Why are we testing?
Canine Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that humans can get from dogs (a type of zoonosis). Brucella Canis is the bacteria, which is the main cause of brucellosis in dogs. It is not usually present in British dogs, but may occur in dogs imported from other countries, or dogs that have bred with dogs from other countries.
There is growing concern around this disease because of the large number of imported dogs from other countries. In the UK we have seen increasing numbers of dogs imported from countries where the disease is classed as endemic. There has also been an increase in positive cases in the UK in recent years.
Brucellosis primarily enters the body by ingestion (through the nose and mouth) and via the genital tract. Common causes of transmission are from:
One significant concern is that many dogs will show no clinical signs. However, these dogs are still infectious and can still pass the disease to other dogs and humans. Clinical signs if present can include:
Dogs that show no clinical signs but are infected can go on to develop clinical signs later in life.
Brucellosis can be acquired from direct contact with an infected dog and its immediate environment. Owners and Veterinary staff are at a higher risk of infection due to the type of contact had with them.
Higher risk exposures include direct contact with a dog’s reproductive secretions, for example:
Lower risk exposures (but infection can occur) include contact with a dog’s saliva or faeces and being bitten by an infected dog.
In some people, symptoms will develop suddenly. In others, symptoms may develop gradually and be persistent or recurrent, sometimes lasting for years. Some people who are infected have no symptoms at all.
Typical symptoms include:
Brucellosis is rarely fatal in humans. However, in some cases, infection can lead to life threatening complications such as endocarditis and meningitis, particularly if left untreated. There is a higher risk of complications if you are pregnant, immunocompromised, or particularly vulnerable to infection.
Testing for Brucella Canis is becoming more common especially in imported dogs even if they do not show clinical signs or ill health.
Testing will help identify dogs that may pose a risk of passing the infection on to humans and other dogs. This is important so the veterinary team can use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves when handling dogs that have been shown to test positive.
Testing is in the form of a simple blood test, sent to an external laboratory. It can take three months after infection for a dog to test positive so testing must be undertaken once the dog has been in the UK for at least three months.
Due to this potential risk to veterinary staff, it is now required that all newly registered, imported dogs must be tested before they are seen for any other appointments. If emergency treatment is required within this three-month period, all veterinary staff will be in full PPE due to the risks of handling bodily fluids and secretions. No surgery will take place unless a negative result is returned. Any dogs that are already registered with the practice will be asked to follow the same guidelines for testing.
Treatment for Brucellosis has proved unsuccessful in dogs, if your dog has a positive result, a vet will be in touch to discuss the options available to you. Please note that Brucella is a notifiable disease in the UK due to the associated human health risk and a positive result will automatically be reported to the Public Health team.
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