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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

A tan dog lies on the floor and tiredly looks at the camera

Dr. Erica Irish author of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Has your dog been diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? If your dog commonly plays outside in wooded areas and frequently has ticks, they can easily get this disease. This is a disease is on that they get from a tick bite. This can cause your dog to be very sick and would need treatment from your vet. With the appropriate treatment, your dog can quickly and easily recover from this disease.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a disease that is spread by ticks. This disease is caused by the spread of infectious bacteriacalledRickettsia rickettsia. It is seen all over the world but is more common in certain areas such as North, South, and Central America, particularly the Midwest, the Northwest, and Saskatchewan in Canada.

Is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Dangerous? 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can become dangerous if your dog has organ failure. This is even a disease that people can get from these ticks.

How Does a Dog Catch Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever comes from contact with infected ticks. The tick must bite your dog and transfer the bacteria into your dog. Once in your dog, these bacteria can easily travel all over their body. The most common time of the year for your dog to catch this disease in the fall-winter and early spring. Usually, between October and March, you need to make sure that your dog is on a good flea and tick preventative medication.

Once a tick bites a dog, they must stay attached to your dog for 5 to 20 hours. After this, the bacteria can take up to 2 weeks before your dog starts to show any signs of an infection.

Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 

There are many signs that are associated with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs.  These are the most common signs that are seen by vets. 

  • Weakness 
  • Lethargy 
  • Loss of Appetite 
  • Blood in Urine 
  • Fever 
  • Discolored Spots on Skin 
  • Cough 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Loss of Coordination 
  • Redness in Eyes 
  • Bleeding 

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is best for them to see your vet right away.  These could also be signs of another disease, and most are very severe issues that would warrant a vet visit. 

How is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Diagnosed

Your vet will want to examine your dog to see if they see any of these signs in your dog.  They would then want to run bloodwork to make sure that there are no other issues that cause these signs.  There is also a blood test specifically for this disease. 

Treatment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 

If your dog does have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, your vet will prescribe your dog antibiotics.  The most common antibiotic used is doxycycline.  This will be given to your dog every day for 7 to 21 days.  Many times, vets will keep dogs on this medication for three weeks.  

Other antibiotics that may be used are tetracycline, enrofloxacin, and chloramphenicol.  There are different pros and cons to each medication that your vet will discuss with you.  Depending on the severity of your dog’s condition and what clinical signs that your dog is showing, they may need to stay in the hospital.   

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What is the Prognosis of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

If this disease is caught early and treatment is started right away, the prognosis for treatment is usually successful. If your dog is very sick before your vet determines the reason for their issues, the prognosis may not be as favorable.

How to Prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs:

If you live in an area where there are a lot of ticks, there are many things that you can do to help prevent your dog from getting this disease or any tick born disease. These are some of the most common prevention methods:

  • Tick Preventatives: There are topical and oral flea and tick medications that you can give your dog to kill any ticks that would bite your dog.
  • Minimize exposure: Do not let your dog roam in wooded or grassy areas. This is where most ticks live.
  • Check for ticks: If your dog does play in the woods or grassy when they come back inside, it is best to check them for ticks.  

If your dog does have ticks, you would need your vet to check for any tick-borne issues. This disease can cause many issues in your dog. If you think that your dog does have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, you should take them to your et right away. Your vet can start them on treatment to help them feel much better. This disease can be easily prevented with a little proactive measure, such as giving your dog flea and tick prevention and checking them for ticks every day.

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.

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