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One devastated dog-lover was put in an agonising position when she had to put down her five beloved dogs after they contracted an incredibly rare disease.
Wendy Hayes, 61, had just started fostering a Belarusian rescue dog when she and her other four canine companions contracted Brucella canis from the infected pup.
Moosha the rescue dog had only been living with Wendy for three days before it wound up spreading the disease to everyone else in the house. As a result, Wendy became the first person in the UK to be diagnosed with the rare illness.
Human transmission of the disease is extremely rare, but it wasn't long before Wendy started showing severe symptoms like high temperature, chills, and shivers, bad shakes, severe headaches, severe back ache and low blood pressure. At first, she was put on a 'stay at home' notice, for fear that Wendy might have contracted rabies, but eventually doctors figured out that she and her five dogs had caught Brucella canis.
While Wendy was treated with antibiotics, her pooches Benson, a 13-year-old Jack Russell, Dougie, an 11-year-old Patterdale Cross, Tiny, a four-year-old Pug, and Max, nine, unknown breed, could not be saved.
Recalling the traumatic experience, Wendy said: "It felt so unreal, to think about how many people are in the UK, to think that this is the first ever for this type of strain. The doctors were actually quite excited.”
It was suspected that Wendy and her pups caught the disease from her newest rescue dog, Moosha, who eventually had to be put down.
She then had to face the devastating reality that her other four dogs would also have to be put down, due to them living in such close contact.
Once dogs test positive for Brucella canis, they are infected for life. The disease can pass through the animal's bodily fluids, like urine, blood, and saliva, and can - in some very rare cases - be passed on to humans.
The heartbroken dog-mum said: “All five dogs were put down, they were the innocent party in this. I blame this rescue, and I blame the government for letting it happen and not testing.
“The impact is devastating. The life went out of the house, it didn’t feel like home. There was a feeling of guilt as it was my choice to bring her into the house. It didn’t feel like a home."
She added: "The company I foster through brought dogs over from Belarus and Ukraine. Two vans brought dogs in from there.
“Within two days of them arriving all the dogs from the Ukraine van had been taken by animal control. We were told it was a paper work issue. Then the story went on and that it was to do with the rabies laws.
“I had Moosha for three days, she came on 20 March before she started aborting her puppies, which was pretty horrific.
“She was literally walking around the house dropping her puppies, there was blood all over the house.
“I managed to get a hold of two of them. Tried to bring it around but it was dead. That is probably when I contracted the disease."
Two weeks after Moosha's distressing incident, Wendy was sent a 21 day notice, telling her she couldn't leave her property.
“She lived in my home until the 13 May. I only really felt something was up after I got back from visiting her.”
Moosha was still not known to be carrying the disease at this point, and it only emerged when Wendy sought medical help after feeling unwell.
"I didn’t get a diagnosis until Friday because they had a very clued-up doctor, who suggested it was Brucella canis", she recalled.
“Even though I felt ill, you don’t stop worrying about the dogs. I was already in isolation, in infectious diseases you can’t leave your room. It was a tough time, there was no one to talk to."
Furious at the lack of testing that allowed this to happen, Wendy demanded: “They need to stop messing about and just do something. Make it compulsory for all zoonotic diseases. They boast about being rabies-free for years. It's just around the corner waiting to happen.
“We need testing for it. And we need to come down hard on those bad rescues.”