Just like other tick-borne illnesses, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is also a tick-borne disease caused by Rickettsia rickettsii which belongs to the family of coccobacillus bacteria. This organism is transmitted to dogs and humans through tick bites and can cause damage, inflammation and leakage in the small blood vessels of the organs like heart and kidneys.
What Ticks Spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
Rickettsia rickettsii cannot be transmitted directly to dogs and humans. It needs a host such as ticks to infect the vertebrates. Usually, the tick species that are major carriers of this organism are –
- Dermacentor variabilis (also known as American Dog Tick) – This strain is majorly present in the eastern states of the United States.
- Dermacentor andersoni (Rocky Mountain Wood Tick) – affect the western states.
- Rhipicephalus sanguine (Brown Dog Tick ) – is known to cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Arizona. It is the only western state which is not affected by Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, making it an exception.
What are the symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
The infection caused by ticks generally has an incubation period of 5 days to 2 weeks and the severity of the reaction can vary from dogs to dogs. The most common symptoms of this fever include:
- High Fever
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Irregular Heart Beat
- Swelling in the limbs
- Bleeding from nose
- Blood in stools
- Non-itchy pink rashes
- Pain and inflammation of eyes
- Kidney failure
- Inflammation of the heart
Can Dogs Infect Humans with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
Dogs cannot infect humans directly but yes, there are heavy chances of a person getting infected with this ailment if he is bitten by the ticks on his dog.
How Do Dogs Get Ticks?
Ticks are generally found in the wooded areas and bushes. So, when the dog goes to the woods or dog parks, these ticks crawl up to the grass ends and latch onto his skin. If you are living in the area which has a heavy tick population, chances are high that your dog would get infected with the disease and, you too.
What Areas Are Highly Affected By Ticks?
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri and North Carolina have been reported as the most affected areas in the United States. In fact, the cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have surged drastically since 2010.
How Is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Diagnosed in Dogs?
Diagnosis of RMSF in dogs includes the examination of symptoms followed by a biochemical analysis of the dog’s blood. Abnormalities in the blood count are usually marked with lower platelets, lower RBC count, low levels of protein, increase or decrease of the electrolytes, calcium levels and white blood cells. The test is conducted in two stages to make the correct diagnosis. One test is conducted at the onset of the disease and the second one is taken a few weeks later. The two reports are then compared for the abnormality of antibody levels in the body which must have increased multifold overtime.
Tips For Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs
If the dog has very low levels of platelets (thrombocytopenia), a blood transfusion would be required to prevent life-threatening conditions. However, when still in its initial stages, the disease is treated with antibiotics. Some corticosteroids are also prescribed to reduce the inflammation in the body.
How Can You Prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs?
To prevent your dog from getting infected with ticks that are major carriers of this disease in dogs, it is imperative to put him on preventatives. More so, if you live in an area under the danger zone.
- Keep your house clean and yards shaved
- Use tick collars when you take your dog out
- Check him for ticks after coming back from outdoors
Do not throw the ticks in the dustbin or basin after pulling them out from your dog. Always dispose of it in the toilet.
Though Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be easily cured with antibiotics, any delay in the diagnosis of the disease can lead to fatal consequences in dogs. Therefore, always be watchful of your dog’s health, report any signs of the illness immediately, and get him checked by the vet regularly to prevent the situation in the first place. Preventatives like Frontline Plus or K9 Advantix are highly effective in the prevention of tick infestation and the related illnesses. So, stick to them for a complete protection of your dog against most of the tick-borne diseases.