Tularemia, commonly called Rabbit Fever is a bacterial disease that is typically mild in healthy dogs but can be deadly for pets that are immune-compromised. Our Charlotte vets explain how your dog could contract tularemia and what you should do if your pup is showing symptoms of this relatively rare disease.
What is tularemia?
Tularemia, also known as 'Rabbit Fever' is a bacterial disease found across the US, Canada and Mexico. As the name 'rabbit fever' suggests, this disease is most often seen in rabbits, hares and rodents but can affect people as well as wild and domestic animals.
Rabbit fever is caused by toxins in the blood which are produced by a bacteria called Francisella tularensis that survives in the animal's body by creating tumor-like masses in the liver.
Causes of Rabbit Fever in Dogs
While it is fairly unusual for dogs to contract tularemia, the disease can be transmitted to dogs in a number of ways including:
- Consuming water or food contaminated with the bacteria
- Being bitten by an infected insect such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes
- Ingesting an infected animal such as a rabbit, hare, or rodent
- Inhalation of the bacteria
- Skin to skin contact
Our Charlotte vets most often see cases of tularemia in dogs during the summer months when tick and deer fly populations are on the upsurge, and during winter rabbit hunting season.
Tularemia Symptoms in Dogs
It is believed that many dogs become infected with tularemia each year however most healthy dogs are able to fight the infection and only display very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, if your pooch has a compromised immune system (or is very young) the disease can become serious.
Severe symptoms of tularemia include:
- Sudden high fever
- Abdominal pain
- Skin Ulcer
- White patches on the tongue
- Organ failure
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen or painful lymph nodes
- Throat infection
- Enlarged Spleen or liver
If your canine companion shows signs of any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet as soon as possible. While these symptoms could indicate tularemia they may also be a sign of another serious illness affecting your dog's health.
Treatment for Tularemia in Dogs
Dog's diagnosed with tularemia are typically treated with 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 note that this bacteria can be passed to humans! So it is essential to 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, stay vigilant about hygiene practices while caring for your pet, be sure to wash your hands with soap thoroughly and frequently.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.