This is flagging up a zoonotic disease called Brucella canis in the UK. It affects dogs – but can it affect cats? – and it appears to have originated from rescue dogs imported from Eastern Europe into the UK. It is a bacterial infection and it is serious. Because it is zoonotic it can be transferred to people and that’s happened in a recent case for the first time when Wendy Hayes in Staffordshire got the disease from one of her rescue dogs from Belarus that she was breeding from as I understand it. She believes that she got the disease by being in contact with birth fluids which is the most likely route I’m told.
She was very ill and was put on an extensive course of antibiotics of five different types after being isolated in hospital. It took weeks to recover. She is immunocompromised and therefore the disease affected her more severely than it would otherwise have done. But you can see the severity of this disease.
A lot of dogs who contract the disease are asymptomatic but it can affect them later in life. It causes miscarriages in dogs when there are symptoms and they have swollen joints and suffer pain.
Because this site is about cats, the question is whether the disease can be transferred to cats. As mentioned it can be transferred between different species of animal and therefore theoretically cats can get the disease from dogs. However, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home helpfully tell me that the disease is rare in animals other than dogs and there have been no known cases of Brucella canis in cats but cats had been reported to produce antibodies to the disease.
That means that they been exposed to the disease and their immune systems have reacted to that exposure and created antibodies. This means that cats have contracted the disease but the cats have dealt with it through their immune system. That is my interpretation.
As mentioned, the greatest risk to people is through breeding dogs when they come into contact with birthing fluids. And of course, veterinarians, vet nurses will also be at greater risk.
The story on another site that I wrote about concerned Wendy Hayes and she was breeding dogs as mentioned so that was the risk for her.
The risk, then, is from imported dogs from Eastern Europe as rescue dogs. The British Veterinary Association advises people who adopt these dogs to make sure that they’ve been tested for Brucella canis and neutered before being brought into the UK. This is to stop the disease being spread in the UK. Regrettably, it is spreading in the UK according to newspaper reports. And UK dogs are getting the disease from the Eastern European dogs and then the disease is being spread to other UK dogs.
Battersea advise people who want to adopt a rescued dog from overseas to use the services of a reputable rescue organisation. Such an organisation would be a member of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes. Either use that organisation or pick a dog rescue with a long history and which is well established. They should be checking dogs for this disease and provide vaccination records verified by a veterinarian.
Dogs imported from Eastern Europe should have travel documentation indicating a clean bill of health. It would appear that some dogs from Eastern Europe are being imported by rescuers while circumventing the usual routes. In which case, they have not been checked thoroughly by a veterinarian before importation into the UK.
If that had happened in the case of Wendy Hayes they might have spotted or should have spotted Brucella canis before importation. I think this is the reference to good and bad rescues mentioned by Wendy Hayes. I think she’s implying that bad rescuers or rescue organisations are importing some Eastern European dogs without going through the normal channels which means they’re being imported illegally. I think people need to be aware of that and adopt dogs from well-established dog rescue centres such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
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