THE lockdown puppy boom has raised fears about a disease that can be transmitted from dogs to humans, leaving owners with a fever and back pain.
The new disease, brucellosis, has increased 1,900% in just three years – and health officials are now stepping up controls to control it.
The infection in dogs is transmitted through mating or contact with postpartum fluids.Photo credit: Getty
The disease was detected in 60 dogs last year, compared to just three in 2017/18 – with fears the increase in people buying pets during the lockdown will continue to rise.
While the bacterial infection is incurable to dogs and most are euthanized, in humans it can lead to fevers and chills, sweats, headaches, back pain, and physical weakness.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics for humans, but in some cases it can persist for life.
Public Health England said Friday that 250 people were tested but none returned a positive result.
Government officials have stepped up surveillance and instructed all laboratories to report any positive result.
Most of the cases were found in rescue dogs, most commonly from Romania, as commercial dog imports rose from 19,480 to 29,348 from Romania in the last year.
The rapid increase has resulted in the government having to tighten immigration of puppies from overseas.
Daniella Dos Santos, BVA Senior Vice President, said veterinarians are increasingly concerned about the risk of disease in imported dogs “with no medical history”.
“These so-called Trojan dogs often arrive in the UK with no health records. Some charities do pre-import testing, but this is not required for diseases that are not common in the UK, “she said.
“In some cases, such as canine brucellosis, there is an additional risk to public health, including our veterinary teams treating and treating these animals.”
What is brucellosis?
Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by the ingestion of raw milk or undercooked meat from infected animals, as well as contact with infected animals.
Those who have come into contact with infected dogs are most at risk.
Symptoms in humans include fever and chills, sweats, headaches, back pain, and physical weakness.
Children under the age of five, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system such as cancer patients can suffer from chronic diseases.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics in humans, but it can persist for life.
Around 500,000 cases of this disease are reported to the World Health Organization worldwide each year.
She advised anyone looking to house a dog to choose a UK-based charity and called for “urgent government action to introduce mandatory testing before dogs come into the country”.
The British Veterinary Association and the Dogs’ Trust have called on the government to require all dogs entering the country to be screened prior to entry.
MPs are due to take part in an animal welfare debate by the Petitions Committee on Monday, and the government is due to publish its animal husbandry law, which is about to crack down on rules on puppy smuggling and importation.
Dr. Neil Hudson, a Conservative MP who is a qualified veterinarian, told the Telegraph, “Brucellosis is a health hazard for dogs and humans. We need more mandatory controls and people need to be more careful about where they get their dogs from.
“In dogs, the disease is incurable and most of them have to be euthanized. And while people can be treated with antibiotics, they are thought to be infected for life. We have to be very careful. “
The government’s chief veterinarian, Christine Middlemiss, has warned all vets of the potential risk and advised them and staff to wear personal protective clothing when dealing with cases.
In dogs, the infection is transmitted when mating or when they come into contact with postpartum fluids.
In bitches, brucellosis can cause an abortion, and in future pregnancies, puppies can die shortly after birth, while males can also suffer from infertility.
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Dr. Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs’s Trust said, “We’re not saying we shouldn’t have these dogs. But we would like an obligatory preliminary examination of dogs.
“We are now conducting a comprehensive screening of all imported dogs that end up in our rescue centers. This is a zoonosis and it can affect you and me. The risk to humans is low, but not zero. “