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Brucellosis

by Scott Smith, DVM

Braucellosis is a disease about which no houndsman can know enough. Unfortunately, many folks knowledge is limited to the familiar "Negative Brucellosis Required", and they don't understand the true devastating nature of this reproductive disease. In infected kennels it has been reported that pregnancy rates can drop to 30%, abortion rates in the few pregnancies can reach 80%, and the number of pups surviving to weaning age can be as low as zero.

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the intracellular organism Brucella canis. This organism can cause disease in any member of the canine family and, rarely, in humans. B. canis is found in semen, urine, milk, and vaginal secretions of infected individuals as well as in aborted fetal tissues. Infection occurs when the organism comes in contact with and penetrates the mucous membranes of the eye, nose, mouth, or genitals. Airborn transmission is possible when the organism is aerosolized from aborted fetal materials, thereby infecting dogs in adjoining pens. Remember, venereal spread of Brucella canis does occur, but sexual contact is not required for your dog to become infected.

Male dogs with Brucellosis often exhibit minimal clinical signs; infertility is often the only sign present. Early in the disease course enlargement of the scrotum and epididymis is usually present, but testicular enlargement is uncommon. After the disease had been long standing, testicles atrophy or shrink in size. Semen quality is decreased within five weeks of infection, and by twenty weeks more than 90% of the sperm is abnormal.

The most common clinical sign of Brucellosis in the female is abortion in an otherwise healthy bitch. Abortion can occur anytime during the pregnancy, but is most common in the latter part. The bitch may also suffer early embryonic death and/or failure to conceive. A litter may be carried to term, but the pups die within hours to days. B. Canis can also infect other tissues: eye, spine, bones, and skin.

Diagnosis of Brucellosis is by history, lack of physical abnormalities, abnormalities of the semen, and abortion. Confirming the diagnosis is the tricky part. We rely upon several different diagnostic tests for this purpose.

BACTERIAL CULTURE

This test is the gold standard. Specimens of blood or other tissues are inoculated into special growth media. This is costly, time-consuming, and rarely done in clinical practice.

RAPID SLIDE AGGLUTINATION TEST (RSAT)

The card test with which everyone is familiar, this test is very sensitive. It is also quick and easy to perform. This test is recommended for routine screening of animals. However, a lack of specificity dictates that any positive animal be re-evaluated by another method.

AGAR GEL IMMUNODIFFUSION TEST (AGID)

This test is less sensitive than RSAT, but is highly specific. It is best used to reconfirm positive results on the RSAT.

Treatment and prevention of Brucellosis involves stringent testing and euthanasia of any infected animals. It is neither economical or ethical to keep B. Canis positive dogs. Recommendations are to test all new dogs before entry into the kennel, females prior to each breeding and males two times each year. If a positive dog turns up, then monthly testing and culling should be done until the kennel is negative for three (3) consecutive months.

Take this disease seriously, even if only breeding in House". Kennels have been completely wiped out by B. Canis, and the disease knows no difference between Field Champion and cur. I hope you never have a single positive dog; but if you do, early detection may save your kennel.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).