Tularemia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Also known as Rabbit Fever, tularemia is a bacterial disease that’s typically mild in healthy dogs. However, it can be deadly for pets that are immune-compromised. Our Westport vets explain how dogs contract the disease and what you should do if your pup is displaying symptoms. 


What is Tularemia?

A relatively rare bacterial disease found across the United States, Canada and Mexico, tularemia is also referred to as Rabbit Fever.

Just like the name ‘Rabbit Fever’ suggests, this disease is most commonly seen in rabbits, rodents and hares my can also impact people in addition to domestic and wild animals.

Cases of tularemia mostly come to our Westport vets in the summer months, when deer fly and tick populations are on the upswing, and during winter rabbit hunting season.

Read below for our vets' insights into causes, symptoms and potential treatments for dogs diagnosed with tularemia. 

Tularemia in Dogs, Westport Vets

Causes of Rabbit Fever in Dogs

While it’s fairly unusual for dogs to contract tularemia, this disease can be transmitted to dogs in numerous ways, including:

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Consuming water or food contaminated with the bacteria
  • Inhalation of the bacteria
  • Being bitten by an infected inset stitch as mosquitoes, ticks or fleas
  • Ingesting an infected animal such as a rodent, hare or rabbit

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:

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

If your canine companion shows signs of any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet as soon as possible. While these symptoms could indicate tularemia, they may also be a sign of another serious illness affecting your dog's health.

Treatment for Tularemia in Dogs

Dogs 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 is important to note that this bacteria can be passed to humans! So it is essential 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 if possible. Also, stay vigilant about hygiene practices while caring for your pet, be sure to wash your hands with soap thoroughly and frequently.

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.

Is your dog experiencing symptoms of tularemia or other illness? Contact our veterinary team at Poster Veterinary Associates as soon as possible to book an appointment for testing. Our experienced vets can diagnose many conditions and diseases in dogs and cats.

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