People think of Brucellosis as abortion, but we mostly see it as conception failure, stillborns, or weak puppies. There is no treatment for Brucella Canis and it can be contagious to humans; creating the need to eliminate it from our breeding population! Once introduced, eliminating Brucellosis is difficult and costly and testing any additions into our breeding kennel is necessary to prevent it.


Brucellosis is a tiny bacterium that causes reproductive disturbances and abortion. It is potentially contagious to humans, but is rare. Brucellosis causes a recurrent fever in humans.

Often open females are first indication of Brucellosis and if you see discharge from the vulva at 30 days we rule out Brucellosis. Chronically infected females will build enough immunity to have a normal litter -- all including mom will be infected! Chronic infected males or females will shed when stressed spreading disease to other kennel mates. Brucella organism is spread primarily at breeding and with vaginal discharge. Brucella organism is found in semen, urine, aborted material and placenta. Stressed animals have intermittent bacteremia and shedding in all body fluids even when not pregnant.


Abortion with Brucella canis occurs at 45-59 days pregnant. A vaginal discharge of highly contagious gray-green fluid will last 1-6 weeks. This is a major source of spreading the disease in the kennel! Other signs of B. canis are conception failure, fetal death and subsequent birth of mummies and weak puppies. Puppies born to infected bitches are infected and this disease is non-treatable for a cure.


Brucella lives inside cells of the urogenital track of females making it difficult to detect. In males it resides in the prostate and epididymis or both. At times, few organisms are circulating in the blood with chronically infected females and that causes difficulty in diagnosis on blood tests. The card test gave many false positives (picking up related bacteria) and false negatives because of intermittent bacteria in the sample. Card test is currently off the market and we don't see the card test coming back.


Vaginal swabs and serum can be cultured for Brucella. Cultures will not give false positives because once you grow it, you have the disease. It can have false negatives from having no organisms being shed in the sample, but fewer than the card test.


This test is run in the lab by putting your samples and negative samples in wells and diffusing them through gel with antibodies to brucellosis. The antibodies bind to Brucella and under certain wavelengths of light, they will fluoresce. These are compared to the negative samples to be sure it is accurate. This test usually takes 2 weeks to get results and is very expensive to run. In the past, Agur Gel Tests were run to confirm positive results as it is very accurate.


New test is PCR (Iowa State and Kansas State run this) that detects DNA genetic material. This has been perfected in the crime scene investigations for you TV show fans. PCR for Brucellosis can pick up as little as 10 bacteria in the blood making it accurate at levels not seen in other tests and eliminates the false positives and negatives that plagued tests in the past. The accuracy of PCR gives us more comfort with testing and it is fast. We can usually get turn around the same week though they tell you 10-14 days. This test is less expensive and more accurate than culture and eventually states will replace its requirement for culture with PCR. That takes time.


Any additions to your kennel should be tested with the PCR test and isolated for 4 weeks. Other vaccines should be administered, deworming done and external parasites (Mange, ear mites, lice) prevented. Always check for fleas before they are purchased!


An adult dog infected with Brucella canis is rarely ill. They will trigger a positive test but there has been cases where dogs were put on Tetracycline or other antibiotic for 3 weeks to get them to go negative and then sold. Antibiotic will eliminate bacteria from blood (not in the cells) and caused positive dogs on antibiotic to test negative for a short time - you purchase - later they re-activate and infect your kennel. That is why we do not like adult dog purchases, too much risk and you never sell your best dog!

If you add adult dogs test twice 60 days apart with PCR to be sure you did not get a negative on antibiotic. If they have been tested, confirm what test they used, get a copy for your files and never trust a test from the seller – do your own as the risk is too high.

Puppies are far less risk but still a risk and when brought in you should PCR test them to be sure they are clean. One PCR test and puppy from a known source will make me comfortable with the addition to my kennel.


Breeding females coming into the kennel should be Brucellosis negative on PCR within 30 days of the breeding and arrive with the test results or don’t breed! It is always best to breed AI from your male with no contact with outside female to decrease risk. The risk has made most of us refuse breeding other people’s females, but if you insist on testing negative for Brucellosis and using AI, it can be done safely.

There is no treatment to eliminate Brucella canis and elimination is difficult once it is introduced to your kennel. The new PCR test for all new additions to your kennel will help you in maintaining a Brucellosis free kennel!

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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