Frequently Asked Questions
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Can you tell me more about the Korea dog program?
The Wisconsin Humane Society has not received dogs from Korea. The experts on this program are from Humane Society International, and we recommend visiting their website (https://hsi.org/issues/dog-meat-trade/) for more details on the program. We’re grateful to HSI for providing us with this basic information on the program:
- This farm closure is part of Humane Society International’s campaign to end the cruel dog and cat meat trade in Asia. To date, HSI has rescued more than 1,500 dogs from these farms and coordinated their placement in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands. The dogs on these farms live in terrible conditions – in overcrowded wire cages without adequate shelter or veterinary care. Then they are slaughtered for consumption. HSI works with farmers to close down their dog meat operations, rescuing the dogs and helping farmers transition to more profitable and humane livelihoods.
- As part of each farm closure, HSI has a veterinarian examine the dogs and vaccinate them against a wide range of diseases including rabies, distemper, parvo and H3N2 Canine influenza. The dogs are quarantined on the farm or at a temporary shelter with no dogs permitted in or out for at least 30 days prior to transport overseas.
- The rescued dogs are brought to the United States, Canada, and other countries where dog adoption is common. Adopting a dog is still not a widespread practice in South Korea. However, there are signs that attitudes are changing. HSI plans in South Korea include continued work to increase the culture of adoption and one day hope these dogs will be able to find homes in South Korea.
About Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States
As affiliated organizations, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States work together on this campaign. HSI rescues the dogs from South Korea and transports them to other countries for adoption. HSUS places the dogs that come to the United States with its Shelter and Rescue Partners, a network of independent animal shelters, rescue groups and other organizations experienced in caring for abused or neglected dogs and finding new homes for them.
The information above partially obtained from:
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Original contributors: Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH | © Copyright 2018 LifeLearn Inc.
- University of Wisconsin Madison Shelter Medicine Program (https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/library/resources/should-shelters-be-testing-dogs-routinely-for-brucellosis)
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC), www.cdc.gov
- Humane Society International, https://hsi.org/issues/dog-meat-trade/
- Wednesday, April 3, 2019
- For immediate release