boxer-puppyA Wisconsin rescue has its dog population under quarantine after a dog that was adopted from the facility was identified as being infected with Brucella canis. Dogs at Gregory’s Gift of Hope are being tested, and any positives will presumably be euthanized. Littermates of the infected dog, which was adopted in 2015, are being traced for testing. Canine brucellosis is a major concern because of the potential transmission to people and the fact that dogs can be infected for life. These situations are pretty awful overall because of the timeframes involved. If any of the littermates are positive, there’s been potential exposure of people for a while (although spaying or neutering profoundly decreases the risk). Further, it’s heartbreaking when dogs that have been in the household and have never looked sick are identified as positive, and may be euthanized.

A big problem with canine brucellosis is the fact that infected dogs don’t look sick. The dogs may have reproductive problems, but most dogs are not breeding animals and in those that are, reproductive problems often aren’t adequately investigated to determine the cause. The typical approach to control is to euthanize infected dogs, and to consider all in-contact dogs as exposed and to test them (usually twice, 30 days apart).

In a related note, Wisconsin’s State Veterinarian, Dr. Paul McGraw, issued a special order requiring brucellosis testing of “auction dogs” in September. All dogs sold at auction in the state must now have a negative brucellosis test within the past 30 days.  There have been 18 confirmed cases in canine brucellosis in the state since 2011, a low number but probably an underestimate because of limited testing. The new measure is a good start, but it’s hard to say how effective it will be. That would require knowing more about those 18 cases and about Brucella canis transmission, in general.

It’s a bit concerning that one shelter veterinarian stated “We do get dogs from out of state, often unaltered [i.e. not spayed or neutered], but they are not obtained at an auction. We transfer dogs from overpopulated shelters and have been working closely with these shelters for some time. We feel confident that these dogs have not been purchased from auction.”  That misses the point. Auctions aren’t the only source of infected dogs, they’re simply one high-risk source and one that is more easily regulated. Shelters that import dogs from the southern US, in particular, risk importing infected dogs. Those animals don’t go through an auction system so they are not captured under the new order, but shelters shouldn’t assume that means the dogs are not at risk. Testing all dogs in shelters isn’t practical, but testing high-risk dogs (e.g. dogs from areas where the disease in common, dogs imported from other countries) would be more practical and would make a lot of sense.