Our policies

Brucella canis

What's the issue?

Brucella canis is a bacterium which causes canine brucellosis, an infectious disease predominantly infecting dogs. Being zoonotic, it can also infect humans. Note that B. canis is distinct from other Brucella species (eg B. abortus, B. melitensis and B. suis) which infect livestock and humans and account for the vast majority of human infections globally.

While some infected dogs can be asymptomatic carriers, for others it can cause a wide range of clinical signs, including abortion in pregnant bitches. There is no proven, reliable treatment that fully eliminates the infection at present, and so euthanasia is currently the only effective means of completely preventing transmission.


As there may be no clinical signs, infected dogs can silently carry Brucella canis without detection when they are being transported into the UK. The disease was first detected in the UK in 2002, and there has since been a rapid rise in cases being identified. It’s unclear whether this reflects a genuine increase in case numbers or an increase in testing and diagnoses, but there are concerns that, if left unchecked, B. canis could become endemic in the UK.

In 2022, news emerged of the first UK case of dog-to-human transmission. This highlighted the risks to those handling and treating infected dogs, leading to heightened levels of concern within veterinary teams.

What's our view?

The rise in detected cases of Brucella canis should be taken seriously, and everyone should be aware of the associated risk factors for both dogs and humans. However, it’s also important to remember that the risk to humans, even for veterinary teams, is deemed to be low. Our policy position seeks to explain these risks and makes recommendations for the prevention and management of canine brucellosis. It includes:

As B. canis is not currently considered to be endemic in the UK animal population, minimising its import into the UK is of paramount importance for the overall health and welfare of the country's dog population. Rather than addressing suspected cases after their arrival in the UK, a proactive approach with an emphasis on reducing the risk of B. canis being brought into the UK is crucial.


We’re calling on the Government to:

  • Restrict the movement of dogs from countries that are endemic for diseases not currently considered endemic in the UK, on the basis of an appropriate risk assessment.
  • Introduce appropriate testing for any diseases as a mandatory requirement for dogs before travel to the UK.
  • Improve border controls and increase enforcement to prevent the importation of puppies and pregnant bitches.