Canine Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Clara’s Story

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of the infectious diseases transmitted by ticks. 

Even though the microorganism resembles bacteria, it behaves like a virus. It attacks and damages blood vessels, tissues, and organs throughout the body. That’s why the symptoms can be all over the place.

It is most prevalent in the east coast, midwest, and plains. Even though it is not as notorious as Lyme disease, it isn’t any less nasty. Some dogs can develop severe nervous system symptoms. It is potentially fatal.

Canine Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Clara's Story

A detailed history is always an essential part of any diagnosis and can be instrumental in figuring out the problem. Even if your dog doesn’t live in an endemic area but they travel, your veterinarian needs to know.

Grab you free Veterinary Visit Checklists and never forget any important information to provide or questions to ask your veterinarian

Bad things don’t just happen to somebody else’s dogs. Each of us is somebody else to everybody else.

Symptoms of Canine Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Unfortunately, the symptoms of Canine Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be quite ambiguous and can include any of the following:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle or joint pain
  • mobility issues/ataxia
  • coughing
  • facial or leg swelling
  • depression
  • lethargy
  • blood in urine
  • unexplained bruising
  • unexplained bleeding

How is one to make sense of all these potential symptoms? Changes on a routine blood work can include abnormalities in

  • platelets
  • red blood cells
  • white blood cell counts
  • protein
  • calcium
  • electrolytes
  • liver and kidney values

There is a specific test to confirm Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. But you need to look for it specifically.

Source: VCA Hospitals

Clara’s story

Clara’s symptoms started with increasing stiffness and weakness of her back end. The first things that come to mind are injuries, arthritis, hip dysplasia … would you think an infectious cause?

Clara kept getting progressively worse. By the time she was diagnosed, she was extremely weak, lethargic, and trembling.

In retrospect, Clara started slowing down quite a few months before but it didn’t make anybody overly suspicious. She also had a strange rash that went away. Was it all related? Were those already early signs of the infection?

Diagnosing Clara

Clara’s initial diagnostics included physical evaluation, x-rays, and complete blood count. Everything looked fine except a lowered platelet count, which put tick-borne disease on the board.

While waiting for the test results, the veterinarian started an antibiotic treatment.

The results came back with very high antibodies against Rocky Mountain spotted fever. She’s been fighting the infection for quite some time.

With treatment, Clara is slowly improving. Time will tell whether she will recover completely.

Gradual onset of symptoms is often hard to catch

We test for tick-borne disease every year, even though our dogs’ exposure to tick has been, thankfully, quite minimal. I feel it’s important to consider tick-borne disease as a differential diagnosis when any strange signs and symptoms could point to it.

Did your dog ever suffer from a tick-borne disease?

Source article:
The Dangers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever for Dogs!

Related articles:
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: BooBoo’s Story

Further reading:
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

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