State Veterinarian Warns Dog Owners: Test for Canine Brucellosis

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For Immediate Release                                                 Contact:  Bridget Patrick, 517-284-5661

November 26, 2013                                                                              or

State Veterinarian Warns Dog Owners: Test for Canine Brucellosis

People assisting disease positive dogs during birthing could contract bacteria

LANSING - Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill reports three investigations into Canine Brucellosis in Michigan dogs in the past four months, one each in Montcalm, Calhoun, and Mackinac counties.

Canine Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects dogs, but is transmissible to humans through exposure to birthing fluids, saliva, feces, urine, and eye or nasal fluids. People with brucellosis may experience “flu-like” symptoms including fever, chills, body aches, headaches and sweating. They may also develop more serious, prolonged conditions. Brucellosis is also known as undulant fever or Mediterranean fever in humans. Signs in dogs include failure to become pregnant, abortions, stillbirths, inflammation in the male reproductive system, semen abnormalities, eye abnormalities, and severe back pain.

“Brucellosis is a reportable disease and any person who suspects their dog is infected or may have come from a breeder with infected dogs should contact their veterinarian and have the dog tested,” said Averill. “Pets do not have to be euthanized, but it’s important to follow the guidelines to prevent spreading the infection, including spaying or neutering, and isolation from other dogs.”

“Breeding dog owners should be aware their animals could have brucellosis,” said Dr. Averill.

 Quick tips for owners:

  • Every dog owner planning a litter needs to make sure their dogs, and any dogs they are planning to use in a breeding program, do not have brucellosis.
  • Breeding kennels should be on a brucellosis surveillance program to help assure they are not selling brucellosis infected puppies, or infected adult dogs to the public.
  • Anyone purchasing a puppy from a breeder should ask to see negative test results from the dogs that produced the litter of puppies.
  • Anyone acquiring a dog from a pet shop or an animal shelter should ask their veterinarian about screening tests for canine brucellosis.
  • Ask your veterinarians to test for brucellosis with any newly acquired breeding dogs, those with a history of reproductive problems, or any canines with certain eye and spinal disorders.

 “Antibiotics will not cure canine brucellosis. Once a dog is infected, the animal remains infected for life,” said Averill. ”While spaying and neutering infected dogs will reduce the risk of spreading canine brucellosis to humans or other dogs, the risk of spread is not completely eliminated.”

The Montcalm County case involves an occasional dog breeder with six dogs, including Boston terriers, pugs, and French bulldogs. The dog breeder contacted a private veterinarian after one of the female dogs experienced her second abortion and another dog failed to become pregnant. 

Five of the six dogs tested positive for brucellosis and were euthanized.  No humans exposed to these dogs are known to be ill with signs of brucellosis.  

The Mackinac County case involves littermates, two three-year-old Golden Retriever/Labrador crosses (a recently spayed female and an intact male) acquired and imported into Michigan from Kentucky in 2011.  The dogs had a long-standing history of reoccurring back pain.  Both dogs tested positive for brucellosis and were euthanized.  A third littermate was imported with the other two dogs, but it was given to someone on Craig’s List living in Gwinn, Michigan, shortly after importation.

The Calhoun County case involves a dog breeder with 14 breeding dogs, including poodles, Shetland sheepdogs, Pomeranians, and Maltese. The dog breeder took four of the dogs to a private veterinarian for brucellosis testing as one of the female dogs aborted her pups. One of the male dogs tested positive for brucellosis. This dog has been euthanized. The remaining dogs are currently under quarantine. No people exposed to these dogs are known to be ill with brucellosis-like symptoms.

 For more information on canine brucellosis visit: The Pet Health Network