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Guidance For Imported Dogs

Info for owners that are either considering or have already imported a dog from outside of the UK.

There is growing concern in the UK around the prevalence of certain diseases found in our canine patients because of the large number of dogs imported from some countries.

 

These diseases have not been a concern here previously because they have not been prevalent in dogs born within the UK, however, these diseases can be more common in the countries we are importing our new pets from. Part of the reason for this concern is that it is not currently a legal requirement to test imported dogs for such diseases and so the scale of the problem is unknown.

 

In order to combat this becoming a problem in the future, we would like to educate and advise our owners that may be considering importing a dog from overseas.

Considerations for those wanting to adopt a dog from overseas.

If you are thinking of importing a dog into the UK we would firstly advise you to consider whether it is appropriate to adopt a dog from an overseas shelter with an uncertain disease status. 

There are many shelters that will provide this information alongside a dog up for adoption which we would encourage, however, if there is reluctance to provide such information or no proof of disease testing, we would recommend finding another suitable shelter.

If you are looking to adopt a puppy from outside of the UK, we would encourage you to ask to meet the puppy’s mother as many puppies are smuggled into the UK, posing a welfare and disease risk.

It is worth also noting, that puppies or adult dogs entering the country may well be carrying exotic diseases or parasite infections which show no clinical signs upon arrival. Routine screening of these dogs is recommended. Please chat to your veterinary surgeon to find out more on the tests available to you.

Exotic diseases and parasites we may advise testing for include;

  • Leishmaniasis
  • Babesiosis
  • Brucella canis
  • Ehlichia
  • Heartworm
  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Hepatozoon canis
  • Rabies
  • Tapeworm

It is worth noting that many of these diseases/parasites are contagious, meaning it is worth considering testing even if your pet has not been imported but has been in close contact with a dog that has. Some of these diseases and parasites are also zoonotic which means they can be passed on to humans.

What is Canine Brucellosis?

Your vet may have directed you to this page on our website as it has been noted your pet has travelled, been imported from overseas or been in close contact with a dog that has. Canine Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the Brucella canis bacteria. The disease is not considered endemic in the UK but true case numbers here are unknown. The disease is found in many other countries in the world (in some countries the disease is considered endemic).

There is growing concern around this disease because of the large number of dogs imported from some countries, especially Romania (and other Eastern European countries), where it is known that Brucella Canis is prevalent. In the UK we have seen increasing numbers of dogs imported from Romania, where the disease is classed as endemic. There have also been increasing numbers of imported dogs which test positive for the disease in recent years. One significant concern is that these dogs often appear clinically well so it may not be detected straight away, and it must be remembered that Brucella canis is zoonotic, which mean that it can infect and cause disease in humans.

How is Brucella canis transmitted between dogs?

Brucella canis primarily enters the body by ingestion (through the nose and mouth) and via the genital tract.

Common causes of transmission:

  • Aborted material, birth fluids, placenta. It is shed for several weeks following birth.
  • Mating.
  • From mother to puppy in the womb or ingestion of infectious milk.
  • Vaginal discharge when in season.
  • Semen.
  • Urine.
  • Blood.

What are the clinical signs of Brucella canis in a dog?

The most worrying part of the situation we find ourselves in, is that many dogs may show no clinical signs. However, these dogs can still be infectious and pass the disease on to other dogs and people. Dogs that show no clinical signs but are infected can go on to develop clinical signs later in life.

These may include:

  • Abortion.
  • Failure of a bitch to conceive, male infertility with abnormal semen quality, enlarged painful testicles
  • Brucella can cause many non-specific clinical signs such as: lethargy, fever, behaviour anomalies, weight loss, back pain, stiffness, lameness, paralysis, eye disease, and generalised lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes).

Zoonotic Risk

Dogs infected with Brucella pose a risk to owners and veterinary teams when handling them. Many dogs may be carrying the infection without showing signs, which poses a greater challenge as it is not known that the handlers, owner, or veterinary team may be at risk of being infected.

 

Testing for Brucella canis is becoming more common especially in imported dogs even if they do not show clinical signs or ill health. Testing will help identify individuals that may pose a risk of passing the infection on to their owners and veterinary teams.

 

This is important so that veterinary teams can use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves when handling cases that have an unknown disease status. Brucella may pose a greater risk to those individuals with underlying health conditions or who are immunocompromised.

Recommended testing

If your vet has recommended testing for Brucella canis, it is worth reading the following which may influence your decision.

If you accept testing for Brucella canis in your dog, we will need to take a small blood sample from them to be sent to our external laboratory for testing. Once we receive the result, we will inform you as soon as possible, this usually takes 7-14 days.

If testing is declined:

We will be unable to provide the same treatment as normal in a patient with an unknown Brucella canis status due to the risk imposed on our staff.

Examples of treatment we would not be able to perform are as follows:

  • Surgical procedures on the urogenital or reproductive system.
  • Caesarean section
  • Pyometra surgery
  • Mammary gland mass removals/mammary strips
  • Assisting with difficult birthing situations
  • Tests involving urine

Negative result:

Repeat screening may be required if initial screening was performed within 3 months of travel or exposure to an infected dog.

Positive result:

We would need to report this to the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) as they collect the data necessary to create the most up-to-date guidance.

Our recommendation would usually be euthanasia, especially if:

  • Immunocompromised owner
  • Pregnant owner
  • Children under the age of 5 in the home.

If euthanasia is declined:

  • We would refer you the APHA website
  • It is advised by Public Health England to never walk positive dogs on public land again, keep them away from other dogs and humans (PHE can enforce these rules)
  • The dog will need to be barrier nursed/hospitalised in isolation if ever admitted into the hospital which can lead to incurred costs being significantly higher.
  • We would be unable to provide many surgical and medical procedures due to the risk imposed on our staff.

For more information relating to exotic diseases and Brucella canis in more detail, please visit the APHA’s website and search in the search bar.