Brucellosis warning for gundog owners

A dog can be your best friend and also a valuable hunting companion. Not only can they join the hunt but on many occasions, also make the outing that much better. Training a gundog or hunting dog takes considerable time, effort and resources. You need to make sure you take care of your investment as well as your friendship.

Recently, the SSAA was sent information regarding a condition called Brucellosis. It is certainly something that should be avoided. It is important that this condition is in the back of your mind if you or your dogs have any contact with feral pigs.

So what is Brucellosis? In short, it is the result of a Brucella suis bacteria infection. The main host is the feral pig and from there it has the potential to spread to dogs and/or humans. Brucella suis has been found to be widespread across feral pig populations in Queensland and New South Wales. Therefore, it does pose a massive risk to the health of anyone who has contact with feral pigs, feral pig meat and dogs used to hunt pigs.

How is it transmitted from feral pigs to hunting dogs or hunters? The bacteria can be spread via bodily fluids and tissue from infected pigs. This includes blood and urine. Contagion can occur if hunters or their dogs come in contact with cuts or mucus membranes of infected feral pigs. Although uncommon, infection can also occur when bacteria is aerosolised and inhaled. It has been found that dogs fed raw feral pig meat can also become infected by the bacteria. Currently, it has not been established whether the bacteria can be transmitted from infected dogs to people but this is seen as a potential health risk by researchers.

How do you know if your dog has Brucellosis? Sometimes dogs can be infected with Brucella suis bacteria and exhibit no signs at all. Other times dogs can show a range of clinical symptoms. They include fever, straining to urinate/defecate, constipation or bloody urine, back pain, lameness, vomiting, lethargy and enlarged lymph nodes. If your dog has had contact with feral pigs and displays any of these clinical signs, you should take it to the vet immediately.

How do you know if you have Brucellosis? Well, Brucellosis can be a life-threatening disease so it’s important to take it seriously. Symptoms can be present anywhere from five to 60 days after exposure and in some instances begin six months after contact. Symptoms usually develop as a flu-like illness that includes intermittent fever, sweating, lethargy, loss of appetite, headaches and back pain. Diagnosis can only be confirmed through blood tests and treatment consists of long courses of antibiotics initially and when relapses occur. Without treatment, Brucellosis can become a chronic illness or even fatal.

So how can you minimise the risk of contracting Brucellosis for you and your dog? With no vaccines available at the present, you need to be proactive. Always ensure feral pig meat is cooked thoroughly before it is consumed by you or your dog. Cover all cuts and abrasions with waterproof bandages before coming in contact with feral pigs. Always wash hands and arms in soapy water after handling feral pigs or their carcasses. Avoid opening any visibly swollen joints of feral pig carcasses. Butcher feral pig meat away from areas that are used for handling other types of meat for human consumption. Where possible, always wear gloves when butchering or handling raw meat.

For those interested in reading further on this topic, there is a scientific paper titled ‘Emergence of Brucella suis in dogs in New South Wales, Australia: clinical findings and implications for zoonotic transmission’ by Siobhan Mor, Anke Wiethoelter, Amanda Lee, Barbara Moloney, Daniel James and Richard Malik.

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