Local Dog Diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

By Jamie Ratliff and Thea Di Giammerino
|  Sunday, Jun 22, 2014  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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Local Dog Diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

NBCConnecticut.com

Joy is a four-year-old Newfoundland recovering from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

A service dog in Marlborough is recovering after a brush with a disease not usually seen in Connecticut.

Cassandra Hamilton rushed her four-year-old Newfoundland, Joy, to the vet when she noticed the dog having trouble walking.

“She was dragging her hind end. She couldn't use either leg. She was paralyzed.” Hamilton said.

Hamilton took Joy to four vets, and asked each of them to test for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick transmitted disease. The fourth vet she went to did the test, and immediately prescribed doxycycline.

According to Dr. Steve Levy, program coordinator of the veterinary technology program at Middlesex Community College, RMSF is rare in the Northeast. It is spread by the American dog tick. He said most vets in the region will test for other things first, like Lyme disease.

Levy said there is no quick test for RMSF, and it won’t show up in a blood test for three weeks. But leaving it untreated for those three weeks can be fatal, so if there is any suspicion of the disease, doctors treat right away.

According to the CDC the majority of RMSF cases occur in states like North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The disease can affect humans as well as dogs. The symptoms for humans include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. For dogs it can be stiffness, lameness, lack of appetite, fever and fatigue. In both, if not treated in time the disease can cause internal organ and neurological damage, or even death.

Hamilton’s persistence proved prudent - Joy was treated within days and her test results later came back positive. But Hamilton worries the delay in treatment might lead to permanent damage.

“She's walking but she's not completely sound and we don't know if this is permanent neurological damage or not,” Hamilton said.

For now Hamilton says she's just glad she pushed for the test.

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