Is your dog showing symptoms such as loss of appetite, listlessness, and a fever? Did he recently attack or eat a rabbit? Your dog might be suffering from a disease called rabbit fever, which is more properly known as tularemia. Here's what you need to know as a dog owner.
What causes rabbit fever?
As the name suggests, the disease is contracted when a dog eats or bites a rabbit that is infected with the tularemia bacteria, Francisella tularensis. Dogs are less likely to contract the disease than cats, in part because they are less likely to attack rabbits. But if you have seen your dog interacting with a rabbit and are now noticing the tularemia symptoms described above, there's a good chance your dog is infected.
Tularemia can also be spread by ticks. The tick may bite the infected rabbit or another infected dog, and then pass the bacteria on to your dog when it latches on to your dog's skin.
What can your vet do about tularemia?
Tularemia certainly requires professional veterinary treatment. Your vet will conduct a simple blood test in order to diagnose your dog. If tularemia infection is confirmed, your dog will be given antibiotics to help his or her body clear the infection. Streptomycin is a common choice, though some vets have begun using newer antibiotics, like ciprofloxacin, to treat tularemia since the bacteria are less likely to be resistant to these medications.
Your dog will likely start to look and feel much better after a few days on antibiotic treatment, but it's important to continue giving the pills for as long as your vet recommends.
Can you get tularemia from your dog?
Humans can contract tularemia, but the chance of you getting it from your dog is quite slim. You are far more likely to get it from a tick bite. Practice good hygiene around your dog. Do not have direct hand contact with his blood, and you should be fine.
How can you protect your dog against tularemia?
To keep your dog from getting tularemia again, make sure you limit his contact with rabbits. Work with a trainer to help you discourage him from chasing rabbits in the yard. Consider having the rabbits in your yard trapped and relocated so that they do not continue spreading disease. Also, use a tick repellent medication on your dog so that he or she does not get bitten by an infected tick.
Contact a company like Kenmore Veterinary Hospital for more information and assistance.