4 Things Rabbit Owners Need To Know About Tularemia
Tularemia is a very infectious disease that can affect your pet rabbit. Here are four things you need to know about tularemia.
How does tularemia spread?
Tuleramia is caused by francisella tularensis bacteria. The natural reservoirs of this bacteria include wild rabbits, rodents, deer, and some types of birds. Direct contact with these infected animals can lead to tularemia. The bacteria can also spread through vectors like ticks or mosquitoes. Finally, the bacteria can also survive in water, soil, or grasses. You can reduce your rabbit's chance of getting sick by keeping them indoors and away from potentially-infected wildlife.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
Like other prey animals, rabbits are very good at hiding their illnesses, so it is easy to overlook the signs of tularemia. Clues that your rabbit isn't feeling well include changes in their behavior like not being interested in their favorite foods or toys. Rabbits with tularemia may also seem depressed and lethargic.
As the disease advances, it gets harder for your rabbit to hide the symptoms, and you may hear them coughing. Diarrhea is another possible sign of tularemia. Since these symptoms are fairly vague and could be attributed to many rabbit diseases, an autopsy is required to diagnose the disease. Vets look for signs like white spots on the liver or a swollen spleen to identify tularemia.
Can it be treated?
There is no effective treatment for this disease, so your vet may recommend euthanizing your rabbit to minimize their suffering. If treatment is attempted, it may include things like antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and painkillers, though you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that these treatments won't help.
Can you catch tularemia from your rabbit?
Tularemia is highly contagious, so you need to be very careful while handling and caring for your sick rabbit. Wear gloves and a mask, and as an extra precaution, wash your hands after removing the gloves. Even with these precautions, you could still get sick. Symptoms typically start within 14 days of being exposed to the bacteria and include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and diarrhea. Tell your doctor that you were recently in contact with a rabbit with tularemia to ensure that you get prompt treatment.
If you think your rabbit has tularemia, take them to an emergency vet like University Pet Hospital right away, and don't forget to protect your own health by wearing gloves and a mask.