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Dog Ticks & Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Dog Ticks & Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

I’ve written about dog ticks and tick diseases before, including ehrlichiosis. Another devastating condition transmitted by ticks is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

rocky mountain spotted fever transmitted by ticks

Ticks attach themselves and may be hidden by fur.

I’m sharing this entry about ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER, an excerpt from Dog Facts, The Series 18 (Chapter R). This chapter covers a lot of ground, and here’s the topic list:

Rabies, Reading Food Labels, Reproduction, Respiration, Respiratory Distress, Restraint, Ringworm, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Rolling, and Roundworms.

I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections available ONLY to subscribers of my PETS PEEVES NEWSLETTER. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire DOG FACTS book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.

WHAT IS ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER?

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a rickettsial disease caused by the organism Rickettsia rickettsii. Rickettsiae are tiny bacteria-sized parasites that live inside cells, and most spend a portion of their life cycle in an insect vector which then transmits them to an animal host, or reservoir. People and dogs are not the natural host for most of these agents, but can become ill when infected.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted by several different kinds of ticks, particularly the wood tick and the American dog tick. The illness affects both people and dogs.

A young Magic loved wandering the fields…and easily picked up ticks.

HOW DO DOGS GET

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER

The disease is seasonal, with most cases occurring from spring to early fall. It has been reported in nearly every state, but is most prevalent in the central states from Colorado west to the coast. Most infected dogs may not show any signs at all, but others can suffer severe illness and rapid death. For unknown reasons, Siberian Huskies appear to be most severely affected.

The agent is transmitted to the dog from the bite of an infected tick, and the rickettsiae travel from the tissues to the lymphatic system. They proliferate in the cells found in the walls of small blood vessels throughout the body. This prompts an inflammatory response that results in blood clotting and bleeding disorders, and organ damage.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER?

Signs begin with vague illness and continue to get worse. Watch for :

    • fever of up to 105 degrees
    • loss of appetite
    • signs of arthritis
    • coughing or labored breathing
    • abdominal pain
    • vomiting and diarrhea
    • swelling of the face or extremities
    • thick mucoid discharge from the eyes and nose.

Neurologic signs are also common, and may include altered mental states, poor balance, and a rigid neck. Many of these acute signs are similar to canine distemper.

A week or two following initial signs, the dog develops bleeding disorders similar to ehrlichiosis. Nosebleeds, bleeding beneath the skin, or in the urine or feces may result in shock and multiple organ failure. Loss of blood circulation may lead to gangrene and death of affected tissue. Ultimately, kidney failure causes death.

HOW IS ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER DIAGNOSED & TREATED?

Diagnosis is sometimes difficult to make, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever should be suspected when these signs appear in a tick-infested dog during spring to fall. The diagnosis is best confirmed with tests, which are available in veterinary laboratories or schools.

When the disease is suspected, dogs should be treated immediately with tetracycline even before blood tests confirm the diagnosis. Dogs suffering from acute disease will respond with a reversal of symptoms within only a day or two of antibiotic therapy, which should be continued for two to three weeks. They may also require other supportive therapy, such as fluid replacement to combat shock and clotting disorders. Once they recover from infection, dogs appear to become resistant to reinfection.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY DOG?

To prevent the disease, practice tick control with appropriate insecticides. In most instances, the tick vector must be attached and feeding for 12 to 48 hours before a rickettsial agent can be transmitted. Therefore, prompt removal of any ticks found on your dog will virtually eliminate chance of the disease.

However, the crushed tick that contaminates your skin may result in infection, so wear gloves and/or use tweezers to remove ticks from your pet, to protect yourself from exposure. Human signs of the disease include flu-like symptoms, and a rash on the hands, wrists, ankles and feet. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been exposed, because the disease causes death in 15 to 20 percent of untreated human cases.

Does your dog get ticks? Are you using tick treatment to protect him? Has your dog ever suffered from a tick-borne disease–or have YOU? Someone I know currently is going through long-term debilitating treatment to get rid of a tick-borne illness.

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Getting Ticked Off About Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis (pronounced “err-lick-iosis”) goes by many names, but no matter what you call it, this devastating dog disease can wreak havoc on your pet.

ehrlichiosis ticks and hunting dogs

Hunting dogs exposed to ticks are at higher risk for tick borne diseases like ehrlichiosis.

I’m sharing this entry about EHRLICHIOSIS, an excerpt from Dog Facts, The Series 5 (Chapter E). This chapter covers a lot of ground, and here’s the topic list:

Ear, Ear Mites, Eating, Eclampsia, Ectropion/Entropion, Ehrlichiosis, Electrical Shock, Elizabethan Collar, Endoscope, Enteritis, Epilepsy, Euthanasia, and Eyes.

I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections available ONLY to subscribers of my PETS PEEVES NEWSLETTER. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire DOG FACTS book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.

WHAT IS CANINE EHRLICHIOSIS?

Canine ehrlichiosis is caused by one or several species of Ehrlichia bacteria, most commonly Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) or Ehrlichia lewinii (E. lewinii). This specialized bacteria requires an intermediate host, or vector, to infect its victim. The brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick are the primary vectors.

The disease has been reported worldwide wherever these ticks are found. Most cases in the United States occur in dogs living in the Texas Gulf coast regions and other southern states. All dogs are susceptible, but those with greater exposure to ticks. Outdoor dogs, working dogs and hunting dogs are at highest risk. Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds seem to be more severely affected. Ehrlichiosis is diagnosed most often during the warm months of tick season.

Ticks attach themselves and may be hidden by fur.

Ticks attach themselves and may be hidden by fur.

HOW DO DOGS GET EHRLICHIOSIS?

The tick becomes infected when it bites an exposed dog and ingests infected blood. The tick may transmit the disease for up to five months after engorgement with infected blood. Once infected, transmission of the disease to dogs can occur in any stage (by larva, nymph, or adult tick). It is even possible for ticks to survive winter months and infect susceptible dogs in the spring.

The organism is passed to dogs in the tick saliva when the infected parasite takes a blood meal. Blood transfusion from an infected donor dog also has the potential to transmit the disease. E. canis initially invades and damages the white blood cells of the host dog. From there, the rickettsiae spread via the blood to lymphatic tissue including the liver, lymph nodes and spleen.

WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES EHRLICHIOSIS CAUSE?

Signs of the disease can vary greatly from case to case. That makes canine ehrlichiosis an extremely frustrating disease to diagnose. Dogs suffering stress are also more susceptible.

There are both acute and chronic stages of the disease. Dogs suffering from the acute phase exhibit sudden severe symptoms, or show few or no signs at all. Signs include:

  • a week-long fever
  • eye and nasal discharge
  • loss of appetite, depression
  • swollen legs
  • stiffness and reluctance to walk
  • weight loss
  • neurologic symptoms such as muscle twitches

X-rays may reveal signs of pneumonia. The acute stage lasts two to four weeks; dogs either recover, or proceed to the chronic phase of disease.

The chronic stage of the disease can last for several months, and appears to affect dogs with suppressed immune systems. The bone marrow is compromised, resulting in a reduction in the production of blood cells. Often, the dog will develop kidney disease. Low platelet counts may cause bleeding tendencies, and long nosed breeds like shepherds may suffer nose bleeds. Fatigue, bloody urine, discoloration and bruising of the skin occur in all breeds.

HOW IS EHRLICHIOSIS DIAGNOSED?

Diagnosis is based on signs of disease along with history of tick exposure. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which isolates the DNA of the causative agent, is now commonly employed for confirmation. The PCR test, in combination with a test for antibodies to the Ehrlichia infection, is typically the best way to make a concrete diagnosis.

WHAT TREATMENT IS RECOMMENDED?

The antibiotic doxycycline is effective against E. canis when administered early in the course of the disease. Dogs may require six weeks or more of treatment before being cured, and some may benefit from fluid therapy or blood transfusions. Infection does not impart immunity and dogs can be reinfected. Dogs with chronic disease in which bone marrow is irreparably damaged may require months of therapy before any improvement is apparent, but prognosis is not good and often th
e dog dies despite treatment.

CAN YOU PREVENT EHRLICHIOSIS?

There is no vaccination available to prevent canine ehrlichiosis. The best way to protect dogs is to reduce or prevent exposure to ticks. In high-risk environments (i.e., kennel situations where the disease has been diagnosed), your vet may recommend a daily low-dose of antibiotic used as a preventative.

Ticks hate bright sunlight so keeping yards and fields mowed short, and limiting your dog’s ranging can help. Ticks carry many other kinds of “nasties” so using a vet-approved tick preventive in endemic areas may be recommended.

Learn about tick prevention in this post about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Does your dog get ticks? Are you using tick treatment to protect him? Has your dog ever suffered from a tick-borne disease? Please share your tips and tricks so others can help keep their dogs safe.


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!



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