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Brucellosis Response

Your voice is urgently needed!

Newly proposed Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regulations will have a devasting effect on homeless dogs and Wisconsin families, and we need your help! The regulations would require negative brucellosis (Brucella canis) and heartworm tests before homeless dogs can be transported into Wisconsin. The testing requirement may sound reasonable on the surface, but it could eliminate our state’s ability to save puppies and dogs from overcrowded shelters or natural disaster zones. Learn more here

Before Wed, Aug 7, please voice your concerns about DATCP 10.80(2m) and (2n) to Angela Fisher at (She is out of office but her email is being monitored for public comments). 

Frequently Asked Questions


  1.  What is canine brucellosis?
    Canine brucellosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium, Brucella canis (B. canis). It does not affect lifespan or long-term quality of life for dogs, but it can cause an infection of the reproductive system (i.e. sexually transmitted disease).Different species of Brucella infect sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, pigs, and other animals. Cats are not affected. Although brucellosis is considered zoonotic, there is a very low risk of transmission from dogs to humans. Because brucellosis is primarily transmitted via birthing tissues and during breeding, it is most commonly a concern in poorly managed commercial breeding operations in the US. 

  2. What are the signs of brucellosis?
    Brucellosis in dogs typically causes reproductive problems such as infertility and abortions, with few other signs of clinical illness. It does not typically affect lifespan or long-term quality of life. The disease is most common in sexually intact adult dogs. A female dog infected with brucellosis may develop an infection of the uterus; causing her to be infertile, have difficulty getting pregnant, or she may abort in the late stages of pregnancy. Male dogs can develop infections in the testicles causing swelling or atropy and ulceration of the skin on the scrotum. During the early stages of brucellosis, enlarged lymph nodes are common. Occasionally, B. canis will infect the intervertebral discs, eyes, kidneys, or brain. If the bacteria infect these other tissues, the signs will be related to the bodily system that is infected.

  3. How is canine brucellosis spread?
    B. canis bacteria are typically shed in the genital secretions (semen or vaginal discharges) of an infected dog. Smaller amounts of bacteria may also be shed in the dog's urine or saliva. Dogs are exposed to the disease via contact with infected bodily fluids. Although the most common route of infection is oral (i.e., from licking contaminated urine or discharges from the reproductive tract or licking or chewing placental material or aborted fetuses), dogs can also pick up an infection through sexual transmission or through other mucous membranes such as the eyes.

  4. How is canine brucellosis diagnosed?
    The infection is usually diagnosed by a blood test. The most common blood test is called a rapid slide agglutination test or RSAT, and it can detect infections after three to four weeks. This test is used for screening of breeding dogs, and negative tests are reliable unless the dog has been recently exposed to the disease. False-positive tests are relatively common, and any dog that tests positive with the RAST test should have the disease confirmed with an advanced test called an agar gel immunodiffusion test (AGID), which will identify infected animals between 12 weeks and 1 year post-infection. Blood cultures or cultures of infected fluids/tissue may also be done to confirm the diagnosis.

  5. What is the treatment for canine brucellosis?
    Although antibiotics can be used to help control the infection and most dogs recover from their clinical signs, no treatment is completely effective at eliminating the bacteria.  Any dog that has been infected with B. canis should be considered to be infected for life and could possibly shed bacteria intermittently for the rest of its life.

  6. Am I at risk of developing brucellosis from an infected dog? 
    Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease, or a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, but transmission is rare. Although people can become infected by coming in contact with infected animals, it is rare for a person to get a brucellosis infection from a dog. When human transmission does occur, it is most likely to breeders and veterinarians exposed to the tissues, blood or other secretions of infected animals, or laboratory workers. Pet owners are at very low risk for infection because they are less likely to come in contact with blood, semen, or uterine discharges from an infected dog. However, people with compromised immune systems should avoid contact with a dog that is diagnosed with brucellosis.

  7. Can my dog safely enter a shelter where Brucellosis has been diagnosed?
    Yes.  B. canis is easily removed from the environment in normal shelter cleaning and is not transmitted through the air.

  8. Should shelters be testing dogs routinely for Brucellosis?
    According to the Shelter Medicine Program at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, because the infection is rare, not easily transmitted in a shelter environment, and incredibly uncommon for dogs to pass the infection to humans, routine testing for Brucellosis is not recommended for shelters.   The most typical test also has a 50-60% false positive rate, making initial testing unreliable, as well. When a veterinarian has reason to suspect Brucellosis or there are legal requirements, there is absolutely an indication to test. Outside of these situations, the Shelter Medicine Program at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary School does not recommend routine screening of shelter dogs for Brucellosis.

 The information above partially obtained from: 

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019
  • For immediate release