U.S. Unveils Canine Brucellosis Best Practices

The zoonotic disease can disrupt dog-breeding operations and terminate pregnancies.

Any dog breed and gender can become infected with brucellosis.

Isabelle Francais/I-5 Studio

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is urging veterinarians to play a major role in stopping the spread of canine brucellosis, a contagious and incurable bacterial infection most often found in breeding kennels.

The agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released best practices for veterinarians and kennel operators who may encounter the disease, which causes infertility and miscarriages in dogs.

The document, available at, emphasizes the need for frank discussions between practitioners and breeders on how to protect both dogs and people from the zoonotic disease.

A breeder could suffer “liability and damaged reputation” if an infected dog is sold, because “these puppies and adult dogs commonly come into contact with children, older adults and other immunocompromised individuals,” the document states.

People are at low risk of contracting brucellosis. The approximately 200 people infected in the United States each year display flulike symptoms and are treated with antibiotics.

The agency generated the guidelines with input from seven outside veterinarians. Among them was William Fortney, DVM, director of small animal outreach at Kansas State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Veterinarians sometimes overlook brucellosis, Dr. Fortney said.

“Ever since this disease was first identified, there has always been a lot of confusion among small animal practitioners on how to diagnose it,” he said. “While it has historically been thought of as a disease that causes abortions in dogs, it has many clinical signs that are often misinterpreted. This includes symptoms such as testicular swelling, uveitis and spinal arthritis.

“Veterinarians aren’t always aware that they may need to consider the possibility of canine brucellosis.”

Diagnostic tests may not return accurate results the first time, he noted.

“In the report, we found that several of these tests can potentially produce false positives and false negatives, meaning that multiple diagnostic tests may be needed,” he said.

The best practices point out that canine brucellosis “is not a curable disease” and that “carrier animals must be removed from the breeding population in a kennel situation.”

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The guidelines emphasize the need to:

  • Wear single-use gloves during breeding and whelping.
  • Properly disinfect kennels.
  • Quarantine newly purchased breeding dogs and test them upon entry and eight weeks later. Two negative tests are required before the animals are released into the general population.
  • Permanently remove all positive dogs from the kennel.
  • Keep breeding dogs at the kennel unless an urgent veterinary visit is needed. Female dogs should not be loaned out for breeding.
  • Make kennel visitors wear clean clothing and protective shoe covers, disinfect their shoes, and wash their hands.
  • Never rehome a brucellosis-positive dog.

The document also compares an array of diagnostic procedures and provides advice on testing schedules.

“Because of the difficulty in detecting canine brucellosis, our report recommends annual testing, particularly in kennel operations,” Fortney said.

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