Setting out on a successful rabbit hunt requires much preparation and precaution. We try to do this just so in order to maintain our own health as well as that of our dogs. Whether it is bringing ample food and water or having a fully stocked first aid kit on hand, we do what is necessary to ensure things go smoothly before, during, and after the hunt, but the time period between hunts is no exception to when it comes to maintaining a healthy ritual.
Something rabbit hunters should be wary of and incorporate into a preparedness plan is tularemia or rabbit fever. Tularemia is a bacteria that typically affects animals such as rabbits and hares in addition to being present in other mammals up to and including dogs as well as humans. Rabbit fever is highly contagious and is spread via insect bites, contaminated food/water, airborne bacteria, and/or during the handling of sick or dead animals. Bacteria can also remain in the soil where an animal has died for a lengthy period of time.
Photo: The Denver Channel
Though it may be only during hunting seas that you give thought to Tularemia, it is not only a threat during that particular time of year. In fact, new cases of Tularemia are being currently seen as two new human cases have recently begun to make headlines following a previous human case back in May. Additionally, two rabbits, one prairie dog, and one dog have also been diagnosed this year. None of the persons who contracted Tularemia were doing anything rabbit related at the time, but were instead simply doing yardwork. All of these cases were in Colorado, a state that had 11 cases the previous year.
As rabbit hunters, it is always in the back of our minds that we could be faced with illness such as Tularemia and therefore we should be taking steps to prevent contracting it. However, the recent emergence of new cases should serve as a reminder that Tularemia is indeed present and the associated bacteria does not take a day off, so neither should our preventative measures.
Since Tularemia is often spread through insect bites, it is this time of year especially that we should pay attention to the bugs that bite us and our dogs. This means applying pest repellent (DEET, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil) to yourself when spending time in the outdoors as well as keeping up with similar products for your rabbit dogs such as spot on treatments like Frontline. Another useful trick is to roll a disposable lint roller over pets as that will catch some ticks before they imbed. Keep kennels and yards clean and treat them periodically with pesticides that are safe for dogs such as those that attach directly to your garden hose for convenient spraying. Repelling bugs such as mosquitos, flies, fleas, and ticks will aid in disease prevention while at the same time increasing the comfort level of your dogs.
In the meantime, if you suspect you or your dogs have been exposed to Tularemia, seek medical care immediately. Symptoms, which appear within 2-10 days of infection, are as follows:
Signs of infection in humans include but are not limited to:
- Dry Cough
- Inflamed Eyes
- Joint Pain
- Labored Breathing
- Mouth Sores
- Muscle Aches
- Skin ulcers
- Sore throat
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Signs of an infected dog include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal Tenderness
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes
- Enlarged Spleen and/or Liver
- Loss of Appetite
- Jaundice (Yellowing of the Eyes)
- Ulcerated Tongue
Since insect populations are rising this time of year, so should your preventative measures. Administer pest repellant as needed to both your animals and yourself. Also take care to handle any deceased animals, using gloves and respiratory protection. Be sure that any rabbit meat you pull out of the freezer is cooked thoroughly. With a little luck, none of the 100-150 annual cases of Tularemia will hit close to home for you.
Have you or your dogs ever encountered Tularemia? If so, how did you proceed? Tell us about it in the comments.