Canine Brucellosis Client Information


You are most likely reading this as you are a breeder, the owner of an imported dog or someone who has heard about Brucellosis and wants to know more. If after reading this document you have further questions or concerns, please contact the practice and we can help you understand the risks and ways to manage those risks for you and your dog(s). Most of the information below is taken from the government website.

Brucella canis (or B. canis), a type of bacterial species which causes an infection known as brucellosis. B. canis can be transmitted from dogs to humans. In the UK, it is mainly found in dogs imported from Eastern Europe. Human-to-human transmission of B. canis is extremely rare.

The risk of most people in the general population catching B. canis is very low. Dog breeders and owners of imported dogs may be at a higher risk and should take steps to reduce the risk of infection


There has recently been an increase in the number of dogs being diagnosed with B. canis in the UK with 3 diagnoses pre-2020 and 97 diagnoses in 2023 (to June 2023). Most cases have been in dogs imported into the UK from Eastern Europe, or linked to imported dogs from Eastern Europe. The increasing number of reported cases has prompted us to consider how we approach the way we manage these at risk dogs to best protect them, their owners, our staff and clients, and the public and general dog population.

All UK cases have been in dogs that have either been imported, have mated with an imported dog, have had contact with the birthing products of an imported dog, or are the offspring (puppy) of an imported dog. However, we know that B. canis can also be transmitted in urine and saliva, so potentially any dog that walks in an area where an infected dog has urinated could be at risk.


There have been a small number of human B. canis cases in the UK. All cases identified to date reported contact with an infected dog.

The Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance group (HAIRS) has recently published an expert assessment of the risk to public health from B. canis in dogs. This assessment shows that the risk to the general population in the UK from B. canis is very low because of the current low level of infection in UK dogs. 

For people who work with or own infected dogs, who are more likely to be exposed to reproductive or birthing products, such as breeders of imported dogs, or vets spaying and neutering infected dogs, the risk will be higher. However, the assessment highlighted that the risk to certain groups, such as people who have a weaker immune system (immunosuppressed) or young children, may be even higher.


In humans, B. canis does not always immediately cause symptoms. The time from getting infected with B. canis to developing symptoms in humans can vary from weeks to years.

If symptoms do occur, these can include:

• fever
• loss of appetite and weight loss
• sweating
• headaches
• tiredness (fatigue)
• back and joint pain

It is thought that people who are immunosuppressed and young children may be at higher risk of developing symptoms and severe illness after infection with B. canis.

There is very little evidence available to understand the health risk of B. canis during pregnancy. Evidence from infections caused by other types of Brucella bacteria suggests that pregnant women infected with Brucella bacteria may have a higher rate of adverse outcomes than healthy pregnant women. Treatment of brucellosis (of any cause) is more difficult in pregnancy.

Infection with B. canis is rarely fatal in humans and most people make a full recovery with antibiotics. If it is not treated, B. canis can lead to complications such as inflammation of the lining of the heart (endocarditis) or inflammation of the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

If you have had contact with an infected dog (particularly their reproductive or birthing products), or a dog that has tested positive for B. canis, and you feel unwell, you should inform your GP or NHS 111.


Like humans, dogs can also be infected but appear well and not have any obvious clinical signs.
B. canis often affects the reproductive system in dogs and can cause infertility and miscarriages.
Dogs can also have other signs, such as:

• tiredness
• swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin (lymphadenopathy)
• back and/or joint problems (including lameness)


Most contact with an infected dog will not cause a person to become unwell, but some contact, for example, with reproductive and birthing products from an infected dog, may increase the risk of infection spreading.

Some dogs without symptoms still appear to be able to spread B. canis, so it is important to practise good hand hygiene and minimise contact with birthing products and reproductive secretions of all imported dogs.

There is some evidence to suggest B. canis can be spread via saliva and so infected (or untested and therefore potentially infected) dogs should not be allowed to “kiss” anyone particularly high risk groups (children, immunocompromised adults, women of reproductive age

It’s extremely rare for a person infected with B. canis to spread the disease to other people.


Infected dogs can spread B. canis to other dogs by mating with other dogs via their reproductive and birthing products, and to their puppies, and potentially via urine and saliva. Dogs that live in the same home as an infected dog may be more likely to become infected themselves.


In humans, the diagnosis is usually made through testing a blood sample which will be sent to a national laboratory for specialist testing.  In dogs, blood is usually tested but other samples such as birthing material, semen, fluid from joints, or fluid from lymph nodes  will sometimes also be sent for testing.

To screen for B canis in your imported or at risk dog we will send a blood sample to a government approved laboratory for two tests. By combining the two tests we get the best chance of identifying negative and positive dogs, minimising false positive or negative results. However, as a tiny number of false results are possible we would recommend a second test 4-6 weeks later for any dog that tested positive without any obvious clinical signs and any dog with clinical signs which made us suspicious of B canis despite a negative test result.

In dogs, the specialist tests that are used assesses if the dog’s body has responded to becoming infected by looking for antibodies against B. canis.

A negative test result does not always mean that the dog does not have the infection as in some dogs the immune system can take up to 3 months to produce detectable antibodies. For recenlty imported dogs we would therefore still treat the dog as infected until we get the results of a second test taken at 3 months from the last known potential exposure to B. canis (usually this means the second test is 3 months after the date of import).

A positive result in the test generally means that the dog is, or has previously been, infected with B. canis.  Infection can persist for many years without any clinical signs of infection and the specialists reviewing the test results will take this into consideration.


People who are diagnosed with B. canis are usually treated with antibiotics. They may require several courses of treatment and repeated blood tests to check that the infection is gone.

In dogs, antibiotic treatment is not recommended because infection often continues despite this treatment. Our vets will be able to advise on the best management approach for a dog that has B. canis, which will depend on a number of factors both relating to the dog and the people and other animals living with it. Management approaches may include neutering alongside other methods of minimising the risk of onward transmission.  Sadly, euthanasia can be the most appropriate approach for positive dogs with clinical signs or in certain situations where it isn’t practical to keep them in a way which minimises the risk of the infection spreading to people or other dogs. Our team are always available to give support and advice to any owner who finds themselves in that position.


The general population is at very low risk of getting infected with B. canis, but you should still continue to practise good hygiene around animals.  For any dog (imported or born in the UK), make sure that you minimise contact with the dog’s reproductive or birthing products, blood, and urine. If you have any contact with these products, always wash your hands thoroughly for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and hot water before doing any other activity. If your hands are not visibly dirty and there are no hand washing facilities available, you can use alcohol hand sanitiser.


Owners of imported dogs are likely to have a higher risk of getting B. canis than the general population. This risk increases if you are involved in birthing of puppies from an infected mother or have contact with reproductive or birthing products, blood, or urine from an infected dog.

At Island Vetcare we follow the government recommendations and advise that all imported dogs are tested for B. canis before coming to the UK. We also ask that imported dogs are tested with a serological test as soon as possible and again at least 3 months after entering the UK to ensure they are negative for infection. This will help identify those dogs who pose a risk and also those who do not.

Personal hand hygiene and other precautions outlined in this document, plus neutering your dog are the best ways to protect yourself and your family from B. canis if you already have a dog that has been imported from overseas that has yet to be confirmed as negative. You should wash your hands after any interaction with your dog and minimise your contact with birthing and reproductive products by wearing gloves and other protective clothing if you think you are going to have extensive exposure to these products. Even if you have worn gloves, hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and hot water, for a minimum of 20 seconds. If your hands are not visibly dirty and there are no hand washing facilities available, you can use alcohol hand sanitiser. You may consider using surgical gloves, eye protection, and/or face mask when interacting with your dog (especially if they are giving birth) for additional protection.

Please also be aware of the potential risk your dog might pose to members of the public and other dogs. Ideally, any imported dog should, until proven negative, not be exercised in areas where other dogs also exercise and should not be allowed to have contact with members of the public. This can be quite restrictive and potentially impact on their quality of life.  It is for this reason as well as the implications for your own health, that we urge you to get your dog tested as soon as possible. Most dogs will test negative. The difficulty in managing the dogs welfare as well as the risks to other dogs and people in the house is the reason why, sadly for many dogs that do test positive, euthanasia is the kindest option.  For any dogs that do test positive we are here to discuss all of the options in what an obviously be a very difficult time.


Breeders are at higher risk from B. canis than the general population. This is because of an increased chance of contact with infected reproductive or birthing products.

You should always practise good hand hygiene after any interaction with your dog and try to minimise your contact with reproductive and birthing products. When washing your hands, use soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds. If your hands are not visibly dirty and there are no hand washing facilities available, you can use alcohol hand sanitiser. You may wish to consider wearing surgical gloves, a face mask, and eye protection when interacting with your dog or cleaning up after them for additional protection, especially if they are giving birth or suckling.

You can dispose of birthing or reproductive products in the normal way if these products did not come from a dog with confirmed B. canis. If the products are from a dog that has B. canis, you should discuss with your commercial waste contractor or contact your local environmental health team at the council to make sure that the products are disposed of safely. Due to the risk of passing B. canis onto the puppies, breeding from known infected dogs is irresponsible and should be avoided. Due to the zoonotic risk infected dogs should be neutered.

Any hard surfaces where there have been reproductive or birthing products, blood, or urine from an imported dog should be thoroughly disinfected with a strong bleach solution. Soft furnishings should be disposed of or, where this is not possible (such as carpets), then these should be steam cleaned.

You should always check the country of origin of any dogs that you mate your dogs with and consider the risks of mating UK-born dogs with imported dogs. We advise that you check the history of any dogs that mate with your UK-born dog prior to any interaction taking place.


We will treat any at risk dog as being positive until we have evidence from blood tests that the dog is negative. This means:

• We will ask you to keep your dog in your car until we are ready to see you.

• We will book your appointment at set times to ensure the room can be properly disinfected afterwards.

• You will bring your dog directly into the assigned room, not allowing it to have contact with other dogs or urinate on the way in. If your dog does urinate, please inform us immediately.

• The staff in contact with your dog will be wearing full PPE.

• We will ask to take a blood sample to send off to test for B. canis

• Any dog which needs immediate surgical or hospital care will have a lateral flow test for B. Canis and be kept in our isolation kennel. All staff involved in your pets care will be in full PPE at all times.

• You might not be able to be seen by your preferred vet or nurse due to personal circumstances which makes them more at risk.


As B. canis is a legally reportable disease, if your dog has been diagnosed with B. canis, you will be contacted by your local health protection team who will ask about how you interact with your dog, where you acquired your dog, and any other people and animals in your household so that they can provide you with further advice.

If you feel unwell, contact your GP or 111 and tell them that you may have been exposed to B. canis infection in a dog.

You should not give blood until 6 months after the date of your last contact with a dog infected with B. canis.

It is important to discuss your dog’s B. canis diagnosis with us. We will be able to advise on the best management approach for your pet, which will depend on a number of factors both relating to your pet, and the people and other pets living with it, as well as the potential risk a positive dog poses to members of the public and the dog population as a whole. As mentioned above, management approaches may include neutering, other treatment and lifestyle options or potentially euthanasia.

There is a risk that any puppies from your dog, dogs that they have mated with, or other dogs in the household may also have B. canis. Please discuss this with us as we will be able to advise on appropriate testing. 

Wash your hands after every interaction with your dog. Hands should be washed with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds. If your hands are not visibly dirty and there are no hand washing facilities available, you can use alcohol hand sanitiser. You may wish to consider using surgical gloves, eye protection, and/or face mask when interacting with your dog for additional protection, especially if they are giving birth or weaning.

If you, or a member of your household, is pregnant, immunosuppressed, or a young child, you (or they) may wish to consider limiting interactions with the infected dog. This is because these groups are likely to be at greater risk of developing severe disease if they become infected.