Gunnedah is being urged to heed warnings after an outbreak of the deadly disease, Brucellosis, in the area.
In the past few weeks, two dogs have tested positive for Brucellosis (Brucella Suis), with the most recent case confirmed last week.
Brucellosis is a disease “caused by infection with a type of bacteria (Brucella)”, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). Brucella Suis is carried by wild pigs and transferred through contact with bodily fluids and eating raw pig meat.
Gunnedah veterinarian, Tina Clifton, said the disease could also be transferred to humans, with high risks including abortion in females, infertility in males and endocarditis. Symptoms are “flu-like”, with swollen testes another indicator.
“It is quite scary because we just don’t know enough about it and it makes it difficult because there are just so many unknowns,” she said.
Symptoms in dogs included lethargy, difficulty breathing and enlarged testes in non-castrated males. The vet said while dogs could be treated, they could not be cured and it was recommended that dogs carrying Brucellosis be put down.
“The DPI basically recommends to euthanase because they are a risk to humans,” she said.
Ms Clifton said her “biggest concern” was that pig chasers, particularly “recreational” pig chasers, may be unaware of the risks to their families if they or their dog(s) become infected.
“I think we need to give people an idea of the risks, so if people take their dogs out pig chasing, they know potentially what they’re in for,” she said.
Brucellosis can also be passed on to puppies if the mother is infected.
“What we’re potentially going to see is where people breed dogs that are positive for Brucellosis,” Ms Clifton said.
The vet said she didn’t know why there was a spike in cases at the moment, but prevention was a big factor in stopping the disease from spreading.
“[I recommend] wearing gloves pig chasing, not feeding raw pig meat to dogs, and washing down utes [but] not in the backyard,” she said.
Gunnedah experienced an outbreak of Brucellosis in early 2015, which resulted in 15 dogs being euthanesed, according to Ms Clifton.
A spokesperson from NSW DPI said Brucellosis was “widespread in Queensland’s feral pig population and had also been detected in the feral pigs in northern NSW”.
“Brucellosis is a notifiable animal disease under the NSW Biosecurity Regulations (2017),” the spokesperson said.
“If you know or suspect an animal has this disease, please contact your Local Land Services or the Animal Biosecurity Emergency Hotline on 1800 675 888.”
DPI provides information and advice to dog owners and veterinarians about assessing the risk of Brucellosis in dogs. Dog owners seeking information about Brucellosis can visit the DPI website.
Further information on the risk of Brucellosis to humans can be found by contacting NSW Health or via the NSW Health Brucellosis Factsheet or NSW Health Brucellosis and feral pig hunting fact sheet.