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Brucella Canis Information

Has your dog been imported from Europe? 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). At the time of writing, there have been three reported cases in humans. All Veterinary Practices in the UK are therefore being asked to be on the look out 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, this does not indicate it is no risk to yourself or others.
Symptomatic dogs show a variety of signs including lameness, back ache, enlarged lymph nodes, eye disease and abortion. What are the symptoms in people?
In otherwise healthy people, the disease is often mild. However, symptoms can include fluctuating high temperatures, enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, long-term joint pain, arthritis, sepsis and in rare circumstances death. Immunosuppressed people are more vulnerable. It can cause problems during pregnancy, including abortion.   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). 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. Brucella antibodies can take up to three months to show 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 Mansion Hill Vets telling me this?
As always, we want you, our clients, to be fully informed but also, we at Mansion Hill, 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 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 laboratory and takes 1-2wks for results. At the time of writing, the cost of this blood test is approximately £250. This includes the lab handling fee and of course anyone on the Pet Health Plan will get a discount on this price.
  • The test is compulsory, therefore, 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 and you cannot provide us with a valid negative test certificate we will need to perform the blood test before we can proceed with any further routine appointments or operations.
  • If the test is negative, no further action will be required. However, if it is within 3 months of arriving in the UK, you will be asked to do a second test 3 months after arrival.

What happens if the 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. It may be further testing will be carried out to make sure it is a true positive but this would be decided by government vets. As there is no treatment 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. 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. This might feel worrying, but despite increasing cases due to imported dogs, Brucellosis is still 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 website - Please contact us if you have any questions.