Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, is a zoonotic bacterial disease that, fortunately, is rare. It occurs more often in cats than dogs and in young rather than adult animals. It also affects rodents, rabbits, pigs, fish, horses, sheep and humans. Beaver and muskrats can be carriers.
Tularemia is usually spread by ticks (American Dog, Lone Star and Rocky Mountain Wood ticks) that feed on infected animals and birds. Fleas and deer flies can also transmit the disease.
Pets become infected through tick bites or eating infected animals. The bacteria can also enter through the skin, airways or eyes. Tularemia bacteria can remain active for months in soil, water and vegetation.
Symptoms for pets can begin with lethargy, low fever, inappetance and develop into high fever, dehydration, eye infections, ulcers inside and around the mouth, abscesses, lymph node involvement, jaundice, swelling of liver or spleen.
Diagnosis is made using special tests for Tularemia. Discharges and tissue may be taken from the affected animal for further testing and confirmation that the disease is present.
Treatment includes prescribing antibiotics. The infected animal should be isolated. Any human in coming in contact with the animal should wear protective clothing including mask and gloves to limit the possibility of transmission of the diseases. Prognosis is good with early treatment.
Prevention is key and there are simple guidelines to follow to avoid contamination.
Don’t touch dead animals.
If you find a dead animal, use insect repellent on yourself, wear gloves, use a shovel to pick up the animal. Put it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in an outdoor garbage bin. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Don’t allow your pets to go near dead animals by keeping them leashed when outdoors.
When you are outdoors with your pet, use an insect repellent for yourself and flea and tick preventive for your pet.