Definition of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by tiny parasitic bacteria, Rickettsia rickettsii, that are carried in the saliva and blood of ticks. These parasites spend most of their lives inside rodents, but they don’t make the rodents sick. Dogs get RMSF when an adult tick bites an infected rodent and then later feeds on the dog. Dogs can also get RMSF through transfusions of blood taken from an infected dog. The infective bacteria congregate and multiply in cells lining the dog’s small blood vessels, causing bleeding, low blood pressure and clotting abnormalities, which can be fatal. Some dogs with RMSF never seem sick, while others develop a high fever, body aches, tissue swelling, breathing difficulties, coughing, vomiting, bloody urine, bloody stools, pain and other symptoms. In severe cases, dogs develop behavioral changes, seizures, shock, coma and sudden death.