Ticks and Pets: The Ugly Truth About Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Tick populations are on the rise across the United States, and our beautiful state is no exception. Of the 30 plus species of ticks that make their home in Colorado, there are several that have the potential to make your pet, and you, very sick. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of many diseases that can be transmitted to both people and pets via the bite of an infected tick, and is of particular concern in our region.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs
Despite its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is found in several other parts of the United States. The disease is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, and is spread primarily through the bite of an infected tick. The ticks usually responsible for the transmission of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are the American Dog Tick and the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.
The symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs tend to be vague and may mimic the symptoms of other illnesses. An infected dog may experience fever, muscle or joint pain, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, or depression. Other signs include abnormal bruising, especially of the gums, but may also be noted on the skin.
If you are concerned about your dog or think it may have been bitten by a tick, bring him or her in to see us right away. With early diagnosis and treatment, most pets make a full recovery.
Other Tick-Borne Illnesses
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever isn’t the only tick-related disease putting our pets at risk. Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, is prevalent in our area and can be spread via tick to both people and pets. Ehrlichiosis is another dangerous tick-borne disease that is present throughout the United States. While Lyme disease has become more prevalent in eastern, southern, and coastal areas of the country, it still is not as common in Colorado.
It is not uncommon for a pet to be infected with more than one tick-borne illness when bitten by a tick. These are called “co-infections” and are particularly common with Ehrlichiosis.
Make Tick Prevention a Habit
As with most health issues, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, preventing your pet from being exposed to a tick-borne illness in the first place is far better than trying to treat your pet once infected. Besides keeping your pet on a Spring through Fall flea and tick preventive medication (which we recommend), you can reduce your pet’s chances of coming into contact with ticks in the following ways:
- Keep your pet on a leash at all times while walking and hiking, and do not allow your pet to explore grassy, twiggy, or overgrown areas where ticks like to hide.
- Inspect your pet for ticks every time it has been outdoors. If you spot a tick, remove it by grasping the part closest to your pet’s skin with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight out. Dispose of the tick by drowning it in rubbing alcohol.
- Make your property less hospitable to ticks by keeping it trimmed and weeded, and by removing any leaf or debris piles.
- Wildlife often harbor ticks; do not allow your pet to investigate dead or living wildlife, and utilize fencing and other barriers to keep them out of your yard.
If you haven’t started your pet on a seasonal parasite prevention protocol, or need a refill, please contact us at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, and we’ll be happy to help you.