Brucellosis Disease in Dogs

This disease is caused by the bacteria Brucella canis. It is a major cause of sterility and spontaneous abortion in dogs. Puppies infected in utero are typically aborted at 45 to 59 days after conception. Suspect this disease in any bitch who aborts two weeks before she is due to deliver and whenever a bitch delivers stillborn puppies or puppies who sicken and die.

Dogs with acute infection have enlarged lymph nodes in the groin and/or beneath the jaw. Fever is rare. The testicles of the male may swell in the initial stages, and then become smaller and atrophic as the sperm-producing cells are destroyed. Note, however, that this disease can infect a dog or bitch without producing any signs of illness.

In a dog with an acute infection, bacteria are found in the blood, urine, body secretions, and the products of abortion. In a dog with a chronic or inactive infection, bacteria can be transmitted in vaginal secretions during estrus and in semen.

The most common mode of transmission is by contact with infected vaginal discharges following a spontaneous abortion, and by contact with the urine of infected dogs. The disease can spread rapidly throughout a kennel in this manner. Males can acquire the disease through oral and nasal contact with the vaginal secretions of estrus females. Females can acquire the disease through breeding with an infected male. This is of particular concern to breeders, because males can harbor the bacteria for life.

Treatment: Brucellosis is difficult to eradicate. A course of intramuscular and oral antibiotics given for a minimum of three weeks will eliminate the disease in 80 percent of dogs. To be considered cured, a dog must be free of the bacteria for at least three months. Since it is difficult to achieve a cure, it is recommended to spay or neuter all infected animals to prevent the transmission of disease to other dogs.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.