|Barked: Mon Feb 9, '09 7:57am PST |
|FEBRUARY 9, 2009 - RABBIT FEVER
I have never heard of Tularemia, Rabbit Fever, so in case you haven't either, I am passing along these educational articles on the subject. Especially important for doggers who are lucky enough to chase prey and those unlucky enough to get ticks and fleas from wildlife.
Tularemia (Rabbit Fever) in Dogs
Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Holly Nash, DVM, MS
Tularemia is a relatively rare bacterial disease of birds, animals, and people and is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It is also called 'rabbit fever.' What causes tularemia? Tularemia is caused by Francisella tularensis. There are two strains of this bacteria. Type A generally causes a more severe disease in people. Type B has a more complex life cycle than Type A. How is F. tularensis transmitted? In North America, F. tularensis is spread from animal to animal by four different ticks: Dermacentor andersoni, D. variabilis, D. occidentalis, and Amblyomma americanum. Ticks become infected through feeding on infected animals or birds and can transmit the bacteria to another animal any time during the tick's life cycle (2 years). Fleas, like ticks, can transmit tularemia because of their feeding habits. Dogs and cats can also become infected by eating infected rabbits or rodents. What are the symptoms of tularemia in pets? Dogs appear to be fairly resistant to the disease and the only symptoms may be loss of appetite, listlessness, and a low fever. Cats are more susceptible and may develop high fevers and swollen lymph nodes. Puppies and kittens are usually more severely affected than older animals. How is tularemia diagnosed? A blood test which tests for the animal's antibodies (proteins produced to fight off the infection) to F. tularensis is available. The antibodies may not be detected in the early phase of the disease since it takes some time for the body to make them. As the disease progresses, the antibody level will rise. Being able to grow F. tularensis in the laboratory from discharges or tissues from the affected animal is the sure way to diagnose the disease. How is tularemia treated? The best antibiotic to use to treat tularemia in dogs has not been determined. In people gentamicin and streptomycin are used. Newer antibiotics such as enrofloxacin (Baytril) and ciprofloxacin may be effective. How is tularemia prevented? As with other diseases transmitted by fleas or ticks, flea control and tick control are the foundations of prevention. Products which repel and kill ticks and fleas such as those containing permethrins (Bio Spot-Spot On for Dogs and K9 Advantix) are good choices for dogs. For dogs, tick collars containing the active ingredient amitraz are also used, sometimes in conjunction permethrin-containing products in those areas with high tick infestations. Restricting dogs from killing, eating, or coming into contact with dead rodents and rabbits is also important. What are the important points to remember about tularemia in people? People usually develop a lesion at the site of the tick bite which is called an 'indolent ulcer.' Enlarged lymph nodes are a common sign. If the bacteria was ingested (by eating undercooked rabbit, or off of unwashed hands after handling an infected rabbit), intestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur. The time from the exposure to the bacteria, either through ingestion or a tick bite, until symptoms occur is generally 3 days. It is important to note that F. tularensis can live in frozen rabbit meat for over 3 years.
From the government of Kentucky:
Division of Epidemiology
275 E. Main St.
Frankfort, KY 40621
(502) 564-3418 or 3261
What is Tularemia?
Tularemia is a zoonotic bacterial disease occurring in both animals and man. It is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most commonly associated with rabbits.
How is Tularemia spread?
People may become infected with Tularemia from the bite of infected ticks of several species, including the wood tick, dog tick and the lone star tick, and less commonly from bites from flies or mosquitoes. People also may be infected from handling the carcasses of infected animals, from eating improperly cooked meat from infected animals, from contaminated water sources, and from inhalation of dust from contaminated soil, hay or grain. On rare occasions a person may be infected from the bite wound of an animal that has a contaminated mouth from eating an animal that had tularemia.
Who is at risk?
Hunters are more at risk in the winter months if they handle the carcasses of infected animals and in the summer, children and people who spend a lot of time in areas that may have tick infestations.
The Symptoms of Tularemia
Tularemia most often presents with an ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the body and regional swelling of lymph nodes; there may only be lymph node enlargement. Ingestion of the organism produces a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhalation of the bacteria may produce a lung infection or primary septicemia (blood poisoning). Other rare forms of the disease also occur.Symptoms develop within 1 to 14 days, usually within 3-5 days.
How is Tularemia diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and confirmed through laboratory tests. Specific antibiotics prescribed by a physician. Long term immunity follows recovery, but reinfection has been reported.
How can Tularemia be prevented?
Avoid bites of ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.
Avoid drinking, bathing, swimming or working in untreated water.
Wear rubber gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
Thoroughly cook meat of rabbits and wild rodents before eating.
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