Rickettsial Infection Average Cost

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Average Cost

$4,500

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What is Rickettsial Infection?

Rickettsial infections are caused by bacteria from the Rickettsia genus, which are often carried by arthropods such as ticks and fleas. There are several different types of the infection, with two more commonly seen in dogs. The infection may be treated with antibiotics, but the treatment needs to begin as soon as possible, which is why an early, correct diagnosis is important for a better outcome.

Rickettsia bacteria are the cause of several infections, including ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in canines. Ticks are absolutely the most common vectors of the bacteria for dogs, with three species being the most prevalent. Rickettsial infections may lead to severe clinic signs if allowed to progress to the chronic stage.

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Symptoms of Rickettsial Infection in Dogs

Symptoms of an infection with R. rickettsii include:
  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Depending on the stage, type, and severity of the infection, additional clinical signs may be present, including bleeding and swelling of the legs with ehrlichiosis and neurological signs with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Types
There are two types of rickettsial infections: ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Ehrlichiosis affected a significant number of military dogs in Vietnam during the 1970s and is now endemic in the southern United States. The disease may be acute, subacute, and/or chronic, depending on the length of infection.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is more prevalent in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. This infection tends to be more common in younger dogs, especially those that spend a large portion of their time outdoors.

Causes of Rickettsial Infection in Dogs

Rickettsia bacteria are spread to canines by ticks, specifically the brown dog tick, the American dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick, with several other species implicated depending on the country of residence. When a tick feeds on a dog, the bite may be contaminated by the arthropod's saliva, which leads to a bacterial infection. Rocky Mountain spotted fever has historically appeared to be more prevalent in German Shepherd dogs.

Diagnosis of Rickettsial Infection in Dogs

If your dog shows unusual clinical signs, bring him into the veterinarian for an initial examination. The veterinarian will take your dog's history and may perform laboratory testing, such as blood work or a urinalysis, both to narrow down possible causes for your dog's symptoms and to gauge his overall health.

Both ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are difficult to diagnosis, particularly in the early stages of the infection. The former is typically confirmed when antibodies are detected in the blood, which only occurs several weeks following exposure. The organism itself may be observed during the acute stage, but this is rare. If ehrlichiosis is suspected, the veterinarian may use a polymerase chain reaction to test for bacterial DNA.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever mimics other infections in terms of clinical signs and presentation, which makes it easy to misdiagnosis. The infection can be confirmed with direct immunofluorescent testing for antigen in tissues or with serologic testing for a rising immune response as the infection progresses.

Treatment of Rickettsial Infection in Dogs

A rickettsial infection can be treated with antibiotics. Tetracycline or Doxycycline is the antibiotic of choice for ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever though treatment needs to begin as early and swiftly as possible for a better response and may need to be continued through several weeks.

If necessary, supportive care will be provided while the infection runs its course. The veterinarian may recommend hospitalizing your dog while fluids are administered to prevent hydration or, if your dog is anemic, while a blood transfusion is performed. The prognosis is good for dogs that are treated early on, but if the disease progresses to the chronic stage, the chances of a full recovery become lower.

Recovery of Rickettsial Infection in Dogs

As with any treatment at home, it's imperative to provide your loved one with a safe, quiet, and covered place to rest in as he recovers, as well as access to plenty of fresh water. Depending on your dog's symptoms, you may wish to restrict his physical activity, though many dogs begin to recover quickly after treatment is started. Monitor your dog for additional clinical signs, and if you observe any behavior that is out of the ordinary, let your veterinarian know immediately.

Rickettsial Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Jacobi
Rottweiler
4 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Restless
Diarrhea
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Vomiting
Swollen groin

Is it possible to diagnose cancer in my dog without doing any tests? He is 4 years old. He has swollen lymph nodes in his neck and hind quarters. He vomits after eating and has blood in his stool? The vet here says he has lymphoma but has not done any tests. He had fleas a few weeks back before he started getting sick.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2973 Recommendations

Swollen lymph nodes and the other symptoms may be caused by infection, allergies or cancer; usually when lymph nodes are swollen, blood tests are taken for differential lymphocyte (white blood cell) count and a fine needle aspirate of a lymph node is taken for histopathology. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pepper
Pug poodle mix
8 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Not active
He is dull and tired

Hello.
IS this a enlarged lymph node or a rickettsial infection

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2973 Recommendations

Are Pepper’s lymph nodes enlarged? Which lymph nodes are enlarged? Swelling of lymph nodes and lethargy may be due to infection, cancer, allergies or immune mediated disease. If the swelling is around the neck it may the salivary glands, thyroid, abscesses or a tumour; in these cases your Veterinarian may take a fine needle aspirate from the swelling to determine the contents. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Abby
Mix
16 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

none

Medication Used

Doxycycline

Hi, I have just adopted a dog from Spain which had some extensive bloodwork done. He was found positive for Rickettsia conorii and they started an doxycycline course immediately. He will be coming to us next week, and I was wondering if he really needs to have the course for 28 days? I have some bad experience with gut microbiome trouble after antibiotics in dogs and don't want to keep him longer on the doxycycline than necessary. He didn't have any clinical symptoms. Veterinary sites do vary a lot in duration, I read everything between 2-3 and 4 weeks.
Could you advise on this?
Thanks a lot!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1397 Recommendations
The generally accepted time frame for treatment for Rickettsial diseases is 28 days. Some dogs benefit from a probiotic at the same time to protect gut microflora, and that would not interfere with Abby's treatment. I hope that all goes well for her.

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TJ
Galgo Espanol
6 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Aggression

Medication Used

Doxycycline

I just adopted a dog who is positive for Rickettsia. The dog was not symptomatic but was picked up in routine blood work. He has been on Doxy for a week but during this time he traveled from Spain to the US. He had been up for adoption for over a year and described as bomb proof. If fact, they would place new arrivals, especially fearful ones with him in the shelter. During the trip to the US he snapped at the person he was traveling with as well as the owner of the shelter. Everyone was shocked. He has snapped at me a few times but more on a warning level. The big concern is that he has lunged at my existing dog a couple times. Clearly there is a huge stress factor for this pup in this situation but am curious how much the rickettsial diagnosis could be playing into it. He's a super dog and the adoption groups are involved in helping to find a solution. He has an a vet appointment in a couple days for a full work up but was doing some research to prepare. Thoughts?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2973 Recommendations
Rickettsial diseases don’t normally present with behavioural issues and I believe that the trauma behind the transport is more likely a trigger for this behaviour. There is debate in the veterinary world about if we should treat asymptomatic dogs or not which are seropositive for some Rickettsial diseases. A good check over by your Veterinarian with full blood tests etc… would be a good next step. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Doc
Labrador Retriever
13 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Infection
hemolysis
Immobility
Anemia

Medication Used

Doxycycline
Tramadol

I found 2 ticks on my dog a earlier this year. A few months later he was sick with what we thought was a kidney infection. Symptoms were fever, bloody urine, slightly elevated WBC, and kidney sensitivity. But after 2 months of antibiotics, his symptoms return whilst on them. Specialists think he has an auto immune disease because of the hemolysis but he never had an immune disorder before, not to mention his "serum is clear", whatever that means. He also had mild arthritis and I'd rate it as a 3 if 10 were severe. He rarely needed medication. It was an as need basis. Now his immobility is an 8 in terms of severity. This has all happened in a period of a few months. I believe his has contracted some tick borne disease but still trying to identify it. Some say Babesia due to the anemia but he is now practically lame and that is not a symptom of Babesia that I am aware of. His Kidney levels are also normal. We only recently started him on Doxycycline. He may need steroids soon. What are your thoughts? Please help.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2973 Recommendations

Firstly, blood serum changes colour when there is hemolysis as the haemoglobin released from red blood cells changes the colour of serum from the normal straw colour to a pink or red colour; ‘serum is clear’ would indicate that the serum is straw coloured. There are a few tick borne diseases which may cause joint pain and anaemia including Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis (some species). A blood smear would be a useful diagnostic test to perform as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis can show up on smears; also a blood smear would also show morphology of cells and may give other insights into possible blood disorders. Immune diseases may appear at anytime, even if a dog never suffered from one in the past; it may also be worth having a check of bone marrow aspirates to make sure there isn’t a problem with red blood cell production. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.vetary.com/dog/condition/anaplasmosis
www.vetary.com/dog/condition/ehrlichiosis

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