Update on Canine Brucellosis

By: Gary M. Greene, DVM
Diplomate, American college of Theriogenology

What is Canine Brucellosis?
Canine Brucellosis is a disease caused by a bacteria called Brucella Canis. It is suspected whenever reproductive performance is less than expected.
In bitches, the most common sign is abortion, generally during the last trimester of pregnancy. The nonpregnant female does not show any outward signs of disease.
In male doges, infertility is the most common sign. Although scrotal swelling occurs, this is a transient event and may not be noticed.
Brucella Canis is considered a zoonotic bacteria, which means that humans can become infected. Fortunately, human infections are not common, but it is important to take precautions when handling aborted materials or infected animals.

How is Canine Brucellosis transmitted?
Brucella Canis is a highly infectious bacteria that can be readily penetrate any mucous membrane. Infection is through oral, conjunctival (eye), or venereal routes. The oral route is the most common. In the pregnant female, the organism goes to the uterus and generally results in abortion late in pregnancy. After the abortion, vaginal discharges and aborted material contain high numbers of the bacteria. In male dogs, semen and urine of recently infected dogs contain high numbers of the bacteria.
How is Canine Brucellosis Diagnosed?
A screening test is available for intra-office use by veterinarians. This blood test provides quick results with fewer than 1% false negatives. False positives can occur, and are confirmed by additional laboratory test (which take longer for results).
It is important to note that for approximately 8-12 weeks after initial infection, blood tests may be negative until such time as the body can form antibodies to Brucella Canis. Therefore, if Brucella Canis is suspected in a kennel, retesting every 8-12 weeks is the only method to accurately assess it’s disease status.

Can Canine Brucellosis Be Treated?
Although long-term antibiotics have shown promise in some cases, treatment is frequently unsuccessful and is not recommended for eradication of the organism. Antibiotics may decrease abortion rates in infected bitches, but those treated animals may remain infected after treatment.
Can Canine Brucellosis Be Prevented?
Although no vaccine is available, canine Brucellosis can be successfully prevented. If the breeder has already experienced cases of Brucellosis, then the swift identification and removal of infected animals is essential. One should test on a monthly basis and remove positive animals. Because infected animals may not be recognized until 8-12 weeks after exposure, one can expect positive animals to be identified for 3-4 months.
New exposure is prevented by a strict quarantine of new acquisitions until monthly test on these new animals are negative for at least 2 or more consecutive times. Any animals known to have been exposed should not be considered for breeding. All brood bitches should be tested prior to breeding. Any temporary animals being boarded for breeding should be housed separately from the kennel.

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