What is Brucella canis?

Did your dog originate from outside the U.K? 

Do you have a certificate to say your dog has been tested for Brucella canis? (most haven’t). 

What is Brucella canis? 
Brucella canis is a contagious bacterial disease found in many parts of the world but, until recently, not in the UK. In the last year there have been a number of cases of Brucellosis diagnosed in dogs across the UK both in imported dogs and those in close contact with them. 

This infection can spread between dogs but also to humans and is now reportable to APHA (the government Animal and Plant Health Agency). 

All Veterinary Practices in the UK are therefore being asked to be on the lookout for Brucellosis and set up protocols to protect owners, veterinary staff and our UK dog population from this disease. 

What are the symptoms in dogs? 

 Unfortunately, many dogs carry Brucella without showing any symptoms at all so, just because your imported dog is well, or has been in the UK for years already, does not indicate it is no risk to yourself or others. 

Symptomatic dogs show a variety of illness ranging from lameness, back ache, enlarged lymph nodes and eye diseases to reproductive failures. 

What are the symptoms in people? 

 In otherwise healthy people, the disease can be mild. In immunosuppressed people such as pregnant women or people undergoing chemotherapy, it can be more severe. Symptoms include fluctuating high temperatures, enlarged lymph nodes, headaches and problems in pregnancy. 

How is Brucella spread? 

 Brucella is spread by fluids from the infected dog (e.g. birthing fluids, vaginal fluids (bitches in season), semen, urine, saliva and blood) coming in contact with the eyes, mouth, nose, wounds or other broken skin of the human or other dogs. Hence mating, giving birth or when vets perform surgery are high risk times for the disease to spread. 

How is Brucella Canis diagnosed? 

 Brucella is diagnosed by blood tests looking for antibodies to the disease. Brucellosis antibodies can take up to three months to show up in an infected dog. Therefore, false negative results (when the test is negative but the dog actually does have the disease) can occur if the test is carried out within 3-4 months of the dog being in contact with an infected individual. 

Why are we telling you this? 
We, alongside other clinics in the UK, are implementing a Brucellosis testing protocol. 

• When you phone up, our receptionists will ask if you own any imported dogs or any dogs that have lived abroad. Please be patient if you are asked this more than once. We are looking out not just for the safety of our staff but the safety of you and our UK dog population as a whole. 

• If you have a certificate indicating a negative Brucellosis test, we shall ask to see it (it can be brought in sent by Petsapp, or emailed, whichever is easier). Remember, a negative test taken when your dog was still living in an infected country does not totally exclude the possibility of disease as it can take 3 months for antibodies to form. 

• Our vets will advise you to have your dog tested for Brucellosis. The blood will be sent to the APHA laboratory and takes 1-2wks for results. At the time of writing, the cost of this blood test is £120-166 depending on if you are a health plan member 

• The test is advisory, not compulsory, but if you are a new client wanting to come to us and choose NOT to have the test, we will NOT register you or your pets. 

If you are an existing client, we will have to wear PPE (mask, gloves, visor or other eye protection) every time we see you dog(s) and a cost will be added to all future consultation for this (currently £5). 

If your dog needs to be hospitalised, the intensive hospital charge will be charged as your dog will have to be in our isolation kennel and our rigorous infectious disease isolation protocol will have to be implemented. This will include an emergency PCR blood test for Brucella on site. 

This PCR test costs £85.90 and takes less than an hour to run but is much less reliable than the blood test recommended above – a positive test is positive but there are many false negatives so a negative result from this in-house test cannot be relied on. 

• If the APHA test is negative, no further action will be required. However, if it is within 3 months of arriving in the UK, you might consider doing a second test 3 months after arrival. 

So, what happens if your dog’s test is positive: 

If your dog tests positive for Brucellosis, we have to report this to the Government via the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The APHA will then contact you. 

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 euthanised. 

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. 

This might feel worrying but, despite increases in cases brought in by imported dogs, Brucellosis is still very rare in the UK. 

If you are looking at buying a dog from abroad, whether from a breeder or charity, please make sure they are tested for Brucella (as well as the other foreign diseases such as Leishmaniasis, Erlichia and Heartworm). 

By working together, we hope to stop this disease from increasing further in the UK and hopefully eradicate it again before it becomes endemic. More details about Brucella canis can be found on the DEFRA website: http://apha.defra.gov.uk/documents/surveillance/diseases/Canine-Brucellosis-Summary-Final-260421.pdf 
Please contact us if you have any questions 

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