Are hunting dogs spreading Bovine TB?

Hi Readers,

Whilst reading last month’s issue of ‘Veterinary Record’ I came across an interesting article about hunting dogs and the spread of bovine TB.

In January of this year, 3 cases of Mycobacterium bovis infection was confirmed by APHA. In March bovine tuberculosis was confirmed in a pack of hunting hounds in south-east England leading to the euthanasia of 25 dogs. Anti-hunting groups wanted to stop all hunting with hounds as a precaution, however officials have said there is little risk of bovine TB from hunting packs.

The Animal And Plant Health Agency (APHA) said, “TB in dogs caused by Mycobacterium bovis is very rare. There is no evidence to suggest the dogs play a significant role in the persistence of bovine TB in England and that hunting with dogs contributes to the spread of the disease amongst cattle.”

The dogs, which belonged to the Kimblewick hunt, voluntarily quarantined the dogs even though the government agencies did not impose restrictions.

The League Against Cruel Sports and Hounds Off asked for a strict ban on hunting with hounds as a biosecurity measure and requested an investigation of hunting with hounds and TB spread.

In 2011, research was carried out and the results from post-mortem examinations showed the presence of TB in Irish hunting hounds. This could be additional evidence for a potential risk.

Iain McGill, a former MAFF vet (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) comments that hounds run across fields, defecate on the fields – which is not picked up – eat cow pats and may pick up the bacteria from slurry spread on fields. The biosecurity is poor and to look scientifically, foot swabs should be taken of hounds and their faeces tested.

How the hunt hounds got the disease is not yet known but a possible route could have been consumption of contaminated carcasses or wildlife contamination of the kennel.

A spokesman for the BVA stated, “We are not aware of any evidence of a correlation between hunt areas and bovine TB incidence. We do not think that dogs running over a field present a significant risk of transmission.”

Having read this article I agree that it doesn’t seem that dogs spreading bTB is a huge risk. As APHA stated, the spread of Mycobacterium bovis by hound is very rare and cattle are more likely to contract it from other places. The Anti-Hunting groups may be using this incidence to aid their campaign however they have not produced any evidence to prove there is a significant threat in relation to hounds and the spread of bTB. The number of cases of bovine TB in dogs seems small so far this year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on hunting hounds spreading TB or any comments on hunting in general.

Sol

References 

Veterinary Record Vol 180 No 24

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