A white and brown jack russell called Libby, gazing outdoors while standing in front of a green back drop

Brucellosis in dogs

Brucellosis is a contagious infection that affects dogs and humans. It's not common in the UK but can be found in imported dogs from countries where the disease is more widespread.

Brucellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria, Brucella canis. Dogs that have come from abroad or have travelled overseas are much more at risk.

It can then be passed on to other dogs and people in the UK if left undetected. Sadly, treatment options are limited and a diagnosis usually results in euthanasia.

Signs of brucellosis

It often does not cause any signs or symptoms, but can have a serious affect on your dog's health including:

  • affecting the reproductive organs
  • causing dogs to miscarry puppies or give birth to weak puppies
  • causing pain and swelling in their joints and back
  • a variety of other symptoms

How does brucellosis spread?

Brucellosis passes from one dog to another through contact, especially mating, or with infected birth fluids or tissues. Puppies from an infected mother are born with it or get it through their mother’s milk. It can also be breathed in or spread in urine. Most dogs show no signs of illness but can still pass it on to other dogs and to people.

Can people get brucellosis?

Humans can catch brucellosis from breathing it in or contact with infected dogs, especially if they have cuts or wounds on their skin. People with a weak immune system or who are pregnant are at higher risk.

Caring for a dog that is miscarrying or giving birth is particularly high risk. If you are handling a dog that may be infected, or dealing with birth fluids or afterbirths that could be infected, always wear gloves, wash your hands and use a face mask.

Symptoms of brucellosis in humans include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • general flu-like symptoms
  • sometimes more serious complications

Testing for brucellosis

Because there are often no symptoms, testing is the most effective way of finding out if your dog is infected.

We offer testing to registered clients at our animal hospitals for any dog that has been imported or has a history of travel abroad (there is a charge). Speak to your vet about these tests.

Two different blood tests will be carried out together. Test results may depend on how long it has been since your dog was exposed to the condition, so occasionally repeat testing is required. If your dog tests positive, they're considered a risk to human health and the authorities will need to be told.

Treatment for brucellosis

Infected dogs should be isolated, with no contact with other dogs and limited contact with people, particularly those who are pregnant or have weak immune systems. The disease can be spread in urine so they should only be exercised in areas that can be thoroughly cleaned.

Sadly, there is no effective treatment for brucellosis. Because of the risk to humans and other dogs, euthanasia is recommended. If you own any other dogs, they should be tested too.

Antibiotics are not recommended for infected dogs. They often do not clear the infection and these dogs will remain a risk to people and other dogs.

Is my dog at risk?

There’s very little brucellosis in dogs in the UK at the moment. Only dogs which have been imported from other countries, spent time abroad or had close contact (such as mating with or living in the same household) with another dog with the infection are at risk.

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• 18 August 2023

Next review

• 18 August 2026

Approved by
Róisín Bolger

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS