A rare dog disease called Brucella canis is spreading to humans in the UK, raising concerns about animal and public health. This disease is caused by a bacterial infection that affects dogs and can cause pain, lameness, infertility, and sometimes death. The disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected dog.
In this blog, we will explore what Brucella canis is, how it affects dogs and humans, how it spread to the UK and who is at risk, how it can be diagnosed and treated in dogs and humans.
What Is Brucella canis and How Does It Affect Dogs and Humans?
Several kinds of bacteria in the genus Brucella, which can infect both people and other animals, include Brucella canis. Although it primarily affects dogs, Brucella canis can also infect foxes, wolves, coyotes, and rodents.
Dogs musculoskeletal, immunological, and reproductive systems are all impacted by the disease known as canine brucellosis, which is caused by the bacterium Brucella caniss.
Symptoms in dog:
- Swollen, painful, or inflamed testicles
- Weak puppies
- Joint issues
- Decreased appetite
- Back pain
As stated by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM in petmd, "It is possible for infected females to raise infected puppies that can enter consumer markets. A 2011 survey of State Public Health Veterinarians reported that B. canis infection is a reportable disease in at least 28 states. Because the disease is reportable in many states there is a small but important “underground” that tries to avert the reporting and thus serves as a continuum for the disease."
Although the risk is minimal, humans can also contract Brucella canis. Contact with bodily fluids from an infected dog, such as blood, urine, or saliva, can result in human infection with Brucella canis. Ingestion of tainted food or drink, contact with placentas or aborted babies, and aerosol inhalation can also result in the infection.
Humans who contract Brucella canis may experience:
- Weight loss
- Meningitis or Septicemia
Immunosuppressed or pregnant individuals may be more vulnerable to the disease’s consequences, which include endocarditis, arthritis, osteomyelitis, and miscarriage. Humans with the condition can receive antibiotic treatment, but long-term therapy and monitoring may be necessary.
How Did Brucella canis Spread to the UK and Who Is at Risk?
Although Brucella canis is not native to the UK, it has been brought in via the importation of dogs from other countries, particularly Eastern Europe, where the disease is more common.
When a lady named Wendy Hayes came into contact with her rescue dog’s birthing fluids in 2022, the UK saw its first human case of Brucella canis. After testing positive for the infection, her five family dogs had to be put down.
Subsequently, two further human cases have been verified; one was a veterinary technician who did not exhibit any symptoms but was detected via standard testing. Most of the cases have been related to or traced back to imported dogs from Eastern Europe as the source of the virus.
Those who have contact with diseased dogs or their fluids, such as breeders, veterinarians, owners, or rescue workers, are more at risk of contracting Brucella canis. When unprotected sex, wounds, or mucous membranes are involved, the risk increases.
The dogs are also at a higher risk if they have not received the necessary testing or vaccinations, or if they are from an area where Brucella canis is more common, such Eastern Europe. Dogs from nations like the UK, where Brucella canis is rare or nonexistent.
How Can Brucella canis Be Diagnosed and Treated in Dogs and Humans?
In both dogs and humans, the symptoms of Brucella canis can be ill-defined, nonspecific, or nonexistent, making a diagnosis difficult. In order to identify the presence of the bacteria or antibodies in the blood or other fluids, laboratory procedures like:
- Blood culture
To identify any indications of infection in the organs or tissues, imaging procedures including MRIs, ultrasounds, and X-rays may also be necessary for the diagnosis. Isolating and characterizing the bacteria from the samples will allow the diagnosis to be verified.
Since the germs can remain in the tissues and cause infection for the rest of one’s life, treating Brucella canis in humans and canines can be challenging.
To help control the infection and lessen the symptoms, the treatment often consists of a mixture of antibiotics, such as enrofloxacin, doxycycline, and minocycline. Nevertheless, even after prolonged usage of antibiotics, dogs and humans may occasionally still excrete the organism since the germs cannot be totally eradicated by them.
Any human or dog that has contracted Brucella canis should be treated as permanently infected and should have frequent checks done for problems or indications of recurrence.
In order to stop the disease from spreading to other dogs and to lessen the amount of bacteria lost in vaginal secretions, surgical sterilization is another aspect of treating Brucella canis in dogs. Dogs that have Brucella canis will unfortunately always carry the virus and there is no known cure.
How Can Brucella canis Be Prevented and Controlled in Dogs and Humans?
The prevention and control of Brucella canis in dogs and humans requires careful measures and regular testing. Some of the ways to prevent and control Brucella canis in dogs and humans are:
- Spaying or neutering your dog before it reaches puberty, to avoid the risk of sexual transmission or pregnancy complications.
- Testing your dog for Brucella canis every three to six months if you plan to use it for breeding, and only breeding with dogs that have negative test results.
- Check the health status and history of any dog that you want to adopt or buy from abroad, and avoid dogs that come from countries where Brucella canis is more prevalent, such as Eastern Europe.
- Cleaning and disinfecting any materials or surfaces that may have been contaminated by infected fluids, such as blood, urine, or saliva.
- Wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves and mask, when assisting whelping dogs or handling infected dogs.
- Consult your veterinarian if you notice any signs of Brucella canis in your dog, such as infertility, miscarriage, lameness, or swollen testicles, and follow their advice for treatment and isolation.
- Seeking medical attention if you develop any symptoms of Brucella canis, such as fever, headache, weight loss, or meningitis, and inform your doctor about your exposure to infected dogs or their fluids.
- Following the guidelines and recommendations of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the local health authorities regarding the risk of Brucella canis infection.
What Are the Implications and Future Prospects of Brucella canis in Dogs and Humans?
The implications and future prospects of Brucella canis in dogs and humans are uncertain, but they could have significant impacts on animal welfare, public health, and international trade. Some of the possible implications and future prospects of Brucella canis in dogs and humans are:
- The illness may have an impact on both human and canine health and wellbeing, resulting in discomfort, suffering, and occasionally even death.
- The illness may make it more difficult and expensive to import and export dogs, as well as decrease the fertility and viability of dogs, endangering the breeding and rescue industries.
- In addition to affecting dog lover’s emotional and psychological attachment, the sickness may have an impact on the livelihood and revenue of dog breeders, owners, and employees.
- More resources and work may be needed for the disease’s diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and control, including isolation, sterilization, testing, antibiotics, and hygienic practices.
- The illness can encourage additional study and development to enhance disease detection, prevention, and treatment, such as through the creation of new diagnostic tools, vaccinations, or therapies.
No, there is no vaccine for Brucella canis available for dogs or humans. The development of a vaccine for Brucella canis is challenging, as the bacteria can evade the immune system and persist in the tissues. The current research and development for a vaccine for Brucella canis is limited, as the disease is rare and underreported.
You can protect yourself from Brucella canis by avoiding contact with dogs that are suspected or confirmed to have the disease, and by seeking medical attention if you develop any symptoms. You should also avoid contact with infected fluids, such as blood, urine, or saliva, and wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and mask, when handling infected dogs.
If you suspect or confirm that your dog or yourself has Brucella canis, you should report it to your veterinarian or doctor as soon as possible. They can perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and advise you on the best course of treatment and isolation. You should also report it to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the local health authorities, as Brucella canis is a notifiable disease in the UK.
The awareness, collaboration, and action of all parties involved dog breeders, owners, employees, veterinarians, physicians, researchers, legislators, and regulators will determine the course of Brucella canis in dogs and humans in the future. Together, they may make efforts to protect human and canine health and safety as well as stop and stop the spread of this uncommon but dangerous illness.
- Smith, C. (2023, September 20). Symptoms of rare dog disease spreading to Brits for first time in UK. Birmingham Live.