We describe tularaemia in a Norwegian dog caused by Francisella tularensis subspecies holarctica. A Hamilton Hound and his owner developed tulaeremia after hunting an infected mountain hare (Lepus timidus). The dog showed signs of lethargy, anorexia and fever during a period two to four days after hunting and thereafter fully recovered. Its antibody titers increased 32-fold from one to three weeks post exposure. Thereafter, the titer declined and leveled off at moderate positive values up to one year after exposure (end of study). This is believed to be the first case report of clinical F. tularensis subspecies holarctica infection in a European dog. In 2011, enormous numbers of Norway lemmings (Lemmus lemmus) occurred in Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway and many dogs caught and swallowed lemmings. Some of these dogs developed non-specific signs of disease and the owners consulted a veterinary surgeon, who suspected tularaemia. In order to investigate this hypothesis, serum samples from 33 dogs were examined for antibodies to F. tularensis. The dogs were allocated into three groups: Dogs from Finnmark that became sick (Group 1) or remained healthy following contact with lemmings (Group 2), and healthy control dogs from Oslo without known contact with lemmings (Group 3). All the serum samples were analyzed with a tube agglutination assay. Among dogs exposed to lemmings, 10/11 and 3/12 were antibody positive in Group 1 and Group 2, respectively, whereas none of the control dogs (n=10) were positive for antibodies against F. tularensis. These results strongly indicate that the non-specific disease seen in the dogs in Finnmark was linked to F. tularensis infection acquired through contact with lemmings.
Keywords: Dogs; Francisella tularensis subspecies holarctica; Hares; Humans; Lemmings; Tularaemia.
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