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Protect your pets from Tularemia or Rabbit Fever in the Grand Valley

tularemia or rabbit fever
The most common signs of rabbit fever or tularemia are fever, swollen lymph nodes, abdominal pain, abscesses, skin lesions, anorexia and weakness.

By Dr. Caylie McClure, DVM

As you have probably heard, Mesa County Health Department announced that rabbits have tested positive for tularemia or rabbit fever in the Grand Valley. This is considered a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is contagious to humans and pets. Here is some information regarding tularemia and as always, please feel free to contact us with further concerns.

Also known as deerfly fever or rabbit fever, it is the disease caused by the gram negative bacteria Francisella tularensisis, which is endemic to most of the northern hemisphere. The infectious disease is found in rabbits, prairie dogs and other rodents annually, particularly in Whitewater and the neighborhoods just east and just west of Colorado National Monument. However, other wild vertebrates may also act as hosts for F. tularensisis. 

Humans and pets can contract the bacteria in several ways

  • Ticks are the most common way the bacteria is transferred.
  • Biting insects such as flies and fleas can also transfer F. tularensisis from one animal to another.
  • Direct contact with an infected animal, infected water, or breathing airborne particles while butchering infected animals.

Best methods to reduce your risk of exposure to tularemia or rabbit fever

  • Do not handle wildlife, especially rabbits whether they are alive or dead.
  • Use bug spray for yourself and flea/tick control products for your pet.
  • Prevent your pet from chasing or eating wild rabbits/rodents.
  • Check yourself and pets for ticks after being outdoors in summer.
  • Wear long pants and a mask while mowing or cutting weeds.

Rabbit Fever is treatable if diagnosed appropriately. Left untreated the disease may be fatal. If you have concerns that you or a pet may have contracted Rabbit Fever, seek professional medical care as soon as possible.  


Questions? Call 970-243-4007 or tap the Request Appointment button.