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Cases of canine brucella up across Montana

A dog runs at a park
Claire Trageser/KPBS
The rate of canine brucellosis has more than doubled in the last six months across Montana.

The rate of canine brucella, also known as canine brucellosis, has more than doubled in the last six months across the state, according to the State Agriculture Department.

Dogs infected with brucellosis most often develop an infection in the reproductive organs. Occasionally, B. canis will infect the intervertebral discs, eyes, kidneys, heart or brain. If the bacteria infects these other tissues, the signs will be related to the bodily system that is infected.

Merry Michalsk, the program veterinarian for the state, says although antibiotics can be used to help control the infection, there is no cure for dogs with the illness.

“It can cause flu-like symptoms. So, we do recommend euthanasia in positive cases,” Michalski said. “If an owner gets that diagnosis in their pet and they choose not to euthanize, we are recommending lifelong isolation.”

The illness is most common in dogs that come from shelters or breeding programs.

“If you have gotten a dog from a rescuer or shelter or have found a stray dog and you decided to take that dog in, getting them tested early is the best way of looking for that disease and trying to prevent the spread to other dogs,” she said.

Michalski says there is no way to completely protect your dog from the illness. Avoiding dog parks and contact with dogs you’re not familiar with can help.

While the risk remains low, canine brucella can spread to humans. People with compromised immune systems should avoid contact with a dog that is diagnosed.

If you’re concerned about canine brucella in your pet, contact your veterinarian. The Montana Department of Livestock also has resources on its website.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.