Tularemia in Dogs results from the bacterial toxins produced in animals and humans by Francisella tularensis, a bacterium that prefers moist conditions. There are two main types; they produce tularemia of different severity. The one that causes the more severe form of the disease is termed Type A. It is more prevalent the North American countries. The milder form of tularemia results from Type B bacteria which is more common in Europe and Asia, besides North America. This form is often contracted through drinking contaminated wate,r or through contact with animals that live in water.
Sheep are the most commonly infected animal among those domesticated by man, but the disease occurs in horses, dogs and pigs as well. Mild form of the disease may go unnoticed in pets and other domestic animals. In the wild, animals of the rodent family such as rabbits, muskrat, voles and beaver are the most affected in the American continent. The disease is concentrated in Western and South central regions of the United States, especially in Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Missouri. In Asia and Europe, lemmings, field mice, and voles, are more prone to tularemia.
The transmission of the disease can be via different ways, with tick bites leading the way. The bacteria get transferred when the tick that had previously bitten an infected person bites a healthy person later. Touching dead animals in order to clean them can directly transmit the infection to people as the bacteria remain alive in moist tissue for a long time. Eating meat that is not thoroughly cooked can also be a cause tularemia. Since the bacteria survive in water, drinking from brooks and springs can also cause infection.
Symptoms of tularemia include high fever, lack of appetite and general weakness. Dogs may have reduced mobility due to stiffness. Rapid breathing and high pulse rate are observed. Gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, along with throat infection. Coughing, pneumonia, and enlargement of glands may be present. The dog may urinate frequently. Within a few days it may succumb to the disease. In extreme cases it can happen within the same day too. On the other hand, mild cases may not display any of the above symptoms.
Antibiotic therapy is the main treatment against tularemia. Initiating the treatment sufficiently early may prevent fatality. The treatment may have to be continued for a long time to get rid of the causative agents completely. Controlling the disease or its spread to other animals is not easy, but preventing tick infestation helps in containing the infection. If the dog recovers from the disease, it will be immune to it for a long time.