Crackdown on Brucella canis testing and management amidst spike in cases

Tighter testing and management for Brucella canis are being recommended by industry experts as cases continue to rise. 

A new joint policy document, penned by four key veterinary groups, outlines the steps necessary to help contain the disease to stop it from spreading to dogs and humans. 

These include:

  • Improved awareness
  • Individualised risk assessments for positive testing dogs
  • Tougher import restrictions 

Based on APHA data, the first half of the previous year saw 97 dogs testing positive for the disease, with an additional 143 infections identified from 2020 to 2022. However, a recent assessment by the Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance group, released in September, determined that the likelihood of human infection remains low, even among more vulnerable groups like veterinary professionals.

The latest guidance from the BVA, BVNA, BSAVA, and SPVS includes 14 distinct recommendations for addressing the disease. Emphasising the seriousness of the increasing confirmed cases, the document urges veterinary professionals to effectively communicate the risks of the disease to pet owners.

Responding to the launch of the new policy position, BVA President Anna Judson said: 

“The rise in detected cases of Brucella canis in recent years must be taken seriously, while keeping in mind that that the risk to humans, even for veterinary teams, is deemed to be low at present.

“Testing and decision-making for suspected or confirmed B. canis cases can be complicated and challenging, which is why our advice to veterinary professionals is to make use of the risk assessment information provided by APHA, BSAVA and BVA when making any decision.

“Interpreting test results is challenging, and a single serological test alone is not sufficient to definitively confirm a dog’s infection status. We recommend that clinical signs, epidemiological links and diagnostics should all be considered when evaluating a dog’s infection status and considering what action to take.

“Veterinary teams should continue to take suitable precautions to mitigate the risks from potentially infected dogs.

“We continue to call on Government to introduce appropriate mandatory pre-import testing and tighten import rules to reduce the risk of this and other serious exotic diseases from entering the UK.” 

BSAVA President Carl Gorman said: 

Brucella canis demonstrates the potential risks imported diseases pose to both human and animal health. The fact that a dog might carry the disease without any obvious clinical signs or that clinical signs can be ambiguous, understandably create a degree of uncertainty for both vets and pet owners.”

“The BSAVA Scientific Information Document provides relevant information for veterinary staff in practice, along with APHA resources, and we would encourage their use by vets in practice to support decision-making with owners on suitable options tailored for their particular situation. Vets are also well placed to help educate owners and increase their awareness not just about the impact an infected dog can have on the community but also, on how the spread of the disease can be minimised.”