Canine Brucellosis

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What causes canine brucellosis?

A: Canine brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the Brucella bacteria. The illness in dogs is caused by Brucella canis (B. canis). However, Brucella organisms commonly associated with other animal species, such as Brucella suis (pigs) and Brucella abortus(cattle and bison), can infect dogs depending upon their exposures to these species.

Q:  What are the signs of canine brucellosis in infected dogs?

A:  In female dogs, brucellosis causes abortion and infertility. Females may fail to get pregnant or may lose their litters in late pregnancy (45-55 days). After abortion, females may have a prolonged vaginal discharge. In males, infertility can result from brucellosis affecting various reproductive organs including the prostate, testicles, and epididymis. A brucellosis infection may result in an inflamed prostate, swollen or shrunken testicles, and swollen epididymis. Nonspecific signs that may affect both sexes include lethargy, unwillingness to breed, 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. Infections may also occur in the eye.

Q: How do dogs get infected with Brucella? 

A:  B. canis is a sexually transmitted disease in dogs.  Dogs become infected through exposure to secretions during mating or by contact with infected tissues during birth or following abortion.  In addition, dogs may spread bacteria in urine, saliva, nasal and ocular secretions, and feces.  Infection with B. suis can occur in dogs in contact with feral hogs (e.g. hunting dogs) following exposure to blood, urine, saliva or other tissues.  Exposure to B. abortus may occur if dogs have contact with aborted tissues of infected cattle or bison.  Most domestic cattle herds in the US (including those in Georgia) are now free of Brucellosis making this routine exposure very unlikely.  Brucellosis is still present in cattle in Texas, Wyoming and Idaho.  MOST OFTEN, IN THE CANINE COMMUNITY, THIS IS A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE.

Q:  Can my dog be cured of brucellosis?

A:  It is very difficult to cure an infected dog. The bacteria can get into the bloodstream and infect other parts of the dog’s body, such as joints and bones. For this reason, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) does not allow treatment of infected or exposed dogs that are maintained in licensed kennels. Depending upon the type of brucellosis, pet dogs may be spayed or neutered and treated with a long course of antibiotics at the discretion of the pet owner and treating veterinarian. However, 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.

Q:  How can I prevent canine brucellosis in my dog?

A:  The good news is that canine brucellosis is easy to prevent. Before breeding your dog, both the female and male dogs should be examined and tested by a veterinarian. The test involves a simple blood test. Licensed breeding facilities should have all new additions tested for brucellosis before bringing them onto the premises. These animals should also remain isolated until a second negative test is obtained at least 4-6 weeks later. Dogs should not be bred if they are infected with canine brucellosis. Dogs known to be exposed to feral hogs should be tested periodically to detect any early infection.

Q:  If my dog has brucellosis can I get sick too?

A:  Yes, Brucella bacteria can infect humans. However, the Brucella organisms vary in their rate of infectivity. For example, 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 laboratories, are considered to be at risk for B. canis infection. However, people with immune compromise due to illness or immunosuppressive therapy and children or pregnant women are vulnerable to brucellosis. B. suis , on the other hand, more commonly infects exposed people and causes more severe illness.

© Working Dog Chihuahuas by Midwest, 2007