17 Aug 2022
Effective biosecurity and dog welfare: where do we strike a balance on Brucella canis?
09 Nov 2023 | Ian Wright
With an increasing number of imported dogs found to be positive for Brucella canis, this blog discusses where to strike a balance between effective surveillance and biosecurity while not compromising the welfare of pets.
The numbers of pets rescued from abroad and imported into the UK continues to be high and alongside this trend, concerns have arisen around the increasing numbers of imported dogs being found to be positive for Brucella canis.
Fears surrounding Brucella species, importation risks and zoonotic disease in the UK are not new. Few though would have predicted that it would be Brucella canis that would be headlining as the latest Brucella to reach our shores. As concerning as the arrival of Brucella canis in imported dogs is, however, risks need to be kept in perspective.
Brucella canis predominantly infects domestic dogs and many infections are clinically mild. Disease is typically associated with reproductive abnormalities although a wide range of non-reproductive pathology can also occur including chronic uveitis, discospondylitis and Lymphadenitis.
Transmission occurs most commonly vertically and via reproductive fluids. The bacteria, however, can also be shed in other bodily fluids such as urine, blood, and saliva. Once dogs are infected, infection either persists for 2-3 years before elimination by the immune system, or lifelong infection establishes. Antibiotic therapy is not effective at eliminating infection.
Human disease is uncommon but a clinical case in the UK has demonstrated the need to take the potential for human infection seriously, especially for high-risk groups such as the immune suppressed or those likely to be exposed to the reproductive fluids of infected animals. This includes veterinary professionals involved in the care of shedding animals, caesarean sections or other reproductive operations on potentially infected dogs. The consequences of zoonotic exposure can be significant, especially in the immune suppressed with serious complications in humans including septic arthritis, osteomyelitis and endocarditis. Vigilance for the infection in imported dogs is therefore vital both to reduce zoonotic risk for veterinary staff and pet owners, as well as minimising the risk of endemic foci developing. If infection in the UK is allowed to establish, the impact on breeding dogs could be considerable alongside a significant risk to human health.
There is an important discussion that needs to be had both within and outside of the profession on where to strike the balance between effective surveillance and biosecurity while not compromising the welfare of pets. The BVA Congress panel discussion ‘Canine Conundrum: Exploring the rise of Brucella canis in the UK’ will consider many of the questions at the heart of this discussion:
- What precautions should veterinary practices be taking to protect staff and prevent spread of infection?
- As part of these precautions, should practices make testing compulsory for registering imported pets?
- Should pre testing for Brucella canis before UK entry be compulsory for dogs?
- Should Brucella canis be a notifiable disease?
- What should the euthanasia policy be regarding positive dogs and what should we be advising as a profession?
Pet owners, charities and breeders are all crying out for consistent advice on this topic, so it is hugely important as a profession we have a considered and evidence-based position on this infection. Join my fellow panellists and I on the day to be part of the debate and help set policy in your own practice.
Want to join BVA?
Get tailored news in your inbox and online, plus access to our journals, resources and support services, join the BVA.Join Us Today