Bovine tuberculosis (TB) in domestic pets

What pet owners need to do if their animal has suspected or confirmed bovine TB.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

This guide is for owners of domestic pet mammals with a suspected or confirmed tuberculosis (TB) infection due to Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis - the bacterium that causes bovine TB). Domestic pet mammals include dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets.

If you keep livestock animals as pets, you should follow the section of this guide for TB in livestock animals kept as pets. This includes cows, goats, pigs, sheep, camelids (such as alpacas and llamas).

How pets can get TB

Pets can become infected through:

  • ingestion (by mouth), for example by drinking unpasteurised infected cows’, goats’ or sheeps’ milk or milk products such as cheese or eating undercooked or raw meat or offal (viscera) from carcasses of infected animals
  • aerosols (breathing in), from close contact with infected farm animals, wildlife or other infected pets
  • bite wounds, either from being bitten by an infected animal or if a wound gets infected by bacteria in the environment

Signs and diagnosis

Common signs of TB include:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • weight loss
  • lumps, abscesses or bite wounds around the head or neck, which fail to heal (most often in cats)
  • swollen lymph nodes (glands)

Signs of TB in pets are not unique and can be like other diseases.

If your vet suspects that your pet has TB, they may recommend a number of tests, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. You or your insurance provider will usually need to pay for these tests unless in very specific circumstances when the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) may cover the costs.

PCR test on tissue samples

A PCR test on tissue samples taken from your pet can identify the bovine TB bacterium. The vet will need to collect a tissue sample, either:

  • a biopsy sample from a live pet (this will not be carried out on livestock species)

  • tissue collected during a post-mortem examination on a dead pet (this will include livestock species)

How to manage a pet with TB

Your vet can help you to choose whether to treat or euthanise (put to sleep) your pet if it has TB.

Drugs and licensing

There are no drugs licensed in the UK for treating animals with TB.

If you choose to treat your pet, your vet may have to use unlicensed drugs. They have not passed UK animal-specific safety and testing for bovine TB, and so may not work. They may also risk the welfare of your pet. You or your insurance provider will need to pay for any attempted treatment.

Antimicrobial resistance and continued risk to others

Anti-TB treatments require the use of several drugs for at least 6 months. It can be very difficult to give these to your pet consistently, which may mean they do not get the full dosage or course of treatment. This can lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria developing, which is a risk to human and animal health. Too low a dosage may also mean that your pet remains infected and continues to be a risk to others, often without showing any signs of disease.


Pets are often unlikely to recover fully from TB. There are no guarantees of a permanent cure.

Health risks for humans

TB can spread from animals to humans but the risk to you or your family is very low.

If your pet is diagnosed with TB caused by M. bovis, your vet will notify APHA. They will let your local health protection team (HPT) of the UK Health Security Agency in England (or the equivalent bodies in Scotland and Wales) know. The HPT may offer TB screening to owners or others who have had close contact with the infected pet.

Find out more information on human TB screening.

Health risks for other animals

Your local APHA officer will consider the risks for other animals that have been near your pet.

If considered necessary, APHA will develop a plan to help protect livestock and other pets at or near your home. If you have livestock, you may need to test it for TB as part of this plan. APHA will let you know in writing if this applies to you.

Livestock animals kept as pets

If you keep a livestock animal as a pet, it will be classed as a livestock animal. The method of disease management will vary depending on the species.

Livestock animals, such as cows, goats and camelids (like alpacas and llamas) are covered by specific TB Orders. In England and Scotland, the TB Orders also include pigs and sheep. Livestock animals kept as pets with a suspected or confirmed TB infection will be managed by the relevant disease control policies.

Find out more information on TB in livestock animals.

A living livestock animal with a suspected case of TB will need to be tested with an appropriate diagnostic test.

APHA will:

  • assess (on an individual basis) whether a test is needed

  • write to tell you if a test is needed

  • let you know who to contact to arrange the test

  • cover the costs of the test

Animals with a positive test result must be slaughtered and compensation will be paid to owners. At the post-mortem examination, tissue will be collected for laboratory testing.

You cannot treat cows, goats, pigs, sheep, camelids or deer for TB unless you have written consent from APHA.

Any other livestock animal that has been in contact with a confirmed TB-infected animal will also need a test. Animals with positive test results will be slaughtered.

APHA might issue a statutory restriction notice (TN02) asking you to:

  • stop moving other animals that could become infected with TB, on to or off your premises

  • keep your animals under control to prevent contact with animals on neighbouring premises

Get help

Pet health

You can get advice and support from your vet.

You can contact APHA with any other TB-related queries about your pet’s health.

Human health

You should contact your GP with any concerns about your or your family’s health.

Public health

Read the UK Health Security Agency’s advice on Tuberculosis (TB): diagnosis, screening, management and data

Read Health Protection Scotland’s guidance on Tuberculosis (TB)

Read Public Health Wales’ guidance on Tuberculosis (TB)

Published 18 October 2022
Last updated 20 October 2022 + show all updates
  1. Link to Northern Ireland guidance on bovine TB in pets has been updated.

  2. Added translation