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Tularemia in Dogs

Tularemia in Dogs

Commonly known as Rabbit Fever, tularemia is a bacterial disease which is usually mild in healthy dogs but can be even deadly for immune-compromised pets. Our vets in West Chester will here explain how your dog can contract tularemia and what you should do if your pup is showing symptoms of this rare disease.

What is tularemia?

Also known as 'Rabbit Fever,' tularemia is a bacterial disease found across Mexico, Canada and the United States. As the name suggests, this disease is most often found in hares, rabbits and rodents. It can, however, affect wild and domestic animals as well as people.

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:

  • Skin to skin contact 
  • Inhalation of the bacteria
  • 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

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:

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

If your four-legged companion shows any of the above symptoms, contact your vet as soon as you can. While these symptoms can indicate tularemia, they may also be a sign of a different serious illness which is 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's important to note that this bacteria is able to be passed to humans. So, it is key 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 whenever possible. Also, stay vigilant about your own hygiene practices while caring for your pet. Be sure to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

If your pup is experiencing symptoms of tularemia, contact West Chester Veterinary Medical Center as soon as possible! Our team of vets are experienced in treating a wide range of diseases, including tularemia.

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