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
"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 abvma.ca 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 ucalgary.ca. Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter
@UCalgary and in our media centre at ucalgary.ca/news/media.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Guidelines-Brucellosis-2012.pdf
Alberta Health. Alberta Notifiable Diseases Summary. Sep-Oct 2013. Brucella canis in Southern Alberta. (distributed to Alberta public health
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 http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/BrucellaCanisInHumans.pdf
SOURCE: Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
For further information:
Dr. Phil Buote
Manager of Marketing and Communications
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine