Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in cats occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes acute illness, enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal pain, jaundice, and organ system failure. Diagnosis includes physical exam, baseline bloodwork, and urine tests, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment requires hospitalization and supportive care including IV fluids and antibiotics. Prognosis is guarded to poor depending on how early treatment is initiated. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.
A zoonosis is a disease or infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Although cats only pose a mild risk of causing disease in humans, those with immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV or those receiving chemotherapy are at higher risk of becoming ill from these infections. The most common and significant infections that humans can get from their cats include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and ringworm. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are not zoonotic. Hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of these diseases, as well as preventive medicine for your cat, including regular deworming and external parasite preventives. Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to zoonotic diseases.