As many of you will have seen in the veterinary press, there has been a number of cases of dogs in the UK infected with Brucella canis. These have mostly been in dogs from Romania, although Brucella canis has also been identified by PCR or serology in dogs from other European counties including Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Poland, France, Netherlands, Moldovia and Macedonia (reference https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6554662/)
The number of dogs imported into the UK from Romania has increased significantly over the last few years. In 2020 29,284 dogs were imported from Romania and for comparison the second highest source was Spain, from where 5723 dogs were imported (data from Public Health England). This will probably explain why the Brucella cases have been seen in Romanian dogs rather than dogs from other European Countries. In fact, a dog from any of the counties listed could potentially be infected.
Brucella canis is a zoonotic disease and so particular care is required when handling infected dogs and when handling lab samples.
The most common way humans become infected is through contact with birthing fluids, abortion products, afterbirths or vaginal discharges from an infected dog that has recently given birth or aborted, as this material contains very high quantities of B. canis. Neutering surgery could be another potential cause of human infection.
B. canis can be transmitted if these infectious materials come into contact with a person’s mucous membranes (e.g. eyes, mouth) or an area of broken/damaged skin. It can also be transmitted if infectious aerosols (airborne droplets containing B. canis) are generated and inhaled, which can occur during specific sampling procedures (e.g. aspiration of infected lymph nodes or joints) or laboratory procedures involving an infected dog. As well as ensuring the safety or your practice staff, it is very important that lab staff are made aware of a dog’s travel status so that correct precautions can be taken. With this in mind we have amended our lab form so that you can enter information about foreign travel/ potential zoonotic disease. We have also taken the opportunity to add a tick box for suspected mycobacterial infection. Please fill this in, to help protect our staff.
Our new form can be found at https://linnaeus.chameleon.dev/dickwhite/dwr-diagnostics-laboratory/
When dealing with imported dogs in your clinics, you may consider running serology before a dog is admitted (e.g. for neutering or investigations of conditions listed below). The Brucella Reference Laboratory at the APHA, Weybridge offers serology testing for B canis, please contact us if you would like more details. We will soon have an in house rapid Brucells canis test, further information to follow.
Animals infected with Brucella canis are frequently asymptomatic.
When clinical signs are present, these classically involve the reproductive organs and include:
- Still births
- Failure to conceive
Other presentations include:
- Discospondylitis *
- Polyarthritis (appendicular skeleton)*
- Osteomyelitis (appendicular skeleton)
- Multifocal pyogranulomatous dermatitis
- Splenomegaly with diffuse lymphadenomegaly
*seen in recent cases in UK
The disease appears more common in young dogs, although this may be due to the large influx of young dogs, rather than young dogs being predisposed.
Even if imported dogs are not displaying the symptoms listed above, please take appropriate measures to protect your teams and our lab staff.