Veterinary Alert

board of animal health

Veterinary Alert

First domestic cat confirmed with Tularemia in 2022

A Ramsey County domestic female cat was confirmed to have tularemia on July 1, 2022. The cat is an indoor/outdoor pet in St. Paul’s Midway Neighborhood. The cat went missing for five days and when it returned on June 23 it had signs of lethargy, anorexia, ocular discharge, and weight loss. A veterinarian examined her the next day and recorded a fever of 105.5°F and lymphadenopathy of the submandibular lymph nodes. The cat was treated with cefovecin and orbifloxacin antibiotics and supportive care and discharged. Tularemia serology testing was positive on July 1. At the time of this alert, the cat has responded well to treatment and all clinical signs have resolved.

There were no ticks found on the cat at the time of diagnosis, and there are no nearby bodies of water she would have had access to while outside. Rabbit carcasses have been found in the yard, and the cat is known to kill mice. The most likely exposure to tularemia bacterium was contact with wild animals.

This is the Board’s first reported case of Tularemia in 2022 in Minnesota. Veterinarians should be on alert for this zoonotic disease in both urban and rural settings.

Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which affects a wide range of species. Cats are the most commonly infected domestic animals in Minnesota, and Tularemia has been confirmed in cats from rural, urban, and suburban environments. While outdoor or indoor/outdoor animals are at highest risk, tularemia has been identified in indoor cats with no obvious exposures. The most common clinical signs seen in these cases are high fever (104.5°F - 106.9°F), anorexia, and lethargy, and may also include lymphadenopathy and ulcerations of the tongue and palate. Treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive care, and the prognosis is generally very good.

Diagnosis is confirmed by culture of clinical specimens and serologically by a four-fold rise in titer. Every effort should be made to collect pre-treatment culture specimens from suspect cases. Please contact the U of M Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at 612-625-8787 prior to submitting animals for necropsy or clinical specimens for testing.

Humans can also acquire tularemia from infected animals or ticks; it is not transmitted person-to-person. The incubation period for tularemia in humans is generally 3-5 days, but symptoms could take up to 14 days to appear. Acute symptoms include sudden onset of fever, chills, joint and muscle pain, headache, and nausea. Please consult your healthcare provider and report suspect or confirmed cases to the Minnesota Department of Health if you have symptoms consistent with tularemia and have recently cared for a suspect tularemia patient.

Minnesota Department of Health: 651-201-5414 or 877-676-5414.

For more information regarding tularemia in people, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

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