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What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Despite the geographic name, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is widespread in the United States and poses a serious threat to humans and dogs alike. Ticks may become infected and thus spread the disease at any stage of development, from larval to adult, and therefore in areas of high risk such as Arizona as many as 5% of ticks may carry the infection. The disease is not normally contagious, but humans may acquire the disease either by being bitten themselves or contacting the bodily fluids of an infected animal or tick. Always wear gloves when removing ticks from your dog, and contact a veterinarian immediately if your dog is running a fever, coughing or experiencing sudden weakness. RMSF poses a serious threat to a dog’s life if not treated quickly. If you live in an area with ticks, avoid areas with tall grass and groom your pet frequently to remove any ticks that may not yet have bitten your dog.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a disease capable of infecting both humans and dogs. This disease, caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, is primarily spread through the bite of an infected tick, most commonly the American Dog Tick and the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

  • High fever
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint pain
  • Coughing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face or extremities (edema)
  • Bleeding of the tissue around the eyes and mouth
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Causes of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Bite from a tick carrying the Rickettsia rickettsii bacterium.

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Diagnosis of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Owners who notice their dog has suddenly taken ill with fever, coughing or vomiting should be rushed immediately to a veterinarian’s office. The veterinarian should make a physical inspection of the dog for ticks in addition to a normal examination. If a tick is found, the tick may be sent for testing to see if it is a carrier of RMSF. Unfortunately, there are no lab tests to diagnose RMSF in a reasonable period of time to begin treatment on a confirmed case. The solution commonly employed by veterinarians is the following: if there is any suspicion of RMSF, antibiotic treatment is started immediately and continued for 10-21 days. Fortunately, RMSF responds quickly to antibiotics, the most commonly administered being doxycycline. If your dog is severely ill, IV fluids and other supportive measures may be necessary, but in many cases antibiotics alone are curative. If the dog did not have RMSF, these antibiotics may still be helpful in the case of a different bacterial illness, and at least will not hinder the treatment of a different disease.

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Treatment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

The veterinarian will prescribe Doxycycline antibiotics, usually in pill form. It is important to finish the entire course of antibiotics even after symptoms improve. This ensures that an antibiotic-resistant strain will not develop. Supportive care for extremely ill dogs may include IV fluids, iron supplements for anemia, and warming blankets to maintain body heat. Care should be used when administering fluids, as the disease can alter the strength of blood vessels, and excessive fluids can cause these vessels to leak or hemorrhage.

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Recovery of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Improvement in your pet’s condition can be seen in as little as an hour following administration of antibiotics. Full recovery is expected in a little over a week. Dogs and humans who survive RMSF are immune to re-infection, but taking measures to reduce the likelihood of coming in contact with ticks is recommended, as the diseases has shown itself in your area. Using anti-tick collars, avoiding areas of tall grass, and grooming your pet frequently reduce the risk of letting ticks into your home, where they may bite you or your dog and thus pass on the disease.

If you delay taking action, it is likely that your dog will suffer serious long-term consequences. The bite from the Rickettsia rickettsii can absolutely devastate the central nervous system of the dog. This can happen within a few days or even hours.

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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Goldendoodle

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Heavy Breathing

Luke has been diagnosed with RMSF and is on has been put on doxycycline and prednisolone. He has been on it 3X a day for a week now. He is breathing heavy and still not eating hardly anything. His inside of his ears are very hot. Please advise

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Since you have been treating for the last week and you are not seeing much improvement I think it would be a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian. If he’s not eating well he likely is dehydrated and needs IV fluids and other supportive care medications to help encourage him to eat and get him feeling better. I hope he recovers soon.

July 26, 2020

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Bella

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Husky

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Overview: Siberian dog bit by tick and diagnosed with RMSF; put on meds for 21+ days now. Had fever + hight white blood cells and low red blood. Last week, revisit with vet and no fever, low white blood and high red blood cells. However, still showing signs like the first weekend that got us to the vet: weak back legs, not using left back leg much, can go down a few steps but not up as many. Still eating, using bathroom, but not walking well. Is there a possibility for improved mobility? She's 8 years old and 60 lbs - still has youthful energy.

July 29, 2018

Bella's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Prognosis and recovery really depends on how quickly treatment was started after the symptoms presented, any delay in giving treatment can have a significant impact on prognosis which is why we start treating for the disease immediately before test results come back. Treatment of choice is with doxycycline for 10-21 days but some cases may require longer treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/disorders-affecting-multiple-body-systems-of-dogs/rocky-mountain-spotted-fever-tick-fever-in-dogs www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/rickettsial-diseases/rocky-mountain-spotted-fever

July 30, 2018

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Benny

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Goldendoodle

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

I have a 3 year old 85 lb F1B Golden Doodle. He had RMSF at 6 months and was treated with a 4 week round of antibiotics. Appeared to make a complete recovery. Last September he was experiencing pain that appeared to be in his neck/spine. XRays showed nothing. We could not afford an MRI. He was treated with a combination of Methocarbamol, Rimadyl and Gabapentin. We gradually weaned him off one at a time and he remains on Gabapentin 300mg once daily. This morning he began experiencing the same painful symptoms. He stands with his back arched, struggles to stand, sit, lay down. Wondering if this could be related to the RMSF. We are waiting on a call from our regular vet, but just looking to get any other information that may help.

May 31, 2018

Benny's Owner

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I doubt this is related to the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, normally with prompt antibiotic and supportive therapy the prognosis is favourable with no long term effects (although cases differ). There are many possible causes for spinal pain which should be investigated or ruled out; if your Veterinarian is unable to determine a cause, you should consult with an Orthopaedic Specialist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/rickettsial-diseases/rocky-mountain-spotted-fever

June 1, 2018

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Henry

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Beagle/shar pei mix

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9.75 years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Decreased Appetite
Fatigue

I have a 9 year old male beagle Chinese Shar-Pei mix. He has been losing weight over the last four months and more recently in the last 2 months has been fatigued with decreased appetite and halitosis. Saw the vet and have had ua dip completed 3 times with 4+ protein and fever 103+ each time. Placed on amoxicillin and chem panel drawn results as follows: lipase 55, albumin 1.9, total protein 7.9, globulin 6.0, glucose 60, albumin/globulin ratio 0.3, T4 0.6, WBC 18.7, HGB 12.3, HCT 34.2, MCV 58, MCH 20.7, neutrophil 16400, lymphocyte 823. At that time we drew a tick panel that showed a positive result of 1:100. Started a new antibiotic tonight. Everything I've read states that symptoms show up in a relatively short time from infection and many symptoms are neurologic in nature. Henry has had no neurological symptoms, so far, and the symptoms he had had (weight loss, decreased appetite, halitosis and fatigue) have been going on for months. My question is, does the diagnosis of rmsf fit the symptoms, test results and time frame? I do not want to miss a coinciding illness just because rmsf was also found. Thank you for your advice.

July 26, 2017

Henry's Owner

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0 Recommendations

The blood tests results provided are not a comprehensive set of results covering liver and kidney function so it isn’t so easy to know if there is a concurrent condition. After being bitten by an infected tick, symptoms may take five to fourteen days to present; symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are vague and may be attributable to other conditions. If a dog is suspected of having Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, doxycycline is treatment of choice and should be administered immediately for three weeks; if Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the cause, an improvement should be seen within a few days. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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Kiko

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Shiba Inu

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weak Legs
Weak Appetitie

My dog was diagnosed with RMSF three weeks ago at the onset of vestibular disease symptoms. She tested positive in a titre with level 1:1600. She was put on prednisone and Minocycline about 5 days after her first symptoms and has made a slow recovery. She still has a head tilt and her appetite has diminished since weaning off prednisone. Her back legs are still weak and I’m worried she’s not making progress fast enough. I have heard doxycycline is the best med for this but my vet insists Minocycline is just fine. I’m worried she’s not improving, should I insist we switch to doxycycline or is slow progress like this common? Like I said she has lost her appetite a bit and her back legs still aren’t back to normal. :(

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Patch

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Mix

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7 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain In Legs, Sleepy, Appitite Low

I got a 5 month old puppy from the pound. He started limping on his front right leg shortly after. I took the pup to the clinic and the vet. thought it was a issue with his knee. The next vet. (surgeon) who looked at the puppy thought it was RMSF as the puppy was sore in all of his joints not just the knee. The blood test confirmed it was RMSF. The puppy has been on antibiotics (and pain med.)for a month now and he is still limping and will sometimes cry a little from the pain when he first wakes up. I didn't catch the disease early. It is difficult to find an article on what the disease did to his muscles / joints and can the damage be reversed? Does the pain often continue to get worse to a point where we will need to put the dog down? It does appear that the pup's pain is slightly getting worse.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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