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Disease Being Imported into North America

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Dr. Scott Weese and Dr. Maureen Anderson, of the Ontario Veterinary College’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses, published an entry on their blog, Worms & Germs, titled Brucella canis in imported dogs: Ontario. This blog entry has alerted readers to a recent positive brucellosis test in Ontario from an imported dog.

What is canine brucellosis?

Canine brucellosis is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium, Brucella canis (B. canis). This bacterial infection is highly contagious between dogs. Infected dogs usually develop an infection of the reproductive system, or a sexually transmitted disease.

Brucella Canis has been reported in many other species.

Brucella canis is a zoonotic bacterium, which means it not only transmits to dogs but to other mammals, including humans. B. Canis antibodies and/or nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) have been found in:

  • Foxes
  • Cyotes
  • Golden Jackals
  • Raccoon
  • Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus)
  • Pumas
  • Ocelots
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Mice
  • Cattle
  • Sheep
  • Swine
  • Non-Human Primates

What are the signs of brucellosis?

Brucellosis in dogs typically causes reproductive problems such as infertility and abortions, with few other signs of clinical illness. The disease is most common in sexually intact adult dogs.

“Brucellosis in dogs typically causes reproductive problems such as infertility and abortions, with few other signs of clinical illness.”

Male dogs infected with brucellosis develop epididymitis, an infection in part of the testicle. A dog with a newly acquired infection will often have an enlarged scrotum or an enlarged testicle and may have a skin rash on the scrotum. The dog may be infertile. In chronic or long-standing cases, the testicles will atrophy or become shrunken.

Female dogs infected with brucellosis develop an infection of the uterus; causing her to be infertile, have difficulty getting pregnant, or she may abort in the late stages of pregnancy. She often has a persistent vaginal discharge. Typically, a pregnant dog with brucellosis will abort at 45-55 days of gestation or will give birth to stillborn or weak puppies that may die a few days after birth.

During the early stages of brucellosis, enlarged lymph nodes are common. Occasionally, B. canis will infect the intervertebral discs, eyes, kidneys, or brain. If the bacteria infects these other tissues, the signs will be related to the bodily system that is infected.

What about other diseases?

This confirmation comes on the heels of another imported rescue dog being diagnosed with rabies. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent out a press release on Feb. 27/19 alerting the public (see below). The infected dog was part of a shipment of 26 dogs from Egypt at the end of January. All dogs were then adopted. KDHE has instructed new owners to return the dogs for quarantine.

https://khap2.kdhe.state.ks.us/NewsRelease/PDFs/02-27-2019%20Rescued%20Dog%20from%20Egypt%20Tests%20Positive%20for%20Rabies.pdf

Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center posted an alert February 5/19. This alert focused on a foreign strain of distemper that had entered North America via an imported Sheltie.

The alert stated:

“In early October of 2018, a 12-week old “Sheltie” arrived from Korea. Approximately 12 days later, the dog began with a cough and lethargy with blood work indicating “anemia”. About 10 days later, the dog developed a unilateral myoclonus with relapsing lethargy. In another week the neurological signs had progressed to tonic clonic seizures that continued to worsen to a persistent uncontrolled myoclonus at which time the dog was euthanized.

Samples (serum, ocular swab, urine) obtained at 9 days post onset of clinical signs were forwarded to the AHDC for canine influenza virus serology and canine distemper virus RT-PCR testing. The HI serology test indicated no exposure to H3N2 CIV which is the endemic strain of flu A in Korea. However, the RT-PCR tests on the ocular swab and urine were strong positive for canine distemper virus. Attempts were made to isolate the virus from the samples submitted for PCR, but with no success. Our next effort was to try to obtain sequence for virus directly from the nucleic acid used for the RT-PCR assay. This was successful for the F and H genes of CDV. Phylogenetic analyses of the sequences against various clades of CDV, indicated the imported dog was infected with the Asia-1 strain of CDV. We have no information on the existence of this clade of CDV in North America.

“Once again the North American dog population is being put at risk by those who have no regard for the importation of foreign animal diseases.”

~Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center

While we have been most concerned with the importation of canine influenza virus from Asia to North America by improper procedures by various “rescue” groups, the importation of CDV may be more significant in that CDV once it enters an ecosystem cannot be eradicated even with effective vaccines. Once again the North American dog population is being put at risk by those who have no regard for the importation of foreign animal diseases.”




Brucellosis falls under mandatory reporting. ShowScene has reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Health regarding the number of brucellosis reports received so far this year, a response was not received at time of publication. When/if a response is received, this article will be updated accordingly.

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