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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Tularemia in Cats

By Otto M. Radostits, CM, DVM, MSc, DACVIM (Deceased), Professor Emeritus, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan ; Max J. Appel, DMV, PhD, Professor Emeritus ; David A. Ashford, DVM, MPH, DSc, Assistant Area Director, International Services, APHIS, USDA ; Stephen C. Barr, BVSc, MVS, PhD, DACVIM, Professor of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University ; J. P. Dubey, MVSc, PhD, Microbiologist, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, USDA ; Paul Ettestad, DVM, MS, State Public Health Veterinarian, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health ; Craig E. Greene, DVM, MS, Professor, Department of Small Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia ; Delores E. Hill, PhD, Parasitologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture ; Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Small Animal Consultant ; Eugene D. Janzen, DVM, MVS, Professor, Production Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary ; Jodie Low Choy, BVSc, BVMS, IVAS Cert, Menzies School of Health Research; University Avenue Veterinary Hospital, Northern Territory, Australia ; Dennis W. Macy, MS, DACVIM, Professor of Medicine and Oncology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,Colorado State University ; Dudley L. McCaw, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal, Oncology), Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University ; Barton W. Rohrbach, VMD, MPH, DACVPM, Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Tennessee ; J. Glenn Songer, PhD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, University of Arizona ; Richard A. Squires, BVSc (Hons), PhD, DVR, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, GCertEd, MRCVS, Head of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, James Cook University ; Bert E. Stromberg, PhD, Professor, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota ; Joseph Taboada, DVM, DACVIM, Professor and Associate Dean, Office of Student and Academic Affairs, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University ; Charles O. Thoen, DVM, PhD, Professor, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University ; John F. Timoney, MVB, PhD, Dsc, MRCVS, Keeneland Chair of Infectious Diseases, Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky ; Ian Tizard, BVMS, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Immunology; Director, Richard M. Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Also see professional content regarding tularemia.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease that affects people and many species of wild and domestic animals. It is caused by toxins in the blood produced by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. The bacteria can survive for weeks or months in a moist environment. There are 2 types of organisms that differ based on the severity of the disease they produce. Type A is more likely to cause severe disease and is found most commonly in North America. Disease resulting from Type B infection is less severe and occurs most commonly as a result of contact with aquatic animals or ingestion of contaminated water in North America and Eurasia. Cats and other carnivores may also acquire infection from eating an infected carcass.

In domestic animals, sheep are most often infected, but clinical infection has been reported in dogs, pigs, horses, and cats. Cats are at higher risk than many other domestic animals due to their predatory behavior. Cats also appear to have a greater susceptibility than other domes-ticated animals.

The disease can be transmitted from animals to humans by several routes. These include direct contact with bacteria in the tissue of infected animals, eating infected undercooked meat, being bitten by ticks or deer flies, and contact with contaminated water. Rarely, the bite of a cat that has recently fed on an infected animal has been found to be a source of human infection.

In most mammals, signs of illness may include heavy tick infestation, the sudden onset of high fever, swollen glands, lethargy, and poor appetite. Other signs such as stiffness, reduced mobility, increased pulse and respiratory rates, coughing, diarrhea, and frequent urination are occasionally seen. Prostration and death may occur in a few hours or days. In most cases, infection of domestic animals does not result in obvious signs of illness.

Animals with signs of disease are treated with an antibiotic. Early treatment should prevent death; however, prolonged treatment may be necessary. Control is difficult and is limited to reducing tick infestation, keeping pets confined to reduce predatory behavior, and rapid diagnosis and treatment. Animals that recover develop a long-lasting immunity.