Canine brucellosis is an infectious disease most often caused by the Brucella canis bacteria. It can be transmitted to humans, as well as other dogs, and is a significant cause of reproductive failure. Canine brucellosis is mainly transmitted during breeding, but puppies can become infected from their mother during pregnancy by way of the placenta.
It is very difficult to cure an infected dog. Several weeks of antibiotic therapy are needed and relapse is common.
Spaying/neutering of the dog can reduce transmission risk, but Canine brucellosis can still be spread to others because it does not remove the bacteria from the body. In addition, several sources note that this disease can infect a dog without producing any signs of illness.
At a recent seminar, hosted by the United States and Missouri Departments of Agriculture, commercial dog breeders were given a stern reprimand for selling dogs that are infected with Canine Brucellosis to rescue groups.
Dr. Kessler, DVM, a private practitioner with almost 25 years experience working with commercial dog breeders, told the seminar audience that it is "morally wrong" for them to knowingly sell dogs with Canine Brucellosis to rescues via deceptive means.
"Brucellosis is a very painful disease for the dog and results in heartbreak for the family that would adopt a sick animals. Even worse, as a zoonotic disease, it can be transmitted to a family member."Dr. Kessler further stated
Some disreputable breeders who owned dogs positive with Brucellosis were culling them by selling them to rescues - either directly or often times at auction.
Dr. Kessler warned that rescues were being fooled by false negative tests for the disease. He explained that unscrupulous breeders often administer high dosages of antibiotics prior to the sale and testing for the disease and such high dosages will result in a negative test. It can sometimes take 90 days after antibiotic treatment to acquire an accurate result from a culture test for Brucellosis.
Dr. Kessler said some commercial breeders were rationalizing this practice by arguing that since the dogs are spayed and neutered by rescue groups that there was no fear of the disease negatively affecting the animal. He explained that while spaying decreases the risk of Brucellosis, it is no guarantee; and neutering does little to prevent the disease.
Dr. Kessler went so far as to recommend that rescue groups should not acquire dogs from auctions as there is no way to verify if a dog has Brucellosis. [see below] He stated that the disease is becoming more prevalent in Missouri and a negative test does not guarantee that a dog doesn't have Brucellosis.
Unfortunately, deceptive practices are common place among puppy mill breeders. Commercial breeders have for decades sold sick and genetically defective puppies to consumers via pet stores or, more recently, online. So it comes as no surprise to learn that some puppy mills are fraudulently disposing of diseased breeding dogs by selling them to rescues groups.
The good news is that Kansas State University has developed a new test for brucellosis that is not affected by high dosages of antibiotics. It is known as the PCR test and is different than the commonly used "culture" tests.
In an apparent response to this new test, one of the largest dog auctions in Missouri will only honor its guarantee against Brucellosis if the purchaser can show a positive result from the "culture test." This auction service, as well as other auctions, will also only honor such guarantees if a positive test was performed within 7 days of the sale - a time frame that easily allows for false negatives.
Such warranties seem only to guarantee that disreputable breeders can continue to sell dogs infected with Brucellosis with impunity.
Talking Dogs is the official blog of For Love of a Dog Jewelry.