Tularemia 'Rabbit Fever' in Dogs

Tularemia (also know as 'Rabbit Fever') is a bacterial disease that is typically mild in healthy dogs, but can be deadly for pets that are immune compromised. Today our Mooresville vets share a few facts about tularemia and how your dog could contract this relatively rare disease.

Tularemia - Rabbit Fever

Tularemia, also known as 'Rabbit Fever' is a bacterial disease which occurs most often in rabbits, hares and rodents but can affect people as well as wild and domestic animals including dogs. The disease is caused by toxins in the blood which are produced by a bacteria called Francisella tularensis. The bacteria survives in the animal's body by creating tumor-like masses in the animal's liver. 

This bacteria has been reported across the United States (all states except Hawaii), Canada, and Mexico.

How Dogs Can Catch Tularemia

Although it is unusual for dogs to get tularemia, the disease can be transmitted to dogs in a number of ways including:

  • Ingesting an infected animal such as a rabbit, hare, or rodent;
  • Consuming contaminated water or food;
  • Being bitten by an infected insect such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes;
  • Skin to skin contact;
  • Inhalation of aerosolized bacteria.

Vets typically see higher rates of tularemia infections in the summer months when tick and deer fly populations are on the upsurge, and during winter rabbit hunting season when dogs have an increased risk of coming in contact with infected wildlife. 

Symptoms of Tularemia in Dogs

Healthy dogs that come in contact with the bacteria are likely to experience very mild or no symptoms at all. However, if a your dog is very young or has a compromised immune system the disease can become serious. Severe symptoms of tularemia can include:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin Ulcer
  • White patches on the tongue
  • Organ failure
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen or painful lymph nodes
  • Throat infection
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged Spleen or liver

Early diagnosis and treatment are important when it comes to recovery from tularemia. If your pet has any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet as soon as possible to book an examination for your dog. Keep in mind that while these symptoms could indicate tularemia they could also be a sign of another serious illness affecting your dog's health.

Treatment for Tularemia in Dogs

To treat dogs with tularemia, vets typically prescribe an antibiotic such as Streptomycin to help combat the bacteria. As with all antibiotic treatments it is essential to complete the full treatment and not skip any doses. Stopping treatment early because the symptoms appear to clear up, can cause the infection to flare up and make the disease harder to treat.

It is important to keep in mind that this bacteria can be passed to humans! Protect yourself from this disease while you are caring for your pet. Quickly dispose of your dog's feces, and wear gloves during this process if possible. Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water whenever you have been handling your pet.

Is your dog showing signs of tularemia? Contact our Mooresville vets to schedule an examination for your dog. Our vets take the time to get to know each animal as an individual, and provide veterinary treatment plans to meet their unique needs.

Tularemia in Mooresville

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