Beware of Tularemia That Might Attack Your Rabbit! Here are 7 Facts

Dear fellow animal lovers! Who doesn’t want healthy and happy animal friends? Whether we raise them for their sweet companies or commercial purposes, their wellness are our responsibility. Remember, happy animals will make happy owners, and vice-versa. Our favorite fluffy ball, rabbits, are no exception to that.

One of the diseases that might attack your rabbit is this one called tularemia. Perhaps some of you have heard about it, but don’t worry if you haven’t because we’ll update you. Tularemia is a contagious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis which is found in small mammals like rabbits, and arthropods, like ticks. It is also known as rabbit fever due to its commonly found in rabbits.

You may want to beware of tularemia that might attack your rabbits. Here are some facts you need to know!

It could attack humans

Yup, you read it right. This the most important reason why you have to be aware of tularemia that might attack your rabbits; it can be passed to humans, too. That’s why it is included in zoonotic diseases related to rabbits, things all rabbits owner should be aware of.

You can get affected by direct contact with contaminated rabbits or their materials, by ingestion of poorly cooked flesh of infected rabbits, contaminated water, as well as by inhalation of contaminated dust. However, it doesn’t spread directly between people.

It could be used as biological weapons

As frightening as it sounds, the bacterium F. tularensis that caused tularemia is seen as a viable biological warfare agent. The bacterium has been included in the biological warfare programs of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan at various times.

Some reasons why F. tularensis was viewed as an attractive agent for biological weapons are because it is easy to aerosolize, highly infective, nonpersistent and easy to decontaminate, highly incapacitating to infected persons, and comparatively low lethality, which is useful where enemy soldiers are in proximity to noncombatants, like civilians.

Six types of tularemia

There are several types of tularemia, and which type that you may get depends on how and where the bacteria enter the body. Each type of tularemia has its own symptoms.

  1. Ulceroglandular tularemia

This is the most common form of the disease and attacks the skin. The infection commonly passed by biting with the symptoms including a skin ulcer, swollen and painful lymph glands, fever, chills, headache, and exhaustion.

  1. Glandular tularemia

People with glandular tularemia will have the same signs and symptoms of ulceroglandular tularemia but minus skin ulcers.

  1. Oculoglandular tularemia

This type of tularemia affects the eyes and may cause eye pain, eye redness, eye swelling and discharge, an ulcer on the inside of the eyelid, also increase sensitivity to light.

  1. Oropharyngeal tularemia

Usually caused by eating poorly cooked rabbits meat or drinking contaminated water. This type of disease affects the mouth, throat and digestive tract. Signs and symptoms including fever, throat pain, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, inflamed tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

  1. Pneumonic tularemia

Just like its name, this type of tularemia causes signs and symptoms typical of pneumonia such as dry cough, chest pain, also difficulty breathing.

  1. Typhoidal tularemia

This is the rarest and most serious form of the disease that also can spread to the lungs. Infection in typhoid will cause high fever, extreme exhaustion, vomiting and diarrhea, enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), as well as pneumonia.

Symptoms in rabbits

We’ve talked about symptoms in humans, but what if it attacks your rabbits? For most of the susceptible mammals like rabbits, hares, and rodents, the clinical signs have not been described well because the infected animals have usually found dead. But experimentally, infected rabbits may exhibit fever, weaknesses, loss of appetite, signs of sepsis, regional lymphadenopathy, and abscesses, with death usually happens in 8 to 14 days.

People at risk

Although everyone may get infected, doing certain occupations or activities or living in certain areas pose a greater risk. If you are living in or going to places where tularemia has been reported, you may have a higher risk of getting infected. 

Some occupations also have a high risk with tularemia including hunter, gardener, landscaper, also people who work in wildlife management or veterinary medicine.

How to prevent it

As Desiderius Erasmus once said that prevention is better than cure, the best way to treat this illness is by preventing it from happening. Follow these measures below to keep you, your rabbits, and your family healthy.

  • Because ticks and flies also spread this disease, always use insect repellent containing DEET on your skin and clothing to prevent insect bites. Especially if you are living in the flies-friendly area.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands, using soap and warm water, after handling rabbits and their carcasses.
  • Cook your food thoroughly and make sure your water is from a safe source.
  • Protect your pets by avoiding getting them outside unsupervised, providing them with flea and tick protection, and don’t let them come in close contact with wild or dead animals.


If the worst case happens, you get bitten by rabbits or other infected animals, go to your doctor immediately. Take any signs of sickness within three to five days after being exposed to what may infect you with tularemia as a warning. Take note that tularemia can be fatal if left untreated and may lead to complications like pneumonia, meningitis, pericarditis, and osteomyelitis. 

Antibiotics usually are given to both rabbits and humans. Streptomycin and tetracycline are antibiotics for treating wild and domestic animals. For humans, your doctor most likely to prescribe streptomycin, with tetracyclines, gentamicin, and chloramphenicol as alternatives. 

In the end, we hope these facts above help to raise your awareness of tularemia. Always keep in touch with your vet and ask for advice from your fellow rabbits’ owner won’t hurt. We sincerely hope for your rabbits and your own healthiness. Good luck!