The Dangers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever for Dogs

Many thanks to jarah’s mom for researching RMSF and answering my questions and generally getting me out of a confused state. Thanks also to Lori S. and Judith B. for their support and info, and to the many other helpful friends and well-wishers.  

On November 6, 2014 my dear dog Clara got a blood work result that very strongly indicated that she had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a serious, potentially fatal tick-borne disease that affects people, dogs and some other animals in North, Central, and South America. Clara had been showing symptoms for quite some time.

Clara is probably not in danger for her life at this point, and most people wouldn’t even be able to tell that she is sick. Although she is on a strong course of antibiotics, some effects of the infection remain. Time will tell whether she will recover completely. I’m sharing the story of her diagnosis in case it will help others. This disease can be difficult to diagnose, and a timely diagnosis can save a life in some cases.

A tan dog with a black muzzle and tail is on a chaise longue. It's sunny and she is looking straight into the camera

Clara catching some rays. She looks serious but is wagging her tail.

Diagnosis

In September 2014, I started to notice that Clara was getting increasingly stiff and weak in her hind end. This worsened, and by early November when she was finally diagnosed, she had also gotten prone to trembling, not only when she was cold or excited, but sometimes for no apparent reason, even while asleep.

Thinking back, for as long as several months before this, she had run and jumped less when playing with Zani and had less stamina for playing ball. I didn’t mention it in the post, but you can see in the video in “How My Dogs Play” that Clara typically waits in the corner while Zani runs around the yard (previously, she would have run after her every time). Clara also lies down a lot in the play session, which is very polite and self-handicapping of her, but also could have been because she was tired.

She also had a rash on her chest, abdomen and legs in October 2014, which may or may not have been connected.

I made the movie below to chronicle her symptoms, but held back for some time on publishing it. I wanted to be as sure as possible that her diagnosis was correct and that there wasn’t an additional problem or other reason for her symptoms.

The symptoms of tick-borne diseases vary greatly and also can be confused with many other diseases and conditions. (There are quite a few of these diseases, the most well known of which is probably Lyme disease. I included some links in the Resources section at the bottom of this post that list all the types, for humans and dogs.)

So before the blood work to test for tick-borne and parasitic diseases was done, the following tests were performed:

  • extensive range of motion testing on hips and back legs (excellent!)
  • hip, pelvis, and back let X-rays (clear!)
  • complete blood count including to test for muscle enzymes related to soft tissue damage. The muscle enzymes were fine, but the CBC showed a lowered platelet count, which is a typical symptom of tick-borne diseases.

The lack of other diagnoses plus the low platelet count made tick-borne diseases the next most likely candidate for Clara’s symptoms. She was put on antibiotics and more blood was drawn so she could be tested for tick-borne and parasitic diseases.

The subsequent blood work returned a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever titer of greater than or equal to 1:1024, the highest result possible at that lab.  This high reading indicated that Clara had a large number of antibodies to the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria and had been fighting the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever infection for a while, probably weeks or months.

This movie is a bit hard to watch.

Link to the video for email subscribers.

Mechanism of the Disease

The Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria are introduced into the dog or other animal from the bite of a tick that has been attached for 5-20 hours.1)Comer, K. M. “Rocky Mountain spotted fever.” The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice 21.1 (1991): 27-44. (This is a very good reason to perform daily tick checks if your dog has been in areas where ticks are present.) The bacteria have been found to be transmitted by at least four tick species, but the most common are the American dog tick (what probably bit Clara) and the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

Tick hemolymph cells infected with Rickettsia rickettsii

Tick hemolymph cells infected with Rickettsia rickettsii. Public domain image from the US Centers for Disease Control.

The bacteria are nasty. They immediately spread throughout the body via the blood and lymphatic systems and invade the cells of the endothelium, the cells in the lining of the blood and lymphatic vessels. They multiply there and move into the smooth muscle tissue. 2)Harrus, S., et al. “Rickettsiales.” Pathogenesis of Bacterial Infections in Animals, Third Edition (2004): 425-444. Since this is happening all over the body, the presenting symptoms can vary. Many different organs can be damaged or fail. The dog often bleeds from the nose or other locations.  There are the joint and muscle problems. There can be gangrene in the extremities as the tissue dies. Dogs can have inflammation of the eyes, shortness of breath if the lungs are affected, have seizures or other nervous system symptoms, or can die suddenly of a heart attack. The kidneys can fail.

It most often affects dogs under four years old (Clara is 3 1/2). The response can range from no apparent problems at all, where the dog is infected but remains asymptomatic and lives a normal life, to death in a matter of days.

One dog study reported a mortality rate of 4%3)Comer, K. M. “Rocky Mountain spotted fever.” The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice 21.1 (1991): 27-44., but there doesn’t seem to be much information in general on that topic. The rate is probably higher. In studies where dogs were injected with large quantity of the bacteria (sorry to even think about or mention this), mortality was 100% when the disease was untreated.4)Keenan, K. P., et al. “Studies on the pathogenesis of Rickettsia rickettsii in the dog: clinical and clinicopathologic changes of experimental infection.” American journal of veterinary research 38.6 (1977): 851-856.  In humans, RMSF is fatal in 20-25% of untreated cases and for 5-10% of treated ones.5)Bakken, Johan S., et al. “Diagnosis and management of tickborne rickettsial diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichioses, and anaplasmosis—United States.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 55 (2006): 1.

Treatment

Clara is now on her second three-week round of Doxycycline, which luckily does not appear to upset her stomach. She obviously felt better in a metabolic sense after two days on the antibiotic; she was perkier and had more energy, and has stayed that way. But the stiffness has been much slower to change. I’ve been keeping a video record and I think she is finally improving, though. I have to remind myself that progress won’t necessarily be linear.

The Future

I feel a little weird for publishing this movie and blog, like I’m exaggerating the seriousness of Clara’s illness. But I’m not. Although the trembling has lessened, she still has periods of weakness and/or stiffness and is clearly fatigued after she exerts herself. I’m still trying to get my head around it all. I go from thinking she will be tragically affected for the rest of her life, to thinking there isn’t much to it and I’m overreacting. There’s still a flavor of “this can’t be happening…” But I’m also counting our blessings.

I’m almost afraid to ask for others’ experiences, because I’m sure there are some sad ones out there. But I think education about RMSF and the other tick-borne diseases is valuable and important. So please share if you are willing.

Kate and BooBoo’s Story: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? But We Live in NJ!

Resources

Lists of tick-borne diseases.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Humans

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Tick Safety

  • Do whatever you can to prevent tick exposure in the first place.
  • Check your dog thoroughly after possible exposures.
  • Remove any attached ticks quickly. Some tick-borne diseases are transferred quickly.
  • Get your dog to the vet if she has a fever or any of the symptoms listed here: Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases.
  • Oh yes, and be careful for yourself and human loved ones as well. There are cases of dog and humans simultaneously getting the disease because of concentrations of infected ticks in the same area.6)Paddock, Christopher D., et al. “Short report: concurrent Rocky Mountain spotted fever in a dog and its owner.” The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 66.2 (2002): 197-199. 7)Elchos, Brigid N., and Jerome Goddard. “Implications of presumptive fatal Rocky Mountain spotted fever in two dogs and their owner.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 223.10 (2003): 1450-1452. If you are in the U.S., check the incidence map in this article to see how prevalent it is in your state. RMSF is not found outside the Americas, but there are other related spotted fevers found in most parts of the globe.

© Eileen Anderson 2014                                                                                                             eileenanddogs.com

Share Button

Notes   [ + ]

1. Comer, K. M. “Rocky Mountain spotted fever.” The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice 21.1 (1991): 27-44.
2. Harrus, S., et al. “Rickettsiales.” Pathogenesis of Bacterial Infections in Animals, Third Edition (2004): 425-444.
3. Comer, K. M. “Rocky Mountain spotted fever.” The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice 21.1 (1991): 27-44.
4. Keenan, K. P., et al. “Studies on the pathogenesis of Rickettsia rickettsii in the dog: clinical and clinicopathologic changes of experimental infection.” American journal of veterinary research 38.6 (1977): 851-856.
5. Bakken, Johan S., et al. “Diagnosis and management of tickborne rickettsial diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichioses, and anaplasmosis—United States.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 55 (2006): 1.
6. Paddock, Christopher D., et al. “Short report: concurrent Rocky Mountain spotted fever in a dog and its owner.” The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 66.2 (2002): 197-199.
7. Elchos, Brigid N., and Jerome Goddard. “Implications of presumptive fatal Rocky Mountain spotted fever in two dogs and their owner.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 223.10 (2003): 1450-1452.
This entry was posted in Dog illness and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to The Dangers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever for Dogs

  1. Josephine Coutrot says:

    Dear Eileen,
    We cannot thank you enough for posting the story of Clara’s illness, at a time when you must be so worried and tired. From now on, I will be watching for the simptoms described. Your video is indeed difficult to watch, and none of the people reading your articles will think you are ” overreacting “, because you have teached us to love our dogs truely, not only with our hearts, but also with our minds. I am convinced Clara will recover from her illness : she chose you, didn’t she ? Warmest regards

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thank you, dear Josephine. Thanks for the good wishes and I hope you never see these symptoms, or any others like them, in your dog.

  2. Eileen – I felt strange hitting the “like” button for this, as there is nothing at all that is “likeable” about this terrible disease and how it has afflicted your sweet Clara. (We need an alternate button; something like “I value this post tremendously”). Thank you so much for writing and sharing this blog, as I know it must have been incredibly hard for you to keep viewing that video and to revisit the progression of Clara’s symptoms. The good part is that you caught this disease, Clara is being treated, and you are already seeing a beautiful response in your girl. Our dogs are so incredibly stoic and accepting (and non-complaining). This attribute can make it so difficult to figure out what may be ailing them, especially when they have such heart as your Clara does – running madly around the yard with pure joy – overriding her pain simply because she enjoys life so very much. Regarding RMSP – I am sharing this now, as ticks are found in almost all areas of the country and tick-borne diseases are so very serious. Thank you for sharing this – if one dog is diagnosed earlier because of Clara’s story, you and Clara will have done so very much for others. Hugs to you and your Clara, and hoping that you continue to see signs of a complete recovery each day.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thank you so much, Linda. Yes, you hit it on the head about Clara: She is so active and joyful that even when she was most ill her energy level was perhaps down to that of my other dogs. Even those terrible clips of her trembling–she acted fine for a lot of the day. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  3. Marjorie says:

    Eileen, I’m so sorry to hear about your beautiful Clara being ill. I thought something did not look right in your play video. When viewing previous clips of Clara she was such an active girl and seemed to participate with gusto in all her activities. I hope she makes a solid recovery. Sounds like you might have caught it relatively early. There is one tick born illness symptom that you don’t have listed and that is facial paralysis. Both my dogs have been afflicted with a mysterious illness which has caused one sided temporary facial paralysis (last for a few months at a time). It can move from one side of the face to the other. The have had x-rays, blood work, ultrasounds, MRI’s and neurological consults with no real diagnosis. It presented in one dog and then a few weeks later, it then presented in the other and has since gone back and forth. In my research I have found that Lyme disease can be the cause of facial paralysis. But not in our case.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Oh your poor girls! And you–not knowing is the worst. I hate that type of confusion. That was very astute of you about the play video. Clara has always done that lying down and self-handicapping so those are normal behaviors, but the smaller amount of running was a bit a tipoff. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. nickynockynoo says:

    Well wishes for sweet little Clara. I can understand your mixed emotions Eileen. You are not overreacting at all. The emphasis should be on counting your blessings. You are Clara’s blessing and your diligent vet too.

    I am puzzled as to why it usually affects dogs under 4 years old. Any ideas?

    Luckily, in the UK, we have only Lyme’s disease, as far as I know. That has only become a problem in the last 10 years or so in the south of England.

    Thank you for posting, it must have been difficult. Raising awareness is yet another thing you can be admired for.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thanks so much Nicola. I think, and others who understand infectious diseases better than I do can correct me here, that this is part of the age thing: That in areas where infected ticks are found, older dogs are more likely to have been exposed, had a subclinical response, and built up an immunity. So it’s not so much that they can’t get it, but that they already got exposed and are OK.

      Do dogs’ immune systems generally get stronger as they age? I don’t know. I’m going to ask my patient consultant about this. In the meantime, thanks so much for your kind words.

      • jarah's mom says:

        As people age their immune systems become weaker, or less robust is how I think of it. immunization in older people (usually >65 yo) does not always give as good an immunity as in younger people. Likely the same happens for dogs too. But at what age in dogs? There’s not enough data to begin with on strength of immunizations or how long immunizations last in dogs.

  5. gayle says:

    Sending prayers for a full recovery for your sweet girl!!

    You can spot a dog lovers house when you see the mattress and boxspring are on the floor!! I took my bed right down to just the mattress on the floor when my beloved golden got ill – anything to make their lives easier and more comfortable!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Gayle, thank you! Your comment took me back to when my poor little Cricket was injured by some loose dogs. During that period, I had a mattress directly on the floor, so she wouldn’t have to stretch out any more than necessary to get into bed. Thank you so much for your prayers for Clara!

  6. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for posting this Eileen. Ticks scare the heck out of me so we can’t be too careful or have too much knowledge. Sending our thoughts out to you and Clara and hoping for a full recovery.

  7. Rose says:

    Curious how Clara is doing! I’ve pulled a few ticks off my dog recently, made me think of her and wonder how things are.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thank you for asking, Rose. It is hard to say. Clara is still on antibiotics. The last time we took her off she started running a fever a couple of days later. She is soon to go off them again. She stayed prone to stiffness for a long time but has seemed to improve in the last couple of weeks. Fingers crossed. Keep up the tick checks! It is sweet of you to think of her.

  8. Stacy Zemke says:

    Hi –
    Thank you for posting this story about your dog and RMSF. My dog was diagnosed with RMSF a little over a month ago and it is very hard to find information from other people who have dogs with this disease. My dog, Tucker, is 9 years old and actually looks a lot like Clara! Well he’s more gray now but looked like her when he was younger 🙂 We noticed something was wrong with Tucker because of inflammation in his eye. He also has weakness in his back legs but we thought that was just due to his age. He was on Minocycline for 30 days and has just recently been taken off. We are still playing the waiting game to see if he is improving. They said that he will still test positive now and that we can test him again in 6 months. I just hate the feeling of not knowing and wondering if there is something else we could be doing.
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    Stacy

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Oh, good luck with Tucker. I haven’t written a followup about Clara, but you might be interested to know that we had to keep her on antibiotics for more than four months. Whenever we would try to take her off, she would relapse and get trembly and feverish. The vet speculated that she may have had a second, different tick-borne disease. There are apparently some that they can’t detect easily through titer tests right now.

      Clara is now doing physical therapy and very gradually getting stronger in her hind end again. The rehab vet we saw didn’t think she was in pain; just that there was some residual weakness. I’ll be writing about her recovery pretty soon, so stay tuned.

      I know too well that feeling of not knowing. I hope for a full and speedy recovery for Tucker.

      P.S. I followed you on Instagram–he’s so cute!

  9. Sam says:

    Thank you for posting the video. The way Clara had difficulty lifting her hind quarters, as well as the lower body trembling, look exactly like what’s been going on with my dog. After months of trying to figure out what was causing the issue in her lower back, including taking her to a neurologist, we may have an answer to at least part of what’s going on. In the past week, she developed a fever (105), refused food and water, and ended up in on IV meds and fluids for four days. The tentative diagnosis was pancreatitis, even though there was no vomiting or diarrhea involved. Long story short, after many ‘guesses’ from medical professionals, her tick panel came back today showing that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was positive. I don’t have the exact numbers yet, so still feel quite uncertain if that’s what’s causing all these serious health problems for her. She’s eleven, by the way, but has always been very healthy, aside from knee surgeries and of course, this unknown! It’s been very frustrating to see her so uncomfortable and not be able to get to the answer and treat it correctly. I suppose that you can certainly understand that.
    I hope that Clara continues to improve and that she won’t suffer any long term issues from RMSF. I am hoping the same for my girl. Thanks again.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Sam, I’m glad the video was helpful. I know all too well that terrible feeling of knowing something is wrong and not being able to track it down. And then, getting the diagnosis but wondering whether that’s what it really is. I delayed posting my video for a month because I kept thinking, “What if it’s something else?” Pretty sure it was RMSF though.

      My very best wishes that your dog’s problems have been completely identified and that she makes a complete recovery. I recently took Clara to a rehab vet, who was of the opinion that Clara’s residual problems in her hind end were weakness, and that she was not in pain. She gave us some exercises to do to encourage Clara to use and strengthen her hind legs again. I’m going to publish a piece on that soon. I think she is recovering.

      Thanks for the comment, and again I really hope things turn out well for your dog.

  10. Susan says:

    I have a 6 year old Doberman Pinscher
    On Monday May 18 2015 he felt VERY warm, and we wouldn’t eat.He looked weak, and was slow. We took him to the vet. They did blood work, and sent more out to be tested, and did a “tick” panel. Sent us home with a pain reliever and antibiotics. Tuesday he ate a little bit, and was getting slower, and laying down all day. Wednesday he was up and eating 1/2 of his food, then went back to bed. Thursday we took him back to the vet, he said the tick panel came back negative, and suggested we take him to another vet. Friday (5/22) morning he can’t walk straight (like he’s drunk) and off we went to the new vet. 2 Dr.s came in to see him, and they had 2 people pick him up (81lbs) and admit him with IV’s with fluids and antibiotics. They drew more blood, and sent it out.(they suspected RMSF) 8 days of hospitalization, and ( many “Google” searches on my part, I wanted to know EVERYTHING) he was sent home He’s walking, but he turns his head to the right, and he’s still wobbly. Dr. said while they were waiting for a specific blood test that tests for Rocky mountain spotted fever they treated him as if he had it. On day 9 5/29 Dr called and told us, yes, it was RMSF. We have an appointment next week to have him retested.

    Seeing your video was easy to watch because I lived it. (so sad to see our beloved pets suffer) Seeing your dogs legs shake, reminded me that our dogs legs did that too. I’m so glad your girl is getting better. I too wonder what my dogs prognosis is. One day at a time.
    Needless to say, we bought a “tick” collar and some chewable flea and tick monthly meds.

    (BTW, we did use the monthly liquid similar to Frontline, Doc said don’t use the “aftermarket” meds)

    DAMN ticks!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Susan, thank you for sharing the story about your Dobie. I am so sorry! You probably saved his life when you noticed the fever.

      More and more I realize how lucky I was with Clara. She is almost completely recovered (only I can tell the difference; most people would never know there was ever anything wrong with her). I am going to write soon about her great experience with the rehab vet and doing her exercises.

      Best of luck with your dear dog. I hope you will write back again. I want to know how he is doing.

      • Susan says:

        Doggie “rehab” exercises??
        what does THAT consists of? Hmmmm…..We live on the lake, and have another dog a Lab (she’s fine) my Dobe is getting along walking, stumbling down and around our area. We don’t let him stay out too long (10 minutes tops) and we go back inside.

        My husband sleeps with the dogs, me and the 2 cats sleep in another room. He, noticed that he was really warm, so HE noticed it 🙂

        • Eileen Anderson says:

          In Clara’s case, rehab is exercises designed to get her to start using her back legs normally again. She did a number of subtle things where she was actually overusing her front end. (I even had to let her harness out–she developed some new shoulder and chest muscles.) The exercises go from as straightforwards as walking her up flights of steps (has to be walking, when they trot or run they just use momentum) to some fancy things where I hold up two of her legs so she has to balance. Stay tuned for a blog post.

          Good for your husband for noticing the fever!

  11. Willem says:

    Dear Eileen

    Thank you for sharing your trials & tribulations with Clara’s RMSF, it has been a source of not only information but comfort too as we are currently faced with the very uncertain ‘wait-and-see’ period in battling this disease.

    Brady, our miniature long haired Dachshund, contracted RMSF around the New Year period when we went walking in Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C. After repeated misdiagnosis (costly and frustrating to say the least) we finally received a confirmed diagnosis of RMSF last month.

    One of the main reasons why he went untreated for so long was the fact that he has suffered two episodes (2013 and 2014) of Intervertebral Disc Disease where he started going lame in his hindquarters. We were very fortunate to have him in surgery within hours and him making very decent recoveries in terms of deep nerve sensation in his hind quarters and all round mobility.

    When stiffness and lethargy set in in early February, we immediately expected surgery number 3 to be on the cards. He must have started compensating with his front legs as the next diagnosis was fluid on his front joints and even a dislocated left shoulder! Through trial and error and him just not getting any better we finally sat down and tried to figure it out, resulting in having him re-tested for a fourth time.

    RMSF was confirmed and he’s been on antibiotic treatment for the past 4 weeks with some improvement. What is causing concern now is that despite his appetite and bowl movement being normal, he is hardly moving around, we feel even less than before he went onto treatment. He lies down a lot and has become very stationary over the past 4 weeks. Is this merely a case of it getting worse before it gets better?

    He seems to be in good spirits and acts normal otherwise but the lack of him even ‘mopping-up’ the kitchen floor when my fiancé cooks (he loves doing that and not a single surface is left uninspected for ‘stray’ bits of food) was very upsetting to us. Do we just have to wait this out and with time there will be gradual improvement? We’ve been through the physical therapy cycle before and expected it down the line but at the present moment he is reluctant to move at all.

    You thoughts would be much appreciated and we are really glad that Clara has recovered well and from the sound of it improving constantly. Thank you and kind regards.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Willem, thank you so much for sharing Brady’s story as well. I will comment later today.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi again, Willem.

      What a long, hard road you have had with Brady. I’m so glad you finally got a diagnosis. My rat terrier had intervertebral disc disease, though never any surgery. I can see how that would color and delay any potential diagnosis of other kinds of hind end problems. I’m going to have to disappoint you: I can’t really give any kind of expert opinion about Brady. I am learning all I can about RMSF though, and I guess the most important thing I have learned is that dogs’ experiences are all over the map. Brady and Clara (and you and I) are both so fortunate; some dogs get an acute case and don’t survive the initial few days of the illness. Then there are dogs who have a high titer who never even appear to get sick.

      So I would still have high hopes for Brady. All this took so much longer with Clara than I thought it would. And again, we were lucky.

      I hope you will write with an update. Take care.

  12. Willem says:

    Hi Eileen

    Thank you very much for the response, I do realize we are all learning about this disease as we go along and I’m just very glad that I came across your journey with Clara. I have to come to realize just how lucky we were, considering Brady has been severely ill for so long yet bravely pushing on through the whole ordeal. Something such as RMSF was the absolute last thing we considered to be the underlying cause.

    What would be helpful would be some insight into the drug regimen that Clara was on. Does the antibiotics go hand in hand with the anti-inflammatory drugs for the duration of treatment? He was on anti-inflammatory drugs but ended about a week ago. We called the Veterinarian yesterday to ask for a renewal of the prescription, considering that he has been not really been up-and-about over the past few days.

    We are hoping it may bring a change and if he feels better, he will move around a bit more. I’ll keep you updated on the progress and if you could share any tips you learned during Clara’s recovery that would be extremely helpful and much appreciated.

    Kind Regards

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Willem,

      Clara was Doxycycline only. Per the vet, it has some anti-inflammatory properties. Keep in mind that her level of joint pain/discomfort was probably quite a bit lower than that of a lot of dogs. Even though the movie shows her trembling and weak in certain situations, in day to day life her movement was not noticeably affected. And she did seem to feel immediately better on the Doxy.

      I do know of another dog or two that were on steroids.

      Good luck and keep me posted.

  13. Daniele says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for posting this, I’m SO glad I found it. I just rescued a feral pup that has this. I’m from NH and it’s not prevelant there so I had no clue. All the other websites seem to repeat the same data. Your video was the most helpful of all! This is exactly what I observed in him while he was at the shelter. He is on medications, but with your video, I can watch for other signs in the event it’s not working.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Daniele,

      Bless you for rescuing. Feral AND sick with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, my goodness! I’m so glad the video was helpful. You know, the symptoms can be all over the map, but a lot of people have told me seeing and reading about Clara’s situation helped, and I’m very glad of it. Good luck with your pup.

  14. Pingback: How To Train Your Dog to Stand Using Capturing - eileenanddogseileenanddogs

  15. Pingback: How To Train Your Dog to Stand Using Capturing | The Pet Professional Guild

  16. Libby Taylor says:

    I’m so happy I found this article. Going through the same thing right now with my 9 year old. She’s getting blood transfusions while we wait on results of RMSF results. Praying.

  17. I am so happy I found this! We have a 18 month old mastiff that displayed alot of the symptoms clara did. We attributed to his size. Being 18 months and already over 170bls and all. Then suddenly he spiked and fever and our playful guy dud not want to move. Tests came back positive for spotted fever. He has now been on 2 antibiotics for 2 weeks now. Doing better already, just sleeping more. I am worried about the long term effects on him and if it leaves him in any pain or anything. How is Clara doing, did you notice any longterm effects.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi mrskaylawilliams,

      I’m sorry about your mastiff. I hope he comes out of it with only a mild case. Clara is doing great. It’s a year later now, and I only very rarely see what might be a little stiffness in her hind end, but I’m not even sure about that. I did take her to physical therapy after her main recovery and we learned some exercises for her to do. Nothing else longterm at all, although she did have to stay on the antibiotics for quite a while. Best wishes to your fellow. Let me know how he gets on.

  18. Pingback: The Dog's Choice (Choice: Part 2) - eileenanddogseileenanddogs

  19. Jim says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. We almost lost our PBT last year. Thank goodness the vet recognized the symptoms and started on antibiotics while we waited for test results.

    Our PBT appears to be relapsing though (8-months later). Started antibiotics and steroids as soon as we noticed new tremors but the tremors are slow to disappear this time. Taking her back in tomorrow.

    I was starting to doubt the prognosis until I saw your article – our PBT has the same exact symptoms that Clara had.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Jim, I’m glad the article was helpful. Sorry about the relapse! I do understand about doubting the prognosis. I kept questioning and questioning my vet. To this day the whole thing just seems bizarre.

  20. Serrina says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. My Maltese, Cody was diagnosed with Rocky Mt. 2 years ago and he still has flare ups from time to time. I feel so bad for him. He usually needs to run through a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories which make him feel so uncomfortable I’m sure. I only wish there was more we could do to help.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Aww. I’m sorry Cody still has flare ups. I know that helpless feeling well. I hope things get better for him over time. Hugs.

  21. Pingback: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? But We Live in NJ! - eileenanddogseileenanddogs

  22. RachelM says:

    Thank you for posting this article. We just got back the tick borne panel today on my 10 month old jack russell mix, Gambit. He is still collapsing about twice a day but has started doxy. I am deeply concerned that he may have had it for a lot longer than we thought tho about 5 months back when we first adopted him he had a very bad body wide rash and then a few weeks later they said he had kennel cough. We treated with antibiotics for both but then 3 weeks ago he got deathly ill with RMSF symptoms and they tested for everything under the sun. $5000 later they said the RMSF titer came back positive. Hopefully he will make a full recovery but with the frequency of collapsing I am scared. Any tips?

  23. Kelly P Kelly says:

    Our Golden Mack was diagnosed with RMSP in November 2015 at the age of 11. We had taken him to our vet for tremors, similar to Parkinson’s Disease. After many tests with no answers, we were referred to Auburn University Vet School for an MRI. There they told us that with Mack’s age and symptoms, that it was most likely a brain tumor. $2500 later, they could find no reason for his tremors and send us home with seizure meds, which did treat his tremors. Several days later we received a call from Auburn. After we had left, they had run a few more blood tests and sure enough, his titer was high for RMSF AND toxoplasmosis. We have been on Doxy SINCE then and his titer is still showing RMSF. He is MUCH better, thank goodness. Our vet never though to check for RMSF, because of Mack’s age….Oh and he was on Bravecto at the time he was infected. We now do a thorough tick check whenever we are ourside (he thinks he’s getting a massage).

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      I’m so glad they ran those final blood tests! The same thing happened to a dog of mine years ago. He was also a senior, and had been anemic for more than a year. They did all sorts of things including exploratory surgery. They finally did the tick titer, and he was positive for RMSF, but it was too late. I’m so very glad they tested Mack and he is doing better. Thanks for your story and for passing the word about the importance of tick checks.

      • Kate LaSala says:

        Kelly, so happy Mack is doing better. As I learned, no preventative is 100% effective – the companies say as much on the packaging. Frequent tick checks (Boo thinks she’s getting a massage too!) are so key to early detection.

  24. Amanda Daniels says:

    Oh goodness! We too are dealing with RMSF. We are located just North of Birmingham, AL. Our vet actually ran blood work early on. Our 2 year old goofy Great Dane Loki is the poor baby living with this. We are now in month number 4!!! We do the doxy for 3 weeks and back to square one. Prednisone helps tremendously. Our next step is Auburn. Any other guideance would be greatly appreciated. Loki develops large “floppy” areas of swelling in various areas, joint swelling and fever. I just want him to feel better.

    Thanks!
    Amanda Daniels

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Bless his heart! As far as I could tell, as bad as my Clara felt, her case was pretty straightforward. But we did end up keeping her on Doxi for almost three months. She would get worse again when we took her off. Did you see the other post on my site about RMSF? I think my friend Kate ended up using steroids for her poor BooBoo for a while.

      • Amanda Daniels says:

        I did! I couldn’t stop reading. As of now, Loki does best with 10 mg of Prednisone a day. We have tried taking him off of it but he develops swelling “pockets” on his neck, or his legs. It’s very bizarre. My husband and I are both in the medical field-we probably know enough to make us dangerous. Lol. It has been a very unpredictable course. I think the first symptoms were the pockets of fluid – like smooshy jello under the skin in various places. Then dramatic weight loss, no apetite, low grade fever and chills. Then the tremors started. We have tried 3 courses of Doxy and another $300 antibiotic-the vets were as bumfuzzled as we were/are. I’m so glad I came across this blog. Thanks for all the insight!

        • Eileen Anderson says:

          Oh my goodness, the smooshy pockets! Clara got some of those about three months after her initial diagnosis. (I think it was just around the time she went off the Doxy for the last time.) Take a look at the top of her head on this photo. Mystery bumps on the top of Clara's head At the time the vet looked at them but we didn’t necessarily connect them with the RMSF. I may rethink that. Are these what Loki’s looked like, Amanda? They were completely weird, just appearing on the top of her head.

    • Kate LaSala says:

      So sorry! Please read the other post here about my dog BooBoo. We had to do a double dose of antibiotics and it wasn’t until we added the second antibiotic (Baytril) that we saw an improvement. We also had to do a steriod for while and then we finally got healing. Good luck. I’m so glad your vet diagnosed it so you can look for other treatments.

Comments are closed.