The European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) called for compulsory testing of imported dogs after the UK’s first case of dog-to-human transmission of Brucella canis (B canis). This causes an infectious disease called canine brucellosis, with a variety of reproductive consequences for both sexes. For female dogs, abortion and failure to conceive are common. For male dogs, abnormal semen quality and painful testicles are likely. Both sexes might experience lethargy, weight loss, and lameness.  

The UK’s first dog-to-human transmission was recorded when a rescue dog from Belarus infected her owner. Moosha, a German shepherd cross, began to abort her puppies three days after arriving at her new foster home. The initial fear was that Moosha had rabies, but she was diagnosed with canine brucellosis two months later. Eventually her owner contracted the disease and was hospitalised. All four of her dogs had to be euthanised as three contracted the disease and the fourth was at high risk. This case represents both the first dog-to-dog transmission and the first dog-to-human transmission recorded in the UK. 

Dr Ian Wright, Guideline director for ESCCAP, stated that “the zoonotic risk is low but as this case demonstrates, very real.” 

“Ideally, testing should be compulsory for dogs being imported into the UK from endemic countries” 

He outlined the key signs that veterinary professionals should be aware of: “vets, nurses, and owners should also be aware of relevant clinical signs in imported dogs. These include infertility, abortion, endometritis, epididymitis and orchitis, and scrotal oedema.” 

A spokesperson for Defra stated that it was working closely with the UKHSA to “ensure all those in contact with this shipment of dogs were aware of the associated human and animal health risks”. The spokesperson emphasised that “strict checks” are in place, including a requirement for rabies vaccination and “relevant tests or treatments prior to travel”.  

To participate in veterinary science discussions at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe this year, buy your tickets here.