Although tularemia is a disease present in Asia, Europe and North AmericaLuckily it is not very common and if our rabbit remains inside the home it will be difficult for him to get it. Even so, in this article of Animal Expert we will talk about the tularemia in rabbits, how it occurs, what its symptoms are and how we can treat and prevent it. In this way we will prevent our rabbit from contracting a pathology that can be fatal and that, in addition, is a zoonosis, that is, a communicable disease to humans.

What is tularemia?

It is a bacterial disease caused by the Francisella tulariensis. It can affect lagomorphs and rodents, which will act as a reservoir, and cattle, cats, dogs or humans. In addition, it can be transmitted directly when it comes into contact with contaminated animals or environments or through the intervention of a vector, that is, an intermediate animal that can be a tick, a mosquito or horsefly.

The bacteria is very resistant in the environment, enduring even temperatures below zero and cleaning with bleach. You can live weeks or months. Instead, it shows sensitivity to common disinfectants and sunlight. The main characteristic of tularemia in rabbits is that they can remain asymptomatic and die suddenly.

How is tularemia spread in rabbits?

Rabbits can get tularemia by come into contact with contaminated environments, since the bacteria can be found in the soil, in vegetation or in the water. Contagion can also occur if they eat infected food or water. But, in addition, tularemia in rabbits can contract by inhalation and very important, by vector sting.

A rabbit that we have inside the house is going to be difficult for him to get sick, but we must not neglect his protection. Tularemia can affect human beings, which are going to spread, basically, in the same way as rabbits, that is, by bites, bites, contact with contaminated objects that cause chafing or cuts. The bacteria can also enter the body conjunctival, respiratory or digestive, causing a different symptomatology.

Symptoms of tularemia in rabbits

Tularemia in rabbits may happen asymptomatic and produce a generalized infection that causes the sudden death of the animal. In the milder cases we can observe symptoms such as fever, generalized weakness, ulcers or abscesses. In addition, rabbit behavior can change. Sick people tend to group together and have a rough, bad-looking layer of hair.

In humans it usually causes chills, muscle and joint pain, headaches, vomiting, etc. Likewise, depending on the entry point they will manifest specific symptoms. For example, in the case of vector bites, there may be ulcers and necrosis at the point of inoculation and inflammation of the nearest node. If the entry is by air, it occurs pneumonia. Digestively stomach flu. Individuals who overcome tularemia maintain immunity for years, although, after a while, a new infection could occur.

Tularemia treatment in rabbits

Tularemia in rabbits, as a bacterial disease that is, you fight with antibiotics The veterinarian should prescribe once the diagnosis is confirmed. For now, there is no vaccine for tularemia. Since it is a life-threatening pathology, prevention is our best weapon. In the next section we will detail the preventive measures.

How to prevent tularemia in rabbits?

For avoid tularemia in rabbits but, also, in human beings, it is convenient to observe the following guidelines:

  • Avoid contact with animals that we don't know and look bad.
  • Keep the rabbits inside.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Do not drink water whose origin is unknown.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well.
  • Cook the meat properly.
  • Deworming or use repellents to prevent vector transmission. For this, we recommend reviewing the article "The best products for deworming rabbits".
  • Wear gloves if we must manipulate apparently ill corpses or animals.
  • As always, go to the veterinarian or doctor for any suspicious symptoms.

Check the article on "The most common diseases in rabbits" to offer a correct general preventive medicine to your furry partner, since not only tularemia can affect them.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Tularemia in rabbits - Symptoms and treatment, we recommend that you enter our section on bacterial diseases.

(Rabbit fever, horsefly fever)

, MD, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University

The manipulation of corpses, the bite of a tick, the inhalation of infected vaporized particles and eating or drinking infected material can be a cause of the infection.

Symptoms include fever, ulcers and swollen lymph nodes.

To establish the diagnosis, doctors perform cultures of tissue or blood samples.

Antibiotic injections are almost always effective.

The prevention of tick bites, caring for the handling of corpses and water disinfection reduce the risk of tularemia.

Francisella tularensis It is usually present in animals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares. The ways of contagion of people can be the following:

Handle corpses of infected cattle or dead animals (such as when hunters skin rabbits, or when butchers, farmers, furriers and lab workers handle animals or animal products)

Suffer the bite of an infected tick, a horsefly or other insects, usually during the summer (especially in children)

Eat or drink contaminated food (such as undercooked rabbit meat) or untreated water

Inhalation of airborne particles that contain the bacteria (such as when mowing the grass is passed over the corpse of an infected animal or when bacteria are handled in the laboratory)

Francisella tularensis It is a potential biological weapon, the bacteria is transmitted through the air and can be inhaled. The size of the particles in the air determines where the small particles are lodged in the respiratory tract and lodge in the pulmonary alveoli and cause pneumonia.

Tularemia is not spread from person to person.

Spread through the bloodstream

The infection can spread through the bloodstream and infect:

The lungs (causing pneumonia)

The membrane around the heart (and cause pericarditis)

The membrane that covers the abdominal cavity (and cause peritonitis)

Heart valves

The tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord (and cause meningitis)

Sometimes pus accumulates in the lungs, forming an abscess.


It is the most frequent type. Open and painful sores appear where bacteria have penetrated the skin: through a break in the skin, usually in the hands and fingers, or a tick bite, usually in the groin, armpits or trunk .

Bacteria travel to nearby lymph nodes, causing swelling and pain. In some cases, the skin around the lymph nodes ruptures and suppurates pus.

The lymph nodes swell and hurt, but do not form ulcers.


The throat (pharynx) hurts and the lymph nodes in the neck swell. Some people also have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Oropharyngeal tularemia usually occurs when eating undercooked contaminated meat.

Chills, high fever and abdominal pain develop, but ulcers do not form and lymph nodes do not swell.

Typhoid tularemia develops when the blood is infected. Sometimes the source of infection is unknown.

The lungs are infected. People have dry cough, shortness of breath and chest pain.

Pneumonic tularemia is caused by the inhalation of the bacteria or its spread to the lungs through the bloodstream, and develops in about 10 to 15% of people with ulceroglandular tularemia and in 50% of people with typhoid tularemia .


This rare type is the most serious. It is a disease that affects the entire organism and develops when bacteria spread through the bloodstream and cause the dysfunction of many organs.

Blood pressure is low, the lungs fill with fluid and blood clotting factors become depleted, causing bleeding (disseminated intravascular coagulation).


With the right treatment, almost all those affected recover. Without treatment, mortality ranges from 6% in people with ulceroglandular tularemia and up to 33% in people with typhoid, pneumonic or septicemic tularemia. Death is usually the result of a massive infection, pneumonia, meningitis or peritonitis.

Relapses are rare but may occur if treatment is inadequate. People who have had tularemia are immune to reinfection.

Tularemia diagnosis

Culture and analysis of blood samples and / or other infected fluids

The doctor suspects the presence of tularemia in a person with sudden fever, enlarged lymph nodes and ulceration characteristics after being exposed to ticks or horseflies, or having had even light contact with a wild mammal (in special a rabbit).

Samples of infected material, such as blood, fluids from a lymph node, pus from ulcers or sputum are taken. The samples are sent to the laboratory to perform a bacterial culture. Blood can also be tested for antibodies against the bacteria.

Tularemia Prevention

If visiting an area where tularemia is common, the following recommendations should be followed:

Apply to exposed skin insect repellent containing 25 to 30% diethyltoluamide (DEET)

Wear items treated with a repellent containing permethrin

Do not get off roads and trails in forested areas

Walk the center of the road to avoid rubbing with bushes and weeds

Wear long pants and put them inside the socks and boots

Search ticks thoroughly on clothing, on the body, on other family members and on pets

Do not drink or bathe, swim or work in untreated water, which could be contaminated

The immediate location of ticks helps prevent infection, since transmission usually requires that ticks remain attached for 4 or more hours. If ticks are found, they must be ripped off immediately (see How to avoid tick bites).

When handling rabbits and rodents, protective clothing (such as rubber gloves and masks) should be worn because they may have bacterial infestation. Wild and game birds should be consumed very well cooked.

Currently, there is no vaccine available, but some are currently under study. After exposure to the bacteria (for example, after a laboratory accident), antibiotics such as doxycycline or ciprofloxacin are given to prevent infection from developing.