The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging veterinary teams to take extra precautions when handling suspected cases of Brucella canis in all imported dogs and puppies. BVA is also calling on Government to tighten pet import rules.
The advice follows news earlier this month about a positive Brucella canis test in a rescue dog imported from Belarus in March this year. The woman fostering the dog was hospitalised after coming into close contact with it, in the UK’s first confirmed dog-to-human transmission of this zoonotic disease. The foster animal and four pet dogs who were exposed to the disease, three of whom also tested positive, all had to be euthanised.
Data released by the Government* shows a steep rise in confirmed Brucella canis cases since the start of 2020, rising from just three before that year to 107 till July this year. The dogs were all either imported, had returned from holiday overseas, or been bred with an imported dog.
BVA is asking veterinary teams to:
- Use appropriate PPE when handling suspected cases in all imported dogs.
- Submit samples to laboratories for testing.
- Flag risks of Brucella canis and other non-endemic diseases to clients considering importing a dog from or travelling with a dog to another country where the disease is endemic.
- Encourage compliance with import best practice in conversations with clients and rescue charities who are planning to bring in a dog from abroad.
British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton said:
“This recent case of Brucella canis in a foster dog is extremely tragic and highlights why vets have long raised concerns over the real and serious risks of importing ‘Trojan’ rescue dogs with unknown health histories into the UK.
“We know there is an added public health risk too, including for veterinary teams who treat and handle these animals, from contact with an infected dog’s contaminated body tissues and fluids.
“BVA continues to call on the Government to take urgent action to introduce stricter pet import measures, including mandatory pre-import testing, so we can minimise the spread of Brucella canis and other emerging diseases. We are also calling for the strengthening of enforcement provisions and checks on dogs brought into the country through the commercial route.”
BVA’s 2018 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showed that more than nine out of ten companion animal vets in the UK were concerned about the import of rescue dogs. Worryingly, 40% of vets had seen new or rare conditions in their practice over the previous year that are associated with dog import.
While rescue dogs are a particular risk group for Brucella canis, importing any dog from countries with high levels of stray dog populations and known presence of the disease will carry a risk. This includes puppies bred for commercial sale in such countries.
The 2021 B. canis risk view and statement by Public Health England (now UK Health Security Agency) contains vital information and recommendations for veterinary professionals. The statement is available to read here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/960013/20210210_Brucella_canis_statement.pdf
BVA’s recommendations on tightening pet travel legislation are available to read at: https://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Companion_animals/BVA%20Position%20on%20Pet%20Travel%20Full.pdf