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Canine Brucellosis: How It Can Affect Humans

Canine Brucellosis: How It Can Affect Humans

On May 10, 2019, Iowa State Veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Kaisand, confirmed multiple cases of Canine Brucellosis originating from a small-dog commercial breeding facility in Marion County, Iowa. Individuals who have been exposed to the dogs are in the process of being notified. Animals and the facilities are quarantined while the dogs undergo clinical testing.

Canine Brucellosis, a bacterial infection affecting dogs, is found world-wide. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “It is an increasing concern in North America due to importation of infected breeding dogs and semen for artificial insemination.”

Transmission: Dog to Dog

  • Direct contact with infected birthing and body fluids and tissues: vaginal discharge, aborted fetuses, placentas, milk, semen, urine, blood, oral or nasal secretions

  • Puppies can be infected while in the uterus if born to an infected mother

  • Eating placentas, miscarriage fetuses, or uncooked meat from infected livestock or have contact with wild swine

  • Contact with contaminated objects, such as food or water bowls, bedding

Once the dog is infected, the bacteria multiply and spread to the body’s organs.

  • Bacteria can remain within the blood for many years and are easily shed in body fluids

  • Although most infected dogs do not show signs of disease, they are able to infect other dogs

  • Signs of disease can occur shortly after infection or may not develop for months or years

Dog: Symptoms

  • Brucellosis is the leading cause of reproductive disease in dogs: miscarriage (usually in the third trimester), stillbirth, infertility, weak pups

  • Inflammation and infection of the testicles

  • Inflammation of lymph nodes

  • Behavioral abnormalities

  • Lethargy

  • Weight loss

  • Spine or nerve disease

  • None

Dog: Diagnosis

  • Review of the dog’s history: where the dog came from and where it has been

  • Physical examination

  • Lab tests

Dog: Treatment

  • Infection is poorly responsive to treatment. Once infected, they are usually infected for life

  • Neutering, antibiotics, and pain relief

  • Relapses are common

Transmission: Dogs to People

  • By eating foods infected with the bacteria

  • Direct contact or aerosol exposure to infected animal fluids

  • Contact with bacterial cultures

Symptoms: Humans

  • Flu-like signs: night sweats, headaches, back pain, weakness

  • Joint pain

  • Re-occurring fevers

  • Rarely, involvement of the nervous system, eyes, or heart

Diagnosis and Treatment: Humans

  • Tests are performed to look for bacteria in blood, bone marrow, or other body fluids

  • Blood test to detect antibodies against the bacteria

  • Long-term treatment (weeks to months) with a combination of antibiotics


  • Wear protective clothing (gloves, masks) when handling reproductive tissues, such as in assisting delivery of newborn puppies

  • Always wash your hands after touching animals

  • In kennels and breeding facilities, all exposed dogs are quarantined. Dogs who have tested positive for canine brucellosis should be removed or euthanized

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