What is Canine Brucellosis?

This week we had to say goodbye to Rose, a dog we found only 2 weeks ago, living on the streets of Memphis. After Rose was rescued our veterinarian noticed something on her x-ray that worried him. Her spine was fused together – which is rare for a four-year old dog.

Doc has seen this before, however, and he immediately quarantined Rose and sent her sample to two leading universities for evaluation. Unfortunately, both tests came back conclusive – Rose tested positive for Canine Brucellosis.

1. What is Canine Brucellosis?

Canine brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the Brucella bacteria. The illness in dogs is caused by the intracellular bacterium, Brucella canis. Although rare, this disease is found worldwide and in the United States it is especially common in the Southeastern states. In the past, it was considered a breeder problem; however, prevalence has been estimated at 7-8% among stray dogs in the southern US.

2. What are the signs of Canine Brucellosis in infected dogs?

In female dogs symptoms vary from infertility to abortion. Females may fail to get pregnant or may lose their litters in late pregnancy (45‐55 days). In males the infection may cause an inflamed prostate, swollen or shrunken testicles, and swollen epididymis resulting in infertility.

Nonspecific signs that may affect both sexes include lethargy, unwillingness to breed, premature aging and inflammation of the lymph nodes. Dogs may not show any signs or symptoms of the disease. Animals may get an infection in the bones or joints and show signs of back pain or arthritis.

3. How is it spreading?

Dogs become infected with Canine Brucellosis through exposure to fluids during mating or by contact with infected tissues during birth or affected placenta or fetuses following abortion. In addition, dogs may spread bacteria in urine, saliva, nasal and ocular secretions, and feces.

4. Can the disease be spread to humans?

Yes, Brucella bacteria can infect humans although B. canis rarely infects people and causes very mild illness in those persons who do get infected. Only people in contact with very high numbers of bacteria, such as dog breeders or those in research or diagnostic labs, are considered to be at risk for infection. However, people who are immune compromised due to illness or children or pregnant women are vulnerable to brucellosis.

5. Can Canine Brucellosis be cured?

Unfortunately, the infection cannot be completely cleared from the dog. The bacteria can get into the bloodstream and infect other parts of the dog’s body, such as joints and bones, causing pain. Although it can be treated with a long course of antibiotics relapses may occur resulting in shedding of bacteria. Consequently, treatment is not recommended in any case due to the contagious nature of brucellosis and the threat to human health.

6. What is Streetdog Foundation doing to prevent spreading?

All dogs that are rescued by Streetdog Foundation are tested for Canine Brucellosis. Because of the uptick in cases we have seen lately we are proactively testing all of our dogs for the disease.

7. What can I do to prevent the spreading of Canine Brucellosis?

If you suspect that your dog may have been affected by the disease, they should be tested immediately. If you are adopting or purchasing a dog from a breeder, ensure that both parents were tested for Brucella canis prior to being bred.