Brucella canis infections diagnosed in Calgary dogs

CALGARY, April 1, 2014 /CNW/ - Brucella canis, an infectious disease rarely diagnosed in Alberta has been identified in dogs imported from the Southern US /Mexico region to the Calgary area.  Brucella canis bacteria can infect a variety of different tissues in the body, but are most commonly associated with infections of the reproductive organs in dogs.  The disease can spread between dogs and also to humans, although the risk of transmission to people is believed to be quite low.

Following the initial diagnosis of Brucella canis in a dog by a local veterinarian, experts at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) have identified four other positive dogs that have been in contact with this case. This initial case originated in the Southern USA. Three dogs testing positive that had contact with this original case also originated in the Southern USA. The fourth positive case originates in Alberta. This dog had prolonged contact with the positive case in a home. Another dog originating from Mexico was diagnosed with Brucella by another local veterinarian. This case has had no contact with the cases from the Southern US. "The true prevalence of this disease in the local dog population is unknown, but is presumed to be low.  While not highly contagious if animals have been spayed or neutered, the bacteria are difficult to eradicate from dogs, so proper management of infected animals is critical," says Dr. Serge Chalhoub, a small animal internal medicine specialist at the University of Calgary.

Chalhoub is part of a team of experts with the University who are working with private practitioners, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to define the extent of the problem and provide guidelines for managing animals who have tested positive or who have been exposed to dogs carrying the bacteria.

Disease can cause a variety of symptoms in dogs depending on the site of infection, so consultation with a veterinarian for animal illness is important in clinical management. Disease in humans can also cause a variety of symptoms, so consultation with a physician is also important.

"These cases remind us of the importance of ensuring the health of our pets and of animals imported into Canada", says Dr. Phil Buote, Deputy Registrar, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). "The identification of Brucella canis in rescue dogs is a recent discovery. There is no reasonable expectation that the occurrence of this disease in imported rescue dogs should have been predicted. This situation highlights the importance of proper veterinary care."

Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health (AH) have been advised of the positive canine cases.  Although no human transmission has occurred, as a precaution, AHS has contacted all individuals who have been exposed to the canine cases, advised these individuals of the potential risk, and the options for reducing that risk.

"As this is an uncommon disease, it is important that veterinarians and others working with imported animals know how to approach the problem.  We are providing veterinarians and rescue organizations with recommendations for management of the disease" says Dr. Sylvia Checkley, a veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Calgary.

"The ABVMA supports the rescue of dogs and the efforts of rescue organizations, provided appropriate screening tests are performed, in an effort to protect resident dog populations," adds Buote.

If you have questions about the health of your dog, contact your family veterinarian. If you are concerned you have possibly been exposed to Brucella canis and have symptoms, contact your family physician.

NOTE: For your reference, please see the attached fact sheets. One provides information about the importance of communicating with veterinarians for preventative health care in dogs not from this region or that are traveling elsewhere; the other provides information on the Brucella infection in humans.

About the ABVMA
The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association is the professional regulatory body that regulates the practice of veterinary medicine in the province of Alberta. For more information, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, @abvma.  

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.' 

For more information, visit  Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary and in our media centre at

Traveling with or Adopting Dogs from other Regions

Dogs that come from different regions whether from other areas of Canada, the United States or abroad have the possibility of carrying disease not endemic (local) to Alberta. Some of these diseases affect individual animals and are not considered contagious but others do carry the possibility of being transmitted within the dog population. Although uncommon certain diseases can also be transmitted to humans.

The goal of this information is to provide guidance on the importance of discussing travel history and the origin of your pets with your veterinary practitioner in hopes of mitigating potential disease risks to individual animals, the local animal population, and humans.

Potential diseases:
Occurrence of diseases in a specific location depends on many factors including local climate and the presence of vectors (ie. ticks, fleas, mosquitoes) which can spread disease. Proper health care including preventive health care such as vaccinations, tick prevention or heartworm preventative medications can influence diseases dogs harbor.

Examples of diseases in dogs diagnosed in Alberta, not considered to be acquired locally, include heartworm which is transmitted by mosquitoes, and tick borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. These are not diseases transmitted between dogs but do carry risks to individual pets if not diagnosed and treated. Recently, several dogs from the Southern US/Mexico region have tested positive for Brucella canis in Calgary. The true prevalence of this disease in the local pet population is unknown but is thought to be low.  Brucella canis is a bacterium that not only poses health risk for the individual dog, but it may be passed to other dogs and possibly to in- contact humans. The risk to humans is felt to be low.

Each animal's disease risk depends on where they are being adopted from as well as the other factors discussed above. Discussions should take place between your family and your veterinarian to determine what tests should be performed to ensure health of your pet, the dog population and the public.

If your pet tests positive for diseases that can be transmitted to humans or within the dog population, appropriate preventive measures need to be taken. Examples would include informing humans of possible exposure to an infectious disease and talking with your veterinarian on how to reduce risks. If you develop symptoms of illness, you should contact your family physician and advise them of your pet's disease to help guide your diagnosis and treatment.  In addition if diseases are diagnosed that can be transmitted to the dog population discussions should take place with your veterinarian to limit spread in the pet population

How to reduce disease risks:
If you have obtained a dog from abroad, ask about and obtain information about any testing, quarantine, and veterinary care that the animal has received. This information should be discussed with your family veterinarian to determine safety of adopting an animal, as well as any further tests and care that may be required.

If traveling with your pet please contact your veterinarian to discuss risks in the areas you will be traveling, before you leave.

Contact information:
For further information, please contact your family veterinarian.

Brucella canis - Human infection

Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease, with an incubation period ranging widely from five to 60 days in humans.  Symptoms are non-specific, including acute or insidious onset of fever (continuous or intermittent), headache, weakness, sweating, chills, arthralgia, depression, weight loss, and generalized aching, and localized infections of the liver and spleen may occur. Complications of infection include osteoarticular (up to 60%) and genitourinary (up to 20%) involvement. Brucellosis can last for several days, months or longer if not adequately treated. There is no evidence of person to person transmission.

Of the six main species of Brucella, only four have been shown to cause brucellosis in humans including B. canis, though it is an infrequent cause. Exposure can occur via contact with the fetus, placenta, fetal fluids and vaginal discharge in an infected canine; normal vaginal secretions, milk, semen, urine, blood, saliva and feces can also be infectious. Those most at risk of severe infection are immunosuppressed individuals, children, and pregnant women.

Any animal health worker potentially exposed to a canine diagnosed with brucellosis should monitor their health for symptoms as noted above; if these occur, they should see their family physician and advise that they may have been exposed to brucellosis.  The family physician should consult with an Infectious Disease Specialist for advice on laboratory testing and treatment. The local Medical Officer of Health should also be advised of the canine diagnosis so that appropriate public health follow up can occur.


Alberta Health. Public Health Notifiable Disease Management Guidelines - Brucellosis. July 2012. Available at

Alberta Health. Alberta Notifiable Diseases Summary. Sep-Oct 2013. Brucella canis in Southern Alberta. (distributed to Alberta public health professionals only)

National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians. Public Health Implications of Brucella canis Infections in Humans.  Summary Findings and Recommendations of the Brucella canis Workgroup, March 2012. Available at

SOURCE: Alberta Veterinary Medical Association

For further information:

Media Contacts

Dr. Phil Buote
Deputy Registrar    

Gloria Visser-Niven
Manager of Marketing and Communications
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

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