What are Brucellosis?
While there are several strains of Brucella that can infect your dog, the most common one is Brucella Canis. This bacterium is typically transmitted during breeding and typically comes from an infected female. There are some brucellosis specific symptoms to look for, however, many of them are more generalized and may not present as a bigger problem.
Canine brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause issues in reproduction in both male and females dogs. It is caused by the Brucella Canis bacterium typically.
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Symptoms of Brucellosis in Dogs
Symptoms as stated above can vary and while there are some very specific ones to keep an eye out for, many of your dog’s symptoms may be general to multiple disorders and illnesses.
- Loss of libido
- Premature aging
- Lymph node enlargement
- Bone infections
- Joint infections
- Ocular disease
- Discospondylitis (infection or inflammation of the spinal column)
- Spontaneous abortion in the 3rd trimester (between days 45 and 94)
- Stillborn puppies
- Unexplained infertility
- After loss of puppies, female dogs may suffer from long lasting vaginal discharge
- Inflamed prostate
- Swollen or shrunken testicles
- Swollen epididymis
There are a few strains of Brucella, however, the most common one in your dog will be Brucella Canis. Other types will be identified below:
- Brucella suis (pigs)
- Brucella abortus (cattle)
- Brucella canis (B. canis) – most common in dogs
- Brucella melitensis (cheep & cattle)
While these types are all capable of being transmitted to dogs, it is rare. All strains can also be passed on to humans as well. The tissues after birth, abortion, or secretions during mating are all highly contagious and infected with Brucella.
Causes of Brucellosis in Dogs
The cause of Brucella will always be coming into contact with the bacteria. This can be done through sexual contact, urine, nasal, ocular or other infected fluid.
- Brucella canis – sexually transmitted disease in dogs
- Brucella suis – contracted from pigs, livestock or blood, urine or other secretions
- Brucella abortus – may be contracted if your dog comes into contact with aborted cattle tissues or bison
- Brucella melitensis - livestock
Diagnosis of Brucellosis in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has been infected by one of the Brucella strains, it will be very important to take him or her to a veterinarian immediately. This is due to the highly contagious nature of Brucella.
Your veterinarian will need to know if your dog has been near any potentially infected livestock or wild boars (Brucella suis.) It will also be important to share with your veterinarian if your dog was recently pregnant and lost the puppies without explanation. However, if you have a male dog you will look for any signs of discomfort during breeding or disfigured testicles.
The primary test done will be blood tests in order to determine what your dog is affected by and what type of Brucella he or she is dealing with. These blood tests are most accurate during the first 8 weeks of infection.
Treatment of Brucellosis in Dogs
Treatment options can be broken down into a few sections – treatment of symptoms, isolation, disinfection and possibly euthanasia. Brucella is a very difficult bacterial infection to treat and the outcomes, unfortunately, are not great. Oftentimes the only answer is euthanizing the infected dog. Depending on your state, treatment may not be an option due to the ongoing infection possibility. Once the infection gets into your dog’s blood stream, joints, and bones he can spread the infection through shedding it later on.
Treatment of Symptoms
In order to treat the symptoms your veterinarian may suggest several weeks of antibiotics. Unfortunately, this route is not guaranteed to work and the relapse potential is high. Your veterinarian may suggest spaying/neutering your dog as well as this has been shown to prevent future transmission of the diseases. However, spaying/neutering is not guaranteed to fix the problem immediately as it does not treat the bacterial infection and antibiotics will be needed as well. Even with medication your male dog will always carry the bacteria in his prostate gland.
Any animal that tests positive for Brucella must immediately be removed from the kennel or home if there are other animals there. This is done to try and prevent the continued spreading of the infection. If your dog is in a single dog home, he or she may continue to reside there with treatment at the discretion of you and your veterinarian.
In a kennel, all dogs should be tested and isolated as needed due to their positive infection status. The entire kennel, if your dog is at one, will need to be quarantined with no new dogs coming in, no breeding, or selling taking place.
Once your home or the kennel is quarantined, it is important to destroy any and all material that may be infected with Brucella. After that, you may have to clean the entire kennel or your home to ensure the infection is no longer present. Any dogs, including your own, will need to be tested on an ongoing basis to determine if the infection continues or not.
Some states require all dogs infected with the bacteria be euthanized as it is the only proven way to rid an animal of the infection. If your dog lives in a one dog home he or she may be allowed to remain living with you as long as they have an ongoing antibiotic regime and continued testing done.
Recovery of Brucellosis in Dogs
When it comes to dealing with Brucella, prevention is the key. In order to avoid infection, you should ensure your dog and any dogs he or she is being bred with has been tested for Brucella. However, if your dog is diagnosed as having been infected with the bacteria, it will be important to follow the directions of your veterinarian to avoid any continued transmission.
The relapse rate is high due to the fact that your dog may continue to have the infection in his or her joints, bones, blood stream, prostate gland and can shed the infection at later times. Full recovery is not possible for this reason and it is often why euthanasia is recommended by veterinarians.
Lastly, if your dog is placed on antibiotics, he or she will have to be tested continuously for at least one year after initial diagnosis and may be on an antibiotic regimen for a significant period of time. Once again please be aware depending on your state’s laws you may not be given an option for treatment and euthanasia may be the only option.