Brucellosis in Dogs
Brucellosis is a bacterial infection in dogs caused by the bacterium Brucella canis. It is one of the leading causes of reproductive problems in dogs but can cause other symptoms as well. You may hear Brucellosis referred to by other names, including Undulant Fever, Bang's disease, Malta Fever, and Mediterranean Fever. Any breed or age of dog can be infected by Brucellosis, but it is most common in sexually intact adult dogs. Livestock and wildlife can also carry the infection. Brucellosis is important from a public health aspect as it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. For this reason, Brucellosis is a reportable disease – any positive cases in animals or humans are required to be reported to public health officials. Continue reading to learn more about Brucellosis in dogs, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Symptoms of Brucellosis in Dogs
In dogs, classic signs of Brucellosis are abortion in the 3rd trimester (45-55 days of pregnancy), or stillborn or weak pups that die within a few days after birth. Male dogs can have swollen, inflamed testicles in early infection, although some dogs may not show any abnormalities. Other dogs can have the infection spread beyond the reproductive organs to other parts of the body including the eyes, spinal cord, liver, spleen, or lymph nodes.
In people, clinical signs can be vague and include flu-like symptoms and recurrent fever. Some people can experience more serious symptoms including infertility, heart, and neurological conditions.
How do dogs get Brucellosis?
The Brucellosis bacterium is spread between dogs by direct contact with infected body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, urine, saliva, and aborted materials. The environment an infected dog is in may also serve as a source of infection to other dogs and people. The bacterium enters the body through the mucous membranes of the genitals, eyes, nose, or mouth and then spreads throughout the body via blood or lymph nodes.
Testing Dogs for Brucellosis
The Rapid Slide Agglutination Test (RSAT) is the most common test used to screen for Brucellosis. This test uses a blood sample to detect antibodies to Brucella.
Although this is a quick and inexpensive test, it is possible to have a false positive test result as there can be cross-reaction from the presence of other bacteria. If the RSAT test is positive, it should be confirmed with a second, more specific test. More specific testing can be done by positive culture of the bacteria in blood or tissue samples. Also, PCR testing can definitively diagnose the DNA of the bacteria, although this may not be available in all areas.
Any dogs intended to be used for breeding should both be tested before breeding. Any new animals on the premises should be quarantined for 8-12 weeks and tested at the beginning and again at the end of their quarantine. It is important to note that even dogs that have not yet been bred should still be tested, as environmental contamination can be responsible for infection.
Treatment and Prevention of Brucellosis in Dogs
There is currently no vaccine for Brucellosis in dogs, and there is also no guaranteed cure for dogs that have been infected. Dogs with confirmed infections should be considered infected for life.
Antibiotic treatment does not fully resolve the infection, and although there may be an improvement in clinical signs with initial treatment, infection recurs. Also, these dogs serve as a source of continued infection for other dogs and the people that care for them. Many times, it is recommended that positive dogs be euthanized due to the health hazard they pose to people.
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