Brucellosis and Animals

What to know

People can get brucellosis when they come into contact with infected animals or eat or drink contaminated animal products, including meat or raw milk products. People have a higher risk of infection if their jobs or hobbies have close animal contact, like dog breeders or hunters. Veterinarians can diagnose and often treat brucellosis in animals.

People walking with dogs

Hunting and brucellosis

Many animals that people hunt can have brucellosis. When you eat the meat from these animals that's not properly cooked or handle animal skins, tissues, or fluids unsafely, you can get brucellosis. The animals include:

  • Wild hogs (feral swine)
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Bison
  • Caribou
  • Moose

Predators like bears and wolves can also get brucellosis from eating infected animals. Hunting dogs can also be at risk for brucellosis if they have close contact with infected animals, including eating the meat.


Don't touch sick or dead animals. Practice safe field dressing techniques, since it is still possible for animals that look healthy to have brucellosis. Be aware that freezing, smoking, drying, and pickling meat does not kill the bacteria that cause brucellosis.

Safe field dressing

  • Use clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering.
  • Wear eye protection and latex or rubber gloves when handling carcasses.
  • Don't let your bare skin touch the animal's fluid or organs, and don't touch hunting dogs that had animal contact.
  • After butchering, safely bag and throw away disposable gloves and parts of the carcass that will not be eaten.
  • Wash hands as soon as you can after butchering with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Dry with a clean cloth.
  • Don't feed dogs raw meat or other parts of the carcass.
  • Clean all tools and reusable gloves with a disinfectant, like dilute bleach. Follow label instructions to make a dilute bleach solution.
  • Thoroughly cook meat from any animal that could be infected with brucellosis.

Brucellosis and dogs

Dog owners who feel that they may have been exposed to brucellosis should contact their local or state health departments for guidance.

Symptoms in dogs are common, but they're symptoms of a lot of diseases, so you may not know if it's brucellosis. These include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Back pain from spinal infections
  • Eye infections
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Not wanting to move or go on walks
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Changes to their fur
  • Behavioral changes

More often, you might not know your dog has brucellosis unless they start having issues related to breeding or reproductive body parts. Females often can't get pregnant or have abortions (pregnancy loss). Males might have swollen testicles or scrotum (sac around the testicles), or an infection from licking the scrotum. Both sexes may have abscesses on their spines.

If you're adopting a dog from an animal shelter, rescue group, or breeder, they may not realize that the dogs are infected. It's important to ask about whether the dog has been tested, and you may consider having your veterinarian test your dog as well. If you bring home a dog with brucellosis, it may allow the disease to pass to other dogs at home.

Brucellosis in dogs can't be cured. Talk to your veterinarian about what to do if your dog tests positive for brucellosis.

Learn more about brucellosis in dogs‎

The Merck Veterinary Manual has more information about brucellosis in dogs.

If you work with animals

People in certain jobs or settings may be at higher risk from brucellosis because they have a greater chance of coming into contact with contaminated animal meat, milk, or bodily fluids.

These jobs can include:

People who handle animal tissues or fluids should protect themselves by wearing the following to keep bacteria from getting into their eyes, a cut, or broken skin:

  • Rubber gloves, preferably disposable
  • Goggles
  • Gowns or aprons
  • Closed-toed shoes and shoe covers

Be sure to wear gloves to clean any surface the animal tissues or fluids touch, and use disinfectants mixed according to the instructions on the label. Allow the disinfectant to sit for 10 minutes before wiping or scrubbing it away.