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Brucella Canis Spreads to Humans: What To Know

Written by aslmad.yaz


Three cases of Brucellosis, caused by Brucella canis, have surfaced in the United Kingdom, marking a rare occurrence in humans. Previously confined to imported dogs, this infection has expanded to local canines since 2020, per Newsweek.

In 2022, Wendy Hayes, residing in Stoke-on-Trent, was reportedly the first person diagnosed with the infection in the UK. As a result, she had to euthanize her five family dogs.

The spread of this outbreak among dogs native to the UK is probably due to kennel breeding practices. This involves interactions and mating between native dogs and either imported dogs or their descendants. The disorder is commonly found in parts of Eastern Europe, particularly Romania, a significant source of dog imports to the UK.

What is Brucella Canis

Brucella Canis bacteria

As per the Minnesota Department of Health, brucellosis, caused by bacteria, impacts many animals, such as sheep, cattle, goats, deer, pigs, and elk. However, dogs are the primary victims of this disease. It was first discovered in 1966 during an inquiry into miscarriages among Beagles in the United States. 

The transmission of brucellosis from animals to humans usually occurs through the consumption of raw or unpasteurized dairy products. Occasionally, the bacteria responsible for brucellosis can also spread through airborne particles or direct contact with infected animals.

Brucella Canis in dogs

In dogs, brucellosis or brucella canis harms the reproductive system and can potentially lead to miscarriages. Additionally, it can lead to symptoms such as testicular infections, back pain, eye inflammation, infertility, reduced libido, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and weakness.

This condition usually originates due to breeding. Also, if a mother dog is infected, her milk can pass on the disease. While not always deadly, the illness can’t be cured, so the only way to stop it from spreading is by euthanizing the affected animals. This condition affects Beagles more than any other breed. 

How does Brucellosis spread?

The fluids of an infected animal are the reason behind the spreading of brucella canis or brucellosis from one living being to another. 

The bacterial infection rarely spreads to humans. When it does, it’s usually due to coming in contact with an infected dog’s fluids. People can get infected while helping dogs deliver puppies. The fluids of the infected mother can enter a person’s body through their mouth, eyes, or an untreated wound. 

An inflected dog’s urine or poop can also be the cause of humans contracting the disease, though it’s uncommon. There are no accounts of transmission of the bacteria between humans. However, it may spread through blood transfusion.  

Symptoms and effects on humans

A woman suffering with flu symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of brucellosis.
(Photo Credit: Dalibor Despotovic | Getty Images)

When a person is infected, the symptoms may appear after a few days or even after a few months. Here are some of the common symptoms of the disease:

  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Muscle, back, and joint pain
  • Endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of heart chambers)
  • Arthritis
  • Sacroiliitis (arthritis of spinal bones)
  • Spondylitis (arthritis of joints connecting the spine and pelvis)

Apart from these symptoms, brucellosis can also lead to neurobrucellosis. In this, the bacteria brucella canis reaches the brain and can cause neurological problems like headaches, disorientation, nausea, brain swelling, and even death.  

A recent study by the University of Missouri found that interferons (signaling proteins) and innate lymphoid cells have shielding power against brucellosis. They contribute to decreasing the detrimental neurological problems of the disease. 


Vaccination against brucellosis is not yet possible for humans. However, there are ways to prevent it. Some preventative measures are as follows:

  • Choose pasteurized milk over unpasteurized milk
  • Also, avoid ice cream and cheese during travel
  • Wear rubber gloves while touching the internal organs of animals
  • Eat thoroughly-cooked meat
  • Vaccinate domestic animals against brucellosis


A doctor must confirm a brucellosis infection in a human before starting treatment. Samples of blood, bone marrow, or other body fluids will undergo testing to detect the presence of bacteria. Moreover, individuals can find out about the presence of antibodies against B. canis through a blood test. 

The condition does not have a lot of treatment options. The only way to treat brucella canis is antibiotics, which is challenging and time-consuming. The recovery period can range from a few weeks to many months, contingent on how severe the disease is and when the treatment starts.  The disease rarely ever leads to the death of an individual. There have been fewer than 2% fatalities. 


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