Published On: Sun, Jan 21st, 2024

Urgent warning UK borders wide open to deadly dog disease ‘which can infect humans’ | UK | News


Stringent new measures must be introduced urgently to prevent Britain importing a canine which can be fatal in dogs – and which can also infect humans, according to vets.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), together with other national veterinary associations, is urging the Government to introduce appropriate mandatory pre-import disease testing and tighten the movement of dogs from countries with high levels of concerning diseases such .

The Brucella canis bacterium results in canine , which is an infectious disease which triggers a painful and chronic illness in dogs, as well as potentially posing a health risk to humans and other dogs which exposed.

Treatment is often unsuccessful, and, in many cases, to protect animal welfare, the only option is euthanasia.

In the last four years, there has been a spike in the number of identified B. canis cases in the UK, which had previously been sporadic and isolated.

Data published by the Government shows that cases have jumped from just three before 2020 to 240 in the last three years.

Most dogs affected were either imported, had returned from holiday overseas, or were bred with an imported dog.

In 2022, news also emerged of the first UK case of dog-to-human transmission, underlining the risks to those handling and treating infected dogs and raising levels of concern within veterinary teams, despite this being relatively low.

Wendy Hayes, 61, from Staffordshire, contracted the rare illness from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering after it started showing severe symptoms back in May.

Moosha, the Belarusian rescue dog, had only been with Ms Hayes for three days before she started aborting her puppies all over Wendy’s home in a horrific experience which lasted 17 hours.

She had been brought over through a rescue dog company which mainly sources stray dogs from Ukraine and Belarus.

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Anna Judson said: “Vets are seriously concerned about the lack of adequate checks for potentially zoonotic diseases entering the country via imported dogs.

“Brucella canis is not currently considered to be widespread in the UK, so a proactive approach with an emphasis on reducing the risk of this and other worrying exotic diseases being brought into the UK is crucial.”

Such an approach was important for both the health of the UK’s dogs and the humans who care for them, Dr Judson stressed.

She added: “By taking proactive measures to minimise its introduction, we can better protect the health and welfare of the UK dog population and minimise the challenges of dealing with suspected cases once they have already reached our shores.

“Last year’s shelved Kept Animals Bill would have helped to address some of these significant animal health and welfare issues through the introduction of measures designed to tackle puppy smuggling.

“We ask all political parties to include stricter pet import measures, including appropriate pre-import testing, as part of their election manifestos.”

Launching its new joint policy position on Brucella canis on Friday, BVA, along with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), Society for Practicing Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), is calling for the Government to:

  • Restrict the movement of dogs from countries that are endemic for diseases not currently considered endemic in the UK, after carrying out an appropriate risk assessment to determine for which countries and diseases testing should be implemented
  • Introduce appropriate testing for any relevant diseases as a mandatory requirement for dogs before travel to the UK
  • Improve border controls and increase enforcement to prevent the importation of puppies and pregnant bitches. This would further reduce the risk of B. canis entering the UK as there is a heightened risk of transmission associated with pregnancy and abortion, and it would improve pre-import testing, since test results in younger dogs may be less reliable.

UKHSA’s updated guidance for the public is available here

A Defra spokesman said: “We take the risks posed by Brucella canis very seriously – which is why all cases must be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency and we strongly recommend prospective owners ensure dogs imported from regions where this disease is present are tested before arrival.

“We continue to work closely with the veterinary sector – including the British Veterinary Association – to monitor the situation and minimise the risks posed. We will carefully consider this report’s recommendations.”



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