Three British citizens have been infected with Brucella canis, an incurable dog disease previously unseen in UK canines. This bacterial infection can cause infertility, mobility issues, and discomfort in affected dogs, but it also poses a severe threat to infected humans. Brucellosis is a genital infection that can be spread through bodily fluids – specifically reproductive fluids – and is often spread through contact with aborted fetuses, so people should avoid handling such tissues. Infection can cause fever, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes (splenomegaly), and, in some cases, a life-threatening inflammation of the heart valves or meninges.
The British government recently released a report outlining the risk to humans from B. canis infection in domesticated dogs and recommended that owners consider vaccinating their pets. The report also recommends that breeders, charities, and other organizations importing dogs from countries where B. canis is endemic ensure that effective pre-export testing is carried out on all potential breeding stock.
According to the report, there has been an increasing number of reports of B. canis infections since summer 2020, with the majority of these cases being directly imported into the UK from Eastern Europe. It’s unclear what is causing the rise in cases. Still, more and more people are likely becoming infected with the bacteria as the number of dogs imported into the country continues to increase.
This is particularly true of dogs being adopted by people from overseas who are often unaware of the health status of their new furry companions and only sometimes carry out appropriate quarantine. The UK government is calling on all dog owners to check their pets’ health and be especially careful when bringing in dogs from countries where B. canis is prevalent.
The report states that a human case of brucellosis was recently diagnosed in the UK, the first ever documented incidence. This infection is typically passed from dogs to humans through sexual transmission but can also be contracted through indirect contact. The individual in this case was immunocompromised and could successfully treat themselves with antibiotics. Still, the case highlights the potential for an infectious, potentially fatal disease to impact the general public.
Infectious brucellosis can be transmitted to people by close contact with infected body fluids such as genital secretions, milk, urine, or blood. It can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, malaise, splenomegaly (enlarged spleen), and peripheral lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes). While this report of human infection is rare, it is essential that the British population remains vigilant to any risks and that dog owners take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. If you have any concerns, please speak with your veterinarian, who will be able to help.