Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource


Synonyms: Rabbit Fever, Deer Fly Fever, Meat Cutter's Disease, Ohara Disease, Francis Disease

Tularemia is a bacterial disease caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, that affects many mammals, particularly rabbits, hares, and various rodents. This disease is transmitted by ticks, lice, mosquitos, horseflies and biting flies. It can also be transmitted via ingestion and inhalation. It is very rarely reported in horses and when it is, it is often accompanied by a severe tick infestation. Signs of this disease in horses apparently include fever, shortness of breath (dyspnea), incoordination, and depression.

Tularemia is a reportable disease, meaning that if a horse has or is suspected of having this disease, vets are required to report it to agricultural authorities (usually the State Veterinarian). These authorities may investigate the case as part of a larger effort to monitor equine health and coordinate with other states and the USDA APHIS in preventing the spread of illness or disease on a national and international level.

Tularemia is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transferred from an infected animal to humans who handle or are bitten by infected animals. If you have been exposed to a horse or other animal with (or suspected of having) Tularemia you should contact your doctor.


  • Is Tularemia a possibility, considering my horse's signs?
  • How can you rule it out?
  • Am I (or my other animals) at risk for infection?
  • What should I look for?

    Tick and external parasite prevention. Prevent exposure to rabbits and rodents, which are the main carriers of the disease.

    Good facilities management to decrease the population of rodents is recommended, including the use of traps and bait. Remove brush piles where rodents like to live. Keep your tack room clean and keep all grain and treats in sturdy trash cans or plastic bins with lids.

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


    USDA-APHIS Wildlife Damage Management: Tularemia Surveillance. Available at: Accessed 2013.


    We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.