Tularemia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Tularemia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Tularemia, also known as "rabbit fever," is a bacterial disease which is usually mild in healthy dogs. However, immunocompromised pets may have their lives at risk if they catch this illness. Here, our Northeast Pennsylvania vets will inform you about this disease's symptoms, how your dog might catch it, and how this rare disease is treated. 

What is tularemia in dogs?

Tularemia is also known as "rabbit fever." It is a bacteria disease that is most often seen in rabbits, hares and other rodents. However, it is also capable of impacting other animals (both wild and domestic) and people. 

This disease is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, which creates toxins in its host's blood. This bacteria thrives in its hosts body by creating tumor-like lumps in their liver. 

This bacteria has been seen across America, Canada and Mexico. 

How can my dog get tularemia?

While it is somewhat rare for a dog to catch tularemia, it is possible for your pup to contract this disease in a few different ways:

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

What are symptoms of tularemia in dogs?

Many dogs can become infected with the bacteria which causes tularemia, but most healthy pups are able to fight off this microbial invader and only have mild symptoms. Sometimes they can even show no symptoms at all!

IF your dog has had their immune system compromised or they are very young, there is a real risk that tularemia can develop into a much more serious condition. Here are some of the more serious symptoms of tularemia:

  • Organ failure
  • Sudden high fever
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Swollen or painful lymph nodes
  • White patches on the tongue
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Throat infection
  • Skin ulcers
  • Jaundice

Diagnosing this disease early and getting your pup the treatment they need is key for fighting tularemia in its more severe form. If your canine companion is displaying any of the above symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible. 

Keep in mind that while these may be signs of tularemia they may also be symptoms of another serious illness.

How is tularemia in dogs treated?

At Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital, we use advanced diagnostic veterinary technology in an in-house lab to perform tests and get same-day results. This allows your vet to accurately and efficiently diagnose your pet's condition, and begin treatment sooner. 

If your vet diagnoses your dog with tularemia, your pup will probably be prescribed an antibiotic like Streptomycin to help them fight the bacteria. It is very important that your dog finish the entire course they are prescribed and that you don't skip any of their doses.If treatment is stopped earlier than prescribed because your dog’s symptoms appear to clear up, this can lead to a flareup in infection, making the disease more difficult to treat.

Since bacteria is able to infect people too, it's key to protect yourself as best you can form this disease while caring for your dog. Wear gloves while you dispose of their feces and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently as you care for them.

Do you think your dog may have tularemia? Our Plains vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses in pets. Contact our Northeast Pennsylvania animal clinic today to book an examination or inquire about a referral.

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.

If your dig exhibiting symptoms of tularemia? Contact your regular vet and ask them about a referral today. Our specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating a range of illnesses and conditions in dogs like tularemia. Contact Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital today if your have any questions. 

From Happy Pet Owners

  • Prompt and honest service. They didn't claim our dog's issue was any more or less severe that it was. Payment can be difficult to discuss in the moment but they were upfront about what was being done and what possible procedures would cost, asking for our approval before moving forward. Our boy ended up only needing minor care but we'll be using their service again in the future if we need emergency care.
    Blake B.

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