Brucellosis in Dogs | Symptoms & Treatment

Brucellosis in Dogs | Symptoms & Treatment

Author WDF Staff


Humans are not the only ones at risk from STDs. Canine brucellosis is an infection of the reproductive system that can be pretty dangerous. Mind you, canine intercourse is not the only way of contracting the disease, but it is one of the ways dogs can get infected. If your dog was diagnosed with brucellosis, it is entirely natural you want to know more about the disease. Here’s what you should know about brucellosis in dogs, its symptoms, and its treatment.

What is brucellosis in dogs?

The first thing we need to understand is what canine brucellosis is. It is a bacterial infection caused by Brucella canis bacterium. This is a highly contagious disease. If dogs get infected, they will most likely develop an infection of the reproductive system or an STD. Dog breeders absolutely have to check their dogs for signs of this bacterium.

dog on sofa

How can dogs contract it?

We already briefly mentioned one of the ways dogs can get infected is by sexual intercourse. The bacteria is spread through genital secretions (vaginal secretions or semen), which is something that happens when two dogs engage in intercourse.

However, the Brucella canis bacteria is not only present in genital secretions; it is also present, in the same amount, in the dog’s saliva and urine. That means that a healthy dog can get in contact with infected urine and get infected. This disease is so infectious that sometimes, all it takes is inhaling infected urine or other body secretions for a dog to get infected. It is also possible that a dog gets infected through mucous membranes, like the one in the dog’s eye.

How can I know if my dog got infected with brucellosis?

There are a few ways you can notice your dog has brucellosis. One of the most common ways dog owners learn their dogs contracted this disease is by getting a phone call from another dog owner that learned their dog is infected. That might happen if a breeder breeds their dog and the breeding partner finds out they’re infected. However, most dog owners will simply notice something’s wrong with their dogs and schedule a vet appointment.

pomeranian on bed

Canine brucellosis symptoms

Another way you can notice and guess your dog contracted brucellosis is by learning the disease’s symptoms. That is precisely what vets do in the first appointment. This disease has some unique symptoms that will point to a specific problem, and the sooner you spot these symptoms, the sooner your vet can start treating your dog. Here are the most common brucellosis symptoms;

Male dogs

  • Epididymitis (infection of a part of a testicle)
  • Enlarged scrotum
  • Enlarged testicle
  • Scrotum rash
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Infertility

Female dogs

  • Uterine infection
  • Infertility
  • Persistent vaginal discharge
  • Abortion

Both sexes will have enlarged lymph nodes. If the bacterium infects different body parts, like the brain, kidneys, eyes, or intervertebral discs, the symptoms will be slightly different and more connected to the infected area.

How is brucellosis diagnosed?

Vets usually use two types of blood tests to confirm infections and exact species of bacteria. Dog breeders are generally familiar with those tests because breeding dogs should be tested before breeding. These two tests are RAST (rapid slide agglutination test) and AGID (agar gel immunodiffusion test). RAST is a fairly quick test dog breeders use. It is pretty trusted, but it can detect the infection after 3 to 4 weeks. The AGID test is more precise. If a dog tests positive on RAST, the vet will ask for AGID to precisely determine the infection.

sad shih tzu

How is brucellosis treated?

This is the part with bad news. It is possible to somewhat control the infection with some types of antibiotics, mostly minocycline or doxycycline, but dogs infected with brucellosis are considered infected for life. There is no definite cure yet that can completely eliminate the bacteria from the dog’s body.

As long as the dog is infected, they’ll shed bacteria and pose a threat to other dogs. As we already mentioned, this disease can be spread through urine, saliva, or genital secretions, so infected dogs pose a severe risk. Most infected dogs are sterilized, so at least genital secretions will not pose such a significant risk.

Can I get infected?

Unfortunately, brucellosis can infect humans. Most cases of human infections are related to people that were in contact with aborted litters or puppies from infected moms. That means dog breeders, vets, and vet technicians are at increased risk. The good news is that dog owners will most likely not get infected because they rarely get in contact with their dog’s blood, semen, or uterine discharge.

SAFETY TIP: Brucellosis poses a significant risk for dog breeding, so this disease is considered of general interest. That means that vets and physicians have to report all positive cases to the federal government.

How dangerous is it?

All diseases are considered dangerous, and you should never take them lightly. If your dog was diagnosed with this disease, you should know that this disease is not fatal in most cases. However, it is considered very dangerous because of its high contagiousness and the fact it results in infertility. Dogs that are brought in kennels should be tested for this disease. They should also be quarantined for 12 weeks to ensure they don’t carry this bacteria. Since this is a zoonotic disease, it is a health risk for humans. That makes it rather dangerous.

World Dog Finder team

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