Welcome to the first edition of “Ask the Doc”. A chance for you to ask me those burning questions that are keeping you up at night, and have you concerned for Fluffy’s best interest. Remember that some of these questions may have been edited slightly in order to provide information that will be deemed informative and useful to a wide number of our patients and clients. Therefore, without further adieu, let us get started.
I overheard someone discussing an article they read in the paper talking about “Rabbit Fever”. What is this disease and should I be concerned about it?
As of late, social media has managed to make mountains out of molehills when discussing a variety of topics (Trifexis, Beneful, The Kardashians) Most of us understand that the articles we see posted on Facebook, etc. can sometimes lack important details, or inflate the truth; but what about those articles we see in print in our local newspaper?
I have been informed that a local paper recently ran an article about “Rabbit Fever” (which in fancy “doctor terms” translates to tularemia). We’ve had a handful of clients ask questions about the article during regular appointments, and at least one individual stop by due to concerns of a cherished pet contracting the disease or even worse, the risk of human infection. I was able to find the actual article fairly easily online (click here), and I must say our local paper did a great job covering the basics.
Tularemia is a disease that has been confirmed in Champaign County, however if you look at the statistics presented in this article the chances of you or your pet contracting the disease are slim.
“This year, there has been at least one confirmed animal case of tularemia in Champaign County, in a rabbit brought to the University of Illinois’ wildlife medical clinic this past May”
If you only knew the number of patients that are seen by the Wildlife Medical Clinic at U of I you would understand what a small representation of the general population that one rabbit represents. That being said, if your pet is frequently outdoors unattended, and has been known to make a snack out of surrounding wildlife, they will unfortunately be at higher risk for contracting the disease than say Snowball who enjoys whiling the hours away perched precariously atop a windowsill indoors. In addition cats seem to be more susceptible to this disease than dogs so it is especially important to take precautionary measures with our feline friends.
The clinical signs of this disease are variable. Tularemia signs can range from nonclinical infection to mild illness with enlarged lymph nodes and fever to severe overwhelming infection and death. In addition to fever, signs may include anorexia, dehydration, listlessness, draining abscesses, oral or lingual ulceration, pneumonia, enlarged liver and/or spleen, and icterus.
In order to reduce your pet’s risk of contracting this disease I recommend you take the following precautions:
- Keep an eye on your cats and dogs while they are outdoors, and immediately discourage any interaction with wildlife
- Use flea and tick prevention as directed by your veterinarian to reduce risk of transmission by a tick carrying the disease.
- Keep your pets from drinking water or eating food that could potentially be contaminated.
- If you see a dead rodent or animal in your yard, or in an area your pet frequents and you feel you MUST remove it use gloves plus face and eye protection to keep yourself healthy as well.
As always if you feel your pet has become ill, be sure to be seen by your veterinarian. If your pet has recently been in contact with small wildlife make sure your vet is aware, particularly if illness persists after initial diagnostics and treatment.