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Ask Dr. Nandi: Iowa has confirmed multiple cases of a disease that can be transmitted from dogs to humans

Posted: 3:58 PM, May 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-13 18:04:56-04

(WXYZ) — Multiple cases of a bacterial disease that can pass from dogs to people have been confirmed in Iowa. Health officials say the disease originated at a dog breeding facility and that anyone who has acquired a small breed dog from Marion Co. should contact their veterinarian.

Question: Can you tell us about this bacterial disease?

It’s called Canine Brucellosis and it’s caused by the bacteria Brucella (bru-CELL-a) canis. It’s highly contagious between dogs and typically causes reproductive problems like infertility and stillbirths. Now this infection is spread through reproductive fluids. Dogs can get it after coming into contact with infected bodily fluids, often through licking, sniffing or sexual transmission. And humans can get it after exposure to blood or other secretions of an infected animal.

Question: How does this bacterial disease affect people?

Canine Brucellosis can cause flu-like symptoms so fever, chills, sweats, headaches, joint pain, back pain and weakness. It can also causesplenomegaly, which is a medical term for an enlarged spleen. Sometimes the eyes, heart and nervous system can be affected however this happens very rarely. Now brucellosis is often hard to identify because the symptoms are very similar to a lot of other conditions. But testing blood or bone marrow can help diagnose an infection. And if detected, antibiotics can be prescribed. However there’s no guarantee that the disease won’t return.

Question: How likely are pet owners to contact this disease?

First of all, Brucellosis isn’t contagious with humans like it is with dogs. That said, the folks who are more likely to be exposed are breeders and veterinarians because they typically handle newborn puppies or clean up after a dog has given birth. So for those folks, they can help avoid this disease by wearing disposable gloves and washing their hands really well with soap and water. But back to the question - what’s the possibility of a pet owner getting infected with Canine Brucellosis? Well, that risk is considered to be very low. Because overall, human infection is rare. However if anyone is concerned, they should reach out to their primary doctor.