Brucella Canis and why we need to test some imported dogs.

We have started a new policy for testing imported dogs for Brucella Canis.  There has been a recent sharp rise in cases reported of Brucella Canis in the UK, largely driven by the trend to import stray dogs from eastern Europe ( particularly Romania) into the UK over the last 5-10 years.

The disease poses a health risk to other dogs, the owners of  infected dogs and to veterinary staff treating the infected dogs.

We are therefore now advising testing of all at risk dogs.


Full information can be found by clicking the tabs below.

What is Brucella Canis ?

Brucella Canis is a serious bacterial disease of dogs.

The disease is very rare in the UK but is more common in many countries, notably  some eastern european countries such as Romania.

The disease causes a wide variety of disease, including  reproductive and fertility problems , high temperatures, lethargy, swelling and of the lymph nodes, and occasional focal infections in the spine or other body parts.

Many dogs will however contract the disease but not show any symptoms. These dogs will become carriers of the disease even though they themselves  are not unwell.

Why is it such a problem ?

There are two big issues which make Brucella Canis a particular problem.

  1. It it infectious not only  to other dogs, but occasionally to people . This is known as a “zoonotic” disease.
  2. Once an individual ( dog or person ) has contracted  Brucella Canis it is virtually impossible to clear the infection from their body permanently. The individual will continue to carry the infection in their body and may get sporadic recurrence of , potentially very unpleasant, symptoms, for the rest of their life.

Once a dog has been infected, they are infected for life, even if they are not showing any symptoms( which is common).  It is possible for them to start shedding the bacteria many  years after the original infection.

How does it spread between dogs and people ?

The most common way the disease is spread between dogs is via sexual transmission, or though contact with tissues and fluid associated with breeding, ie aborting pregnancies and whelping.

The bacteria can also be shed ( in lower amounts) in other body fluids, including bloods urine saliva and even tear fluid.

Disease in people is thankfully very rare. There has only been one case in the UK so far of a person contracting Brucella from their dog. The risk to people is  highest when in contact with breeding,  whelping or aborting bitches.

However there is a small risk  to people and to other dogs from exposure to any infected dog.This risk appears to rise as the length of time an individual( the owner or another dog in the same household)  is exposed to an infected dog increases.

Cats appear to be  almost completely resistant to infection.

Which dogs are at risk ?

Brucella Canis is very rare in the UK. So UK dogs are not at risk.

Likewise UK dogs travelling to Europe on holiday are very unlikely to be exposed unless they are used for breeding. There is no need to test dogs that just holiday in Europe.

The disease is more common in Eastern Europe , including ( but not limited to ) Romania , Balkan States, Ukraine, Russia. However , it is present thoughout Europe,  southern USA and probably in many Asian and African counties , though good data is lacking.

Dogs who have lived as an unneutered stray/feral dog in Eastern Europe are at highest risk of being infected.

The recent trend for importing these dogs into the UK has resulted in a sharp rise of cases being identified in Britain.  This is particular true for dogs from Romania as there are many charities importing these dogs from Romania, and until recently the charities were not testing for Brucella Canis.

What should you do if you own a dog who has potentially been at risk in the past ?

If you own a dog that was imported as a stray dog from Romania or other at risk countries we ask you to contact us and arrange to get the pet tested.

The test is a simple blood test.

The cost of the test ( in May 2023) is £100 incl VAT.

What if my pet has Brucella ?

Brucella Canis is a “notifiable” disease , so positive cases will be reported to the relevant government agency, the APHA.

At this time it is not advised by UK authorities to attempt treatment of Brucella with antibiotics because the treatment will only reduce symptoms. The treatment will not eliminate the disease from the pets body entirely.

Therefore positive case are a potential risk to all incontact people and dogs.  Sadly , in practice this means the best course of action is often euthanasia of the pet. Should an owner not choose euthanasia then the pet should be kept away from all other people , and dogs, and especially vulnerable people and children.Strict hygiene measures should be practiced by the owner of the pet to minimise the risk of transmission.