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A Great Imitator Deserving of Attention and Concern

  • December 26, 2017 5:47 PM EST

    The term “The Great Imitator” is a phrase commonly used to describe a medical condition that has nonspecific clinical signs or symptoms common to a number of other diseases.

    What diseases come to mind that could cause fever, malaise, lameness, neurologic abnormalities, and ocular problems in a dog? Alone or in combination? What disease could be present but - because it's subclinical - the affected animal displays no outward signs of illness? What could account for a reproductive problem in a sexually intact animal? 

    In the world of infectious disease, Brucellosis - caused by any one of the various Brucella spp. - has been described as a "Great Imitator" due to the variety of signs that can be seen in affected animals. These signs include:

    • Fever / malaise
    • Back pain due to spinal involvement
    • Lameness / joint pain due to appendicular skeleton involvement
    • Reproductive tract involvement and/or reproductive failure - including abortion - in sexually intact animals 

    Some animals infected with the organism (upwards to 40%) may show no signs of illness at all.

    Transmission from animal to animal can occur transplacentally, through consumption of infected milk, meat or offal, or by coming into direct contact with bodily fluids, secretions or tissues from an infected animal. Brucellosis is also a zoonotic disease - humans that come into contact with an infected animal (including tissues or bodily fluids such as blood, urine, semen, or saliva from an infected animal) are at risk for exposure and falling ill.

    In this week's VetVine Specialty Update - Brucellosis - Why the Brouhaha? - we report on this infectious disease and why there's cause for concern. Specifically, there are an increasing number of reports from veterinarians and breeders of dogs infected with Brucella canis, as well as an emerging threat to dogs (and humans) related to Brucella suis infection - particularly those that participate in hunting and in areas where feral pig populations are on the rise.

    Learn more about Brucellosis - Why the Brouhaha? (running time: 15 mins)