Humans catch dog disease for first time in the UK

Three people are believed to have cases of Brucella canis, a bacterial infection that leads to infertility in dogs.

Health experts have issued a warning after a disease has spread from canines to humans for the first time in the UK.

Three people are believed to have cases of Brucella canis, a bacterial infection that leads to infertility in dogs.

The UK Health Security Agency said infections are rarely fatal but can be serious for people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and young children.

In the first three months of 2023, 43 infected dogs were identified in Britain, about twice as many as in the same period the previous year.

Many of the positive results were from animals adopted by UK owners through organisations that specialise in rehoming dogs from overseas – especially Romania.

Experts have said that those importing dogs should test the animals for Brucella canis before entering the country.

People who are infected might not always have symptoms, but they can include fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pains and weight loss.

In more severe cases, symptoms can include arthritis, meningitis, and speticaemia.

For dogs, symptoms include reproductive failure, lameness and back or joint pain – and antibiotics are not guaranteed to clear the disease.

Breeders and vets are most at risk of being infected with the disease, caused by bacteria spread in fluids linked to breeding and dogs giving birth.

Health experts have urged people to test dogs before importing them into the UK. / Credit: PA

The report, published the government’s Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance group, says: “Euthanasia of infected dogs is considered the only way to completely remove the risk of future onward transmission.”

But solutions will vary “on a case-by-case basis,” it also says, adding: “If an infected animal is not euthanised, the dog may be neutered and concurrently treated with a course of antimicrobials.”

Wendi Shepherd, head of emerging infections and zoonoses at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We have seen a small number of cases of Brucella canis in people in the UK this year.

“However, the risk to the general public in the UK is very low and the risk to people who have had close contact with an infected dog is low.

“From the small number of cases of the infection that have been reported in humans worldwide, the infection is usually mild, but people who have weakened immune systems, are pregnant, or are young children may be more likely to experience more serious infection.”

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