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Should I Test My Dog For Brucellosis Before Breeding?

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Should I Test My Dog For Brucellosis Before Breeding? The answer is yes. Brucella canis may not seem to pose too much of a threat to mother dog, but it can potentially harm her puppies and cause devastating effects on kennels both emotionally and financially. This condition may not be much widespread, but there are more and more reports in the rural southeast United States and abroad where high risk areas include Mexico, Europe, South America, Canada, Great Britain and southeast Asia.


Effects on Dogs

Brucellosis is a sexually transmitted disease in dogs often caused by direct contact with infected body fluids from reproductive organs, but it can also be transmitted by exposure to nasal secretions, eye fluids, saliva, birth fluids, milk and urine.

Brucellosis doesn't only affect dogs, but can also affect farm animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats and some wildlife animals--and sometimes people too.

Female dogs affected by brucellosis may have a difficult time becoming pregnant. If they manage to get pregnant, they are prone to having a miscarriage in the later stages of pregnancy, generally around the third trimester. Other complication include stillbirths and litter absorption. Puppies get infected in the uterus and possibly from nursing on infected milk.

Exposure may be also indirect considering Brucella spp. can live for several months on equipment and clothing. Male dogs affected by brucellosis may develop swollen, painful testicles and sterility. Sometimes their prostate can be involved and develop swelling and difficulty urinating and defecating.

Brucellosis, however, can sometimes affect other organs other than the reproductive ones. A dog's eyes, spinal column, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes may also be affected and dogs may become lethargic and develop swollen lymph nodes; however, many dogs remain asymptomatic.

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Treatment of Brucellosis in Dogs

Brucellosis in dogs can be treated with antibiotics, but it can be difficult to eradicate. Even with antibiotic treatment brucella canis can persist, and according to the Center for Food Security and Public Health, in a kennel environment, infected dogs may be euthanized to prevent it from spreading to other dogs or people.

Brucella can be killed through use of common disinfectants such as quaternary ammonium compounds, however low temperatures may affect their efficacy. At this time, no vaccine is available to prevent this disease. This is a condition that is easier to prevent rather than treat, so am emphasis should be placed on the importance of yearly testing for brucella before breeding dogs and temporary isolation before introducing a new dog into a breeding facility.

Brucellosis Testing Options


A brucellosis test is fairly easy. It just consists of a simple blood test which can detect the presence of brucella canis. According to Margaret V. Root Kustritz, a veterinarian specializing in reproduction, it's best to test asymptomatic female dogs, just prior to going into heat, as it appears that hormones may interfere. There are several types of tests though and each of them may have advantages and disadvantages.

The Rapid slide agglutination test (RSAT) is one type of test. False negatives are uncommon with this test, but false positive results are very common (30 to 50 percent). A positive result therefore warrants further testing, suggests veterinarian Rhea V, Morgan.

Tube agglutination test (TAT) and (2ME-TAT) are what are used to confirm a positive RSAT test. According to Margaret V Root Kustritz, the Agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) is the most accurate serologic test currently available.

Finally, the ELISA and indirect ELISA tests have conflicting reports on their sensitivity. If you need to have a brucellosis test on your dog, consult with your vet as he or she will determine which test will work best on your dog based on several factors.

The Bottom Line

So should you test your dog for brucellosis before breeding? Yes, definitely. Owners of breeding dogs should consider testing for brucellosis due to health concerns and public health risks. Currently, there is no vaccination that can prevent the disease. The best approach is to test dogs selected for breeding before allowing them to breed.

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