Bacterial Disease (Tularemia) in Prairie Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 14, 2010

Tularemia in Prairie Dogs

Though rarely encountered among prairie dogs, tularemia spreads quickly and is fatal in almost all cases. The bacteria Francisella tularensis, which is transmitted to prairie dogs from infected ticks or mosquitoes, ultimately causes tularemia. And due to its ability to infect humans, prairie dogs with tularemia or those that have been exposed to infected animals should be euthanized.


  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Rough hair coat
  • Loss of coordination


Tularemia is transmitted from the bites of ticks and mosquitoes infected with the Francisella tularensis bacteria.


Diagnosis is typically made during a post-mortem examination, in which the veterinarian notices bleeding in the lungs, an enlarged liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. However, X-rays may also reveal enlargement of the liver and spleen while the prairie dog is still alive.


Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the tularemia disease in prairie dogs. Moreover, due to the risk of transmitting the disease to humans, infected prairie dogs are often euthanized.

Living and Management

Though the general outcome of the prairie dogs affected with tularemia is poor, steps can be taken to make the living condition of the affected prairie dog more stress-free. Clean and disinfect the cages regularly and provide fresh drinking water and food.

In addition, due to the highly contagious nature of tularemia, wear gloves when cleaning the cage and disposing of contaminated materials. Wash your hands and arms thoroughly, and do not allow the infected prairie dog to come in contact with other animals.


To prevent tularemia infec­tion, practice good animal husbandry and sanitize and disinfect your prairie dog’s living area regularly. In addition, minimize your pet's exposure to ticks and mosquitoes and promptly treat any evidence of tick infestation.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health