Brucella canis is a disease of dogs and humans
Posted July 21, 2018
Brucella canis, a strain of brucellosis that can be
carried by dogs, is one of the leading causes of canine
The highly contagious, and often underrecognized, bacterium can
lead to abortions, stillborn puppies, testicular
abnormalities, and failure to conceive, but can also cause back
pain and inflammation of the spinal column in dogs.
Dr. Angela Arenas, an assistant professor in the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, recently
published an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases that explores
the impact of Brucella canis on both dogs and humans.
Arenas, the study’s lead researcher and a Diplomate of the
American College of Veterinary Pathologists, said that humans
infected with B. canis may experience flu-like symptoms
such as malaise, recurrent fever, muscle pain, and a decreased
appetite. Long-term effects of brucellosis include arthritis and
“There is certainly no cause for alarm, but those who come in
direct contact with reproductively intact dogs or their tissues
such as animal shelter caretakers, dog breeders, veterinarians, and
laboratory workers, especially those in bacteriology labs, are at a
higher risk of exposure,” Arenas explained.
Others at a higher risk of infection include those with
compromised immune systems and children. An average, healthy adult
typically would not contract the disease unless they were exposed
to high-risk events such as helping during delivery of puppies.
Although the bacterium is believed to spread through urine,
blood, or reproductive secretions in dogs, it is still unclear
exactly how prevalent the disease is within the dog population,
which makes it difficult to assess the risk to public health,
according to Arenas.
For dogs, several diagnostic tests are commercially available.
If a dog has a positive test, it should be isolated and retested at
four weeks. Diagnosing B. canis in people is difficult
because there are no tests available. Treatment in dogs is also
Arenas urges those who work in close proximity to reproductively
intact dogs to always practice good hygiene including wearing
gloves when assisting with whelping or breeding and washing your
hands thoroughly after potential exposure.
“The best prevention for Brucella canis is good hygiene
after handling any potentially infectious materials from infected
dogs such as aborted puppies or placenta, semen, blood, and urine
from dogs that have exhibited reproductive failure,” said Martha
Hensel, a doctoral student who worked on the project. “If someone
thinks they may have signs of brucellosis after handing any
infectious materials then they should consult their physician
Likewise, the best prevention for B. canis is to buy
your pet from a trusted source and have your pet tested before
coming into contact with other pets. For owners of reproducing
dogs, prevention is possible through routine screening and by
quarantining any new animal for 8-12 weeks, testing them at the
beginning and end of the quarantine period, before introducing the
B. canis can threaten the health of our furry friends
and their human companions, alike, but with proper pet testing and
good hygiene practices, both can be safe from possible
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