An incurable disease in dogs that was thought to have been eradicated in western Europe has been found in a number of animals from a Dutch breeder.
The food standards agency NVWA has written to all vets advising them to watch out for Brucella canis. The bacterial infection can be transmitted to humans as Brucellosis or “Malta fever”, but is more commonly contracted from infected meat or milk.
The illness is not fatal and can be treated with antibiotics, but severely affects dogs’ well-being, particularly if it is diagnosed late. Symptoms are back and neck pain, infertility and difficulty excreting. Infected animals are usually put down.
A dog belonging to a Dutch breeder that originally came from Russia was diagnosed with the disease after developing back pain, the NVWA said. Investigations showed Brucella canis was also present in the dog’s offspring, the first time the disease has been transmitted in the Netherlands in recent years.
Brucellosis in humans has similar symptoms to a heavy fever and can become chronic if left untreated, but is rarely fatal. In 1909, when it was more common, the mortality rate was estimated at around 2%.
The disease was once endemic in Malta and other Mediterranean regions, but was largely eradicated in Europe through pasteurisation and better food hygiene.
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