Tularemia (Bacterial Infection) In Dogs

Tularemia (Bacterial Infection) in Dogs

What Is Tularemia In Dogs?

Tularemia, often called "rabbit fever," is a bacterial disease that sometimes affects dogs. This zoonotic condition is linked with various animals, including humans. The disease can spread through direct interaction with diseased creatures. While rabbits are a common source of infection, numerous animals can carry and transmit the bacteria. Other means of acquiring the bacteria include consuming tainted water or contacting infected soil. Remarkably, this bacterium can survive and remain infectious in the soil for several months.

Dogs often contract the disease by consuming the tissue of an infected mammal, such as during hunting activities involving small animals, birds, or reptiles. Insects like ticks, mites, fleas, and mosquitoes can also be carriers of the bacteria. Additionally, the bacterium has the potential to infiltrate a dog's system through the skin, airways, eyes, or digestive tract.

The presence of Tularemia is not restricted to a specific region; it's found in various parts of the globe, such as continental Europe, Japan, China, and previously the Soviet Union. Within the U.S., hotspots like Arkansas and Missouri see more cases, though it's not uncommon in other states. Certain times of the year, like May through August, see a spike in cases. Additionally, regions where rabbit hunting is prevalent might see a rise during the winter hunting season.

Ticks are one of the primary carriers of the F. tularensis bacterium. Notable among these are the American dog tick, Lone Star tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick, among others.

Symptoms And Types Of Tularemia (Bacterial Infection)

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Enlargement of the lymph nodes
  • Tender abdomen
  • Enlargement of spleen or liver
  • White patches or ulcers on the tongue
  • Jaundice – may be indicated by yellow eyes


  • Bacterial infection (Francisella)
  • Contact with an infected source

Diagnosis Of Tularemia (Bacterial Infection) In Dogs

When presenting signs indicative of tularemia, the vet will delve deeply into your dog's recent history, especially any potential interactions with wildlife or other known carriers of the infection. A routine physical check-up is performed, complemented by a comprehensive blood analysis and chemistry panel. If preliminary findings based on the exam and history suggest tularemia, treatment might commence even before a conclusive diagnosis. A test to culture the bacteria is also typically requested.

The manifestations of tularemia can be easily confused with those of other bacterial infections like pseudotuberculosis and the plague. Therefore, to confirm the diagnosis, it's essential to identify the bacterium through culturing or antibody tests. If tularemia isn't addressed in time, it's often pinpointed posthumously during an autopsy. Furthermore, in specific locales, informing local health departments about a tularemia diagnosis might be mandatory.

Treatment Of Tularemia (Bacterial Infection) In Dogs

Prompt intervention is crucial for effectively addressing and alleviating the symptoms. Many fatalities can occur if the condition is not treated in its initial stages. The vet will recommend antibiotics to manage the infection and associated symptoms. A full recovery might necessitate several days of antibiotic treatment for your dog.

Recovery Of Tularemia (Bacterial Infection) In Dogs

Ensuring your pet takes the entire course of prescribed antibiotics is pivotal for their health when dealing with this ailment. Isolating your dog can help curb the spread of the bacteria within your home, and this isolation also lets you maintain a more controlled environment. A peaceful and serene setting aids in faster recovery, and it's beneficial to keep food and water easily accessible for your dog. It's important to dispose of any waste, using gloves for safety promptly. Given the contagious nature of this disease across species, maintaining rigorous hygiene, like frequent and thorough hand washing, is crucial when caring for your pet. High-risk groups like pregnant women, the elderly, and young children should be especially cautious when involved in recovery, as they're more susceptible to contracting the infection.

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