Tularemia in Dogs

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an uncommon condition that is caused by the Francisella tularensis. The disease may affect birds, other mammals and humans as well. The disease may be eliminated through a cure of antibiotics.

Causes of Tularemia in Dogs

Tularemia is caused by the F. tularensis bacteria that may be contracted from animals that carry this bacterium. The bacteria may also be transmitted through tick bites. The ticks that may carry the bacteria are:

  • Dermacentor andersoni
  • Dermacentor variabilis
  • Dermacentor occidentalis
  • Amblyomma americanum

The ticks may catch the bacteria by feeding on infected birds or animals.

Fleas may also transmit the bacteria, in the same way as ticks.

There are 2 known types of F. tularensis bacteria, type A is more common in humans and can cause more severe symptoms, while type B is more difficult to treat, as it has several development stages, but will be relatively easy to eliminate.

Symptoms of Rabbit Fever

The rabbit fever may cause symptoms such as:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Swelling of lymph nodes, typically the nodes that are closer to the tick bite that has caused the infection

The symptoms may only appear 2 to 6 weeks after the dog is infected with the bacteria.

Puppies will typically have more severe reactions and may lose weight and become lethargic and seriously dehydrated.

Diagnosing Tularemia in Dogs

The presence of the F. tularensis can be detected by performing a simple blood test. The test will show that there are tularensis antibodies in the dog’s blood. However, the antibodies may not be detected in the early stages of the disease, immediately after the dog has contracted the bacteria. Consequently, if the vet suspects tularemia, he may want to repeat the tests in 2 to 4 weeks.

Alternatively, the vet may perform a tissue sample test or a secretion test, which should contain the F. tularensis bacteria even in the early stages of the disease.

Treating Tularemia in Canines

In dogs, the infection will be treated with a cure of antibiotics. Typically, any types of antibiotics should work in eliminating the bacteria. However, you have to make sure your dog is not allergic to the antibiotics that your vet prescribed.

The treatment should be administered for 10 to 21 days, depending on how advanced the infection is.

Preventing Tularemia

You can prevent the rabbit fever in your pet by limiting his exposure to infected animals (i.e. birds and rodents). Flea control is also important, as fleas may be carriers of the bacteria.

Avoid areas with ticks, as they can also transmit the disease.

Tularemia is a zoonotic disease, so you can catch the bacteria from your dog. Consequently, you should be cautious when dealing with your pet, if he is affected by tularemia. If you get infected, you will notice symptoms such as lymph node inflammation and you need to get antibiotics such as gentamicin or streptomycin.