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Tularemia in Dogs - Symptoms & Treatment

Tularemia, also called 'Rabbit Fever' is a bacterial disease that is generally mild in healthy dogs but can be deadly for pets that are immune-compromised. Our Orange County vets explain how your dog could contract Tularemia and what you should do if your pooch is showing symptoms of this condition.

What is Tularemia?

Tularemia, also known as 'Rabbit Fever' is a bacterial disease seen in pets across the United States. As the name 'rabbit fever' suggests, this disease is most often seen in rabbits, hares and rodents but can affect people and pets.

Tularemia 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

It's fairly unusual for dogs to contract Tularemia however this condition can be transmitted to dogs in a number of ways including:

  • 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
  • Inhalation of the bacteria
  • Skin to skin contact 

Our Orange County vets most often see cases of Tularemia in dogs during the summer months when tick and deer fly populations are on the upsurge, and in dogs that go rabbit hunting with their owners. 

Tularemia Symptoms in Dogs

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. Nonetheless, if your pup has a compromised immune system or is very young the disease can become serious.

If your dog is suffering from Tularemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • 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 dog shows any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet right away. 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

Tularemia in dogs is typically treated with an antibiotic such as Streptomycin to help combat the bacteria. When your dog is being treated with antibiotics, 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.

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 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of Tularemia? Our Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialist has experience in the diagnosis and treatment of tick borne diseases including Tularemia in dogs. Contact us to find out how to make an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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Contact (949) 201-4100