Tularemia in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Recognizing the Symptoms and Treatment of Tularemia in Cats

Tularemia in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-a-cute-cat-lying-down-14840581/

A bacterial infection known as tularemia, or "rabbit fever," may afflict a number of animals, including cats. In this article, we break down its effect and treatments with cats.

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is a bacterial infection that can affect a variety of animals, including cats. Although rare, tularemia in cats can have serious health implications if not promptly diagnosed and treated. This disease is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which can be transmitted to cats through bites from infected ticks, fleas, or other insects. It could also be caused by cats eating rabbits or rodents. 

In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for tularemia in cats.

What Causes Feline Tularemia?

Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which can be found in a variety of animals, including rabbits, rodents, and other small mammals. Cats can become infected with tularemia through a variety of routes, including bites from infected ticks or fleas or by consuming infected prey. Additionally, tularemia can also be contracted through direct contact with infected tissues or bodily fluids or by inhaling airborne particles contaminated with the bacterium.

Further, contact with contaminated soil or water, as well as handling diseased animals or corpses, might result in infection. Since the bacteria may briefly live outside of a host, environmental pollution may contribute to the spread of the infection.

Note that tularemia is a highly infectious disease and can be transmitted to humans as well as other animals, making prompt diagnosis and treatment critical.

Tularemia Symptoms in Cats

Depending on the source of infection, tularemia can produce a variety of symptoms in affected cats. The following are a few typical signs of tularemia in cats:

  • Fever: A high body temperature is a common sign of tularemia in cats.

  • Loss of appetite: Many infected cats will stop eating or show a reduced interest in food.

  • Lethargy: Cats with tularemia may become sluggish or inactive and may sleep more than usual.

  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes near the site of infection may become enlarged and tender.

  • Respiratory symptoms: Tularemia in cats can cause respiratory symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or breathing problems.

  • Skin lesions: In some cases, tularemia can cause skin lesions or ulcerations at the site of infection.


  • Physical examination: Your cat will get a physical examination from your vet at which time they'll search for any indications of an illness, such as enlarged lymph nodes or skin sores.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) or serum biochemistry profile, can help to identify an underlying infection and determine the severity of the illness.

  • Microbiological culture: Samples of blood, tissue, or other body fluids can be cultured to identify the presence of the Francisella tularensis bacterium.

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing: PCR is a highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect the presence of the tularemia bacterium in a sample of tissue or bodily fluid.

  • Serological testing: When the tularemia bacterium cannot be identified by culture, blood tests that look for antibodies to the organism can help confirm a diagnosis of the illness.

Tularemia Treatment and Recovery

The following are some typical treatments for feline tularemia:

  • Antibiotics: Tularemia is a bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics such as CLAVAMOX, GENTAMICIN, or DOXYCYCLINE. The duration of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection and the response to therapy.

  • Supportive care: Cats with tularemia may require supportive care, such as IV fluids and nutritional care, to help them recover.

  • Isolation: Cats with tularemia should be kept in isolation to prevent the spread of the disease to other animals or humans.

Preventive Measures

Tularemia prevention in cats can help to protect them from this dangerous bacterial infection. There are several precautions cat owners can take, including the ones listed below:

  • Tick and flea control: Regular use of tick and flea preventives can help to reduce the risk of transmission of tularemia and other diseases.

  • Rodent control: Your cat's exposure to sick prey can be reduced by reducing the number of rodents in and around your house.

  • Avoid handling sick or dead animals: Avoid handling sick or dead animals, including rabbits or rodents, as they may be carrying the tularemia bacterium.

  • Wash hands: After handling your cat or touching potentially infected objects, always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Avoid feeding raw meat: Tularemia can be transmitted through infected prey, so it is best to avoid feeding your cat raw meat, especially if it comes from unknown sources. Instead, let your cat eat from properly packed protein sources.

Tularemia recovery can take many weeks. Therefore, owners must follow their veterinarian's advice and finish the entire course of medication to avoid the emergence of antibiotic resistance. It's also advised to schedule routine visits with your vet so you can follow your cat's development and make sure the illness has completely disappeared.

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