Canine Brucellosis: What is it?

Brucellosis is a contagious disease that has been widely misunderstood and also misrepresented, often in the veterinary offices too. It is quite a threatening disease that is basically caused by the bacterium called Brucella Canis. Canine Brucellosis is the main cause behind infertility in breeding stock.

While it can affect all breeds and nature of dogs, it also infects livestock such as cattle, goats, sheep, and wildlife including wild pigs, bison and elk. Let’s look in details at what the disease is all about and how dangerous it can be for your furry one.

Preventing canine brucellosis is not difficult and requires regular cleaning of your kennels and dog areas. You can use a broad spectrum disinfectant, for example. It will also kill other viral and bacterial infections (e.g. Parvo, Kennel Cough).

What is Canine Brucellosis?

Canine Brucellosis is caused by the bacteria from the genus called Brucella. As a highly contagious disease, it can affect both animals and humans.

When the bacteria affect your dog, the most common development is an infection of the reproductive system. Sexually intact adult dogs of any breed are at the highest risk of being affected by the disease. It is a zoonotic disease, capable of spreading to humans.
To date, there is no vaccine available for canine brucellosis.

In Male Dogs

Brucellosis in male dogs makes them develop epididymitis, which is an infection of the epididymis. It is a coiled segment of the spermatic ducts where the sperms are stored before ejaculation and where they also mature. When the dog is infected, he will have an enlarged scrotum or an enlarged testicle along with scrotal dermatitis. The sperm quality will go down and in long-standing cases, become shrunken.

In Female Dogs

Female dogs will develop an infection of the uterus, have difficulty getting pregnant or might turn out infertile. She may also end up aborting in the last stages of pregnancy. A persistent vaginal discharge will accompany. A pregnant dog with brucellosis typically aborts at 45-55 days of gestation or gives birth to very weak puppies.

Occasionally, Brucella canis infects the eyes, kidneys and the intervertebral discs of your dog, resulting in more dangerous conditions. Enlarged lymph nodes are also common during the early stages of Brucellosis.

Brucellosis spreads very fast. Large numbers of the bacterium are shed in the genital secretions of infected dogs. The dogs are also exposed to the disease from contact with infected body fluids. Although orally transmitted in most cases, sexual transmission or passing on of the disease through mucous membranes is also possible.

Health Testing

Testing the dogs for the presence of the infection, especially before breeding, is of utmost importance. In fact, the primary tests like blood culture and PCR should be performed correctly. Most often, for the tests, a simple blood draw is used. The rapid slide agglutination test or RSAT is carried out to detect antibodies and the Brucella SPP is used as the screening tool.

The test is effective but cross-reactivity with other bacterial species results in false positives, misleading the vet thereby. That is why; the positive results should be confirmed with a more reliable test such as the PCR.

Can Brucellosis Be Fully Treated?

Unfortunately, brucellosis is a difficult and acute infection that cannot be fully treated and cured. The ongoing infection possibility makes the treatment procedure even more difficult. Brucellosis spread is rather fast once it infects your dog’s joints, bones, and bloodstreams. However, there are palliative treatment options that can be broken down into a few types.

First, you can treat the symptoms with a few weeks of antibiotics. The route is not trusted and there are high chances of relapse. The veterinarian might suggest spaying and neutering the dog to prevent future transmission of the disease. Even with medications, male dogs are found to be carrying the infection in their prostate gland.

Isolation, or removing the dog from the kennel or home is preferred. This is essential to prevent the continued spread of the disease. It should be followed by quarantining the kennel and then disinfecting anything that might have already been affected by Brucella.

Euthanasia may be recommended when the spread is getting out of control within kennels (especially amongst dog breeders). It is less of a treatment but it can be required if the damages become too broad.

If your affected dog lives with you in your home, he/she can certainly continue to live with you as long he/she is being treated with antibiotics and the tests are carried out at periodic intervals.

What are the Symptoms of Brucellosis?

While canine brucellosis mainly affects a canine’s reproductive system, there are many signs, showing up in different body parts. Some of these include:

Oversized lymph nodes

Enlarged lymph nodes are among the first and the most basic symptoms of brucellosis. The situation often develops into a serious condition called Lymphadenopathy. These nodes appear in the form of small masses of tissues found throughout the body. Lymph nodes negatively affect the overall immunity system of your dog.

Difficulty moving

The bacteria called Brucella Canis, when present in your dog’s body for a long time, affect their vertebral and spinal structure. As a result, your furry one might feel an unexplained pain in the back and legs, causing difficulty in walking.

Inflamed skin around the scrotum

The scrotum of your male dog is enlarged due to brucellosis and this, in turn, leads to an inflammation of the skin around the area. This can be extremely painful and uncomfortable for your dog.

Sickly whelps

The infection of the uterus in female dogs is unavoidable when she is affected by Brucellosis. While abortion, infertility, and gestation at 45-55 days are most likely to happen, the dog might, at times, end up giving birth. Thus, cause her newborn puppies be weak and sickly with a very short lifespan.

Vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharges are very common in dogs infected by canine brucellosis. And this vaginal discharge is already filled with the bacteria and the potential to be affecting other dogs.


The pain in your dog’s back can increase to a large extent when affected by the bacteria. He/she will eventually find the pain unbearable if not given antibiotics at the right time.

Swollen testicles

In male dogs, the brucellosis affects the reproductive system in a seriously damaging way. The testicles are swollen as a result of which the sperm quality is hugely reduced.


Your otherwise lazy dog might fall asleep rather often or refuse to go out for walks or the usual play sessions. This increased laziness should be rightly interpreted as lethargy, which is a symptom of brucellosis in dogs.

How to Diagnose Brucellosis in Dogs?

While the symptoms of Canine Brucellosis are varied, diagnosing the disease is quite difficult and challenging. Veterinarians recommend a few tests that can confirm the diagnosis.

Brucellosis causes certain changes in the spinal structure of your dog. Because of this, a spinal x-ray is a trusted diagnostic method to find out if the changes in the spine are consistent with the disease. A Cytology and culture is a must to determine the presence of the bacterial infection. The symptoms of brucellosis can often be confused with those of anemia. So, a complete blood count is necessary to rule out the possibility of anemia or any of such blood abnormalities. Alongside, chemical tests are recommended to evaluate the liver, pancreatic function, sugar levels and kidney function in your dog. Finally, the test that confirms brucellosis is PCR, which is basically a polymerase chain reaction.

Given that both the diagnosis and treatment of brucellosis are complicated, it is the preventive measures like spaying and neutering that should be considered seriously by dog breeders and owners. Female dogs, when spayed, no longer run the risk of being affected by uterine cancers. The possibilities of breast cancers and urinary tract infections are also reduced to a certain extent. Similarly, neutering male dogs prevent them from testicular cancer and increase their lifespan by at least 40%.

Are Humans at Risk of Being Infected by Brucellosis?

Yes, humans do have the risk of being affected by Brucellosis. While this venereal infection can be transmitted to humans, the infected dogs, who cannot be cured, are also a health hazard to humans.

Most human cases of brucellosis are caused by the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products or undercooked meat. The canine sources of the disease, on the other hand, mostly involve direct contact with an aborted material such as aborted litter. Immune-compromised people are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Children and pregnant women also happen to be on the top of the list, in terms of vulnerability.
Some of the clinical signs and symptoms of brucellosis in humans include prolonged flu, septicemia, cardiac, and neurological symptoms of more serious nature and very commonly, infertility.

The relieving factor, however, is that brucellosis can be treated in humans with antibiotics. Unlike most breeds of dogs or canines, humans do respond to this treatment. Depending on the intensity of the disease, prolonged therapy might be required until the infection is completely cured, which is entirely possible.

Try to use hard flooring for your dog areas to make it easier for you to clean up. Bacterias enjoy organic matters like grass and wood, but find it hard to stick to PVC or metallic surfaces.

About the Author
Lazhar Ichir is a passionate blogger who wants to educate dog lovers, one article at a time. Breeding Business is a leading educational platform he founded with the hope to accomplish that mission.

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