their first litter between days 45 and 59 of the pregnancy. While future litters may survive, they might fail to thrive or neonates may die within the first week of life. If they survive, pups can develop signs of disease as they grow older or become carriers of the infection.

Male dogs with brucellosis may be infertile or have painful and enlarged testicles.

Both male and female dogs can appear quiet and depressed (lethargic), suffer a loss of libido, have back pain or show signs of lameness and an increase in the size of their lymph nodes.

Some dogs may show no clinical signs but can carry this disease and pass it on to others.

Brucellosis can be spread during mating, from the mother to her pups either prior to birth or through infected milk, through contact with either aborted material or birth products, contact with vaginal discharges or semen, or contact with infected faeces, urine or nasal secretions.

Can Brucellosis be cured in dogs?

Although treatment can be attempted, it is, unfortunately, not always successful. The best chance of eliminating infection is a combined approach which includes administering antibiotics both before, and immediately following, surgery to neuter (castrating or spaying) an infected dog. Using either just antibiotics, or surgery alone, is very unlikely to have a positive outcome.

Treatment of brucellosis can be challenging and may not be successful, with some dogs requiring euthanasia to end their suffering.

How can I test for Brucella canis in my dog?

Brucellosis can be tested for using a blood sample to check for Brucella canis antibodies. This information tells you if an animal has been exposed to disease, with high antibody levels/titres seen in animals suffering from current or recent infection.

A Brucella PCR test can also be carried out which looks for the bacteria in either a sample of infected tissue, eg sperm, urine, blood or aborted materials. The PCR test can also be run on a swab from the cervix or preputium of the dog that is suspected to have, or be carrying, the disease. This test relies on the bacteria being present in the tissue at the time of sampling.

Both these tests can be carried out at PALS.

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