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Valley Vets Brucella Policy- Autumn 2023

Valley Vets Brucella Policy- Autumn 2023

The UK has recently seen an increase in the number of dogs becoming unwell with Brucella canis. There are many species of Brucella which affect many different animal species, including people.

Brucella canis is still rare in the UK, and is usually seen only in imported dogs, or dogs that have travelled.

What are the symptoms in dogs?

Symptoms include: spinal pain, swelling/pain in the testicles, discharge from vulva/penis, infertility/abortion, uveitis/eye pain & inflammation. However, many dogs that are infected with Brucella canis show no symptoms at all.

What are the risks to people?

Symptoms in people can be mild and non-specific, including fever, loss of appetite and weight loss, but infection can lead to more serious complications including endocarditis and meningitis, and these complications can be fatal. Young children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women are most at risk.

Most contact with infected dogs is low risk, but some veterinary interventions carry a much higher risk of infection.

Due to the higher risk to our team, from Monday 2nd October 2023:

We require all owners of dogs that have been imported to inform our team of the following:

  • When their dog was imported
  • The country they were imported from
  • We require all owners of dogs that have travelled outside of the UK to inform us of:
  • Where their dog has travelled
  • Whether this was for breeding purposes

How will treatment differ for my dog compared to a dog that has not been imported/travelled?

The team will take extra precautions to minimise risk of transmission when handling your dog. This may involve wearing gloves for all routine examinations, but in certain situations (blood sampling, urine sample analysis, surgical procedures, inpatient care) we may require full PPE and different practice cleaning protocols may be necessary, and will incur an extra charge on each occasion.

When should testing be done?

Our team will recommend testing if your dog has been imported from, or travelled to a high risk country, and has consistent clinical symptoms of Brucellosis. Symptoms include: spinal pain, swelling/pain in the testicles, discharge from vulva/penis, infertility/abortion, uveitis/eye pain & inflammation. If any elective (non-emergency) surgeries or interventions are planned that pose a high risk to our team,  then the vet may request testing, or a course of antibiotics before we can proceed with these.

Some referral centres have different guidelines and will request testing for Brucella for any dog that has been imported or travelled to a high risk country, before they will see your pet for any condition, other centres may request testing depending on your pet’s symptoms. In addition, some external laboratories will limit the testing available to dogs that have been imported from selected countries due to the increased risk to their team when running particular tests.

What are the implications of testing?

As with any medical test, there is a chance of false positives (approximately 1%) and false negatives (approximately 10%).

In the case of a negative result, this will be recorded on your pets account, and will enable us to continue to provide care in a routine manner for most conditions. In the event of a particularly high risk scenario (e.g. sampling joint fluid or your dog becoming pregnant) we may advise to repeat the test as a precaution, or will need to use additional PPE (personal protective equipment) which will incur a charge.

What if my dog has a positive result?

In the case of a positive result, we will need to inform The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), who are an executive agency of DEFRA.  The APHA will then contact you to discuss the implications of the positive result, and advise you on ongoing care.

Brucella infection is likely to be life long, and there is a risk to all people and dogs who come into contact with your pet. Sadly, the recommendation is for all dogs which have tested positive is to be euthanised, but this is not a legal requirement. Alternatives are to repeat testing in the hope of identifying false positive results, or treatment with antibiotics and neutering. Antibiotics and neutering give the best chance of eliminating infection, but there is no guarantee.

Should you decide not to euthanise your dog after a positive test then we will need to charge for increased PPE, cleaning and barrier nursing to enable our team to safely treat your pet.

There is also the potential that treatment options will be limited, for example in an emergency situation where we are unable to give a course of antibiotics prior to surgery, we may not be able to offer certain surgeries due to the high risk to our team, and may have to recommend euthanasia.