Gracie went around the back of the cabin and did the good deed, but Mum noticed she looked really tired. As Gracie made her way back around the cabin to come back inside, she limped a little and then just collapsed in the yard. She was alert and breathing, but just couldn't walk.
Mum carried her inside and as she was carrying Gracie, she noticed she seemed very warm. Mum immediately took her temperature. It was a dangerous 106°. A dog's normal temperature should be anywhere from 98° to 102°. Mum knew right at that moment, Gracie was in danger, probably from a tick disease.
We immediately got in the car and made our way to take Gracie to the vet. Even though we didn't have an appointment, they took Gracie into the back room right away to draw some blood, take a chest x-ray and urinalysis to check her kidney function, and then began running tests.
It would be five days before we would get the final test results back. But the vet, just like Mum, knew that Gracie was battling a dangerous tick disease - most probably Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, as the symptoms came on so quickly and so severely.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of the most dangerous diseases from a tick bite from the American Dog and Lone Star tick; dangerous because it can be so immediately severe in acute cases. Quick and immediate veterinary attention is imperative.
Even without knowing exactly what Gracie had because of the delay in getting all the test results, she was immediately given Doxycycline (an antibiotic, preferably prescribed for dogs for any of the major tick diseases).
We finally got home at about 2 PM. Throughout that day, Gracie was in a lot of pain and we gave her pain meds in addition to the antibiotics. She began to improve hourly - from not walking at all, to starting to walk again. But when she walked she would wobble, veer to one side and seem disoriented. Those neurological (which are common with RMSF) symptoms began to subside as the days progressed.
It was five days later that we received the blood test results, and like many tests for tick diseases they were not completely conclusive. But they did believe she had both Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, from other indicators, like red and white blood cell counts.
So how does a dog get Lyme and RMSF? Many of you may know, but I'll share the info for those who don't. Dogs (and humans) get these tick diseases from bites of infected ticks.
For RMSF, the tick only has to be attached for a minimum of 2-5 hours to infect and transmit R. rickettsii. And it's usually only about 2-14 days after the infected bite that symptoms may begin to show.
Lyme transmission occurs a bit differently. Lyme is transmitted from the deer and western black-legged tick and is only transmitted when a tick is attached to the dog for a minimum of 18 hours (according to our vet and many trusted sites on the Internet). The initial and ongoing symptoms are very different as well, as the dog usually presents intermittent lameness. The kicker is that once a dog gets Lyme, and their immune system is affected, they may very well have symptoms off and on throughout the rest of their lives.
Doxycycline is also utilized to treat dogs with Lyme, just like it is with RMSF. But because of the potential of recurrence, we will need to keep Doxy on hand throughout the rest of Gracie's life, in case symptoms begin to present themselves.
None of the tick preventatives for dogs on the market would have been effective in preventing Gracie from getting RMSF, because it's transmitted within just a few hours of biting and the tick preventatives don't kill or repel the ticks that quickly.
We never found a tick on Gracie, and surmised that she may have been bitten and the tick immediately fell off. Gracie getting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was just bad luck, pure and simple.
We go back next week for more tests to determine if the medication has rid her system of the disease.