All You Need to Know About Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a tick-borne disease that affects dogs and is caused by a bacterium called Rickettsia rickettsii (R. rickettsii). It can be dangerous to dogs, so understanding the risk factors, signs, diagnosis, and treatment is crucial for prevention and proper care. Here’s everything you need to know about RMSF in dogs.

Where is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Found?

If you live in North America and your dog comes in contact with ticks, there is a risk of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Four types of ticks carry R. rickettsii: the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, Lonestar tick, and brown dog tick.

The American dog tick is the primary vector for RMSF and is found in the eastern half of the United States and California. The Rocky Mountain wood tick is found in the Rocky Mountain region, the Lonestar tick in the eastern and southern United States, and the brown dog tick across the entire United States.


RMSF has been reported in all 48 states of the continental United States, with most cases in the southern Atlantic and south-central states. Cases occur year-round, with peak diagnosis from April to September in most regions.

Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever in Humans

RMSF primarily affects people and dogs, but dogs cannot directly transmit it to humans. Tick bites on dogs can also pose a risk to humans if the infected tick’s fluids come into contact with open wounds or eyes.

Behavioral changes in ticks carrying RMSF can increase the risk of transmission to humans in certain regions.

How Do Dogs Get Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

The bacterium R. rickettsii is transmitted to dogs through tick bites. The tick must be attached for 5 to 20 hours before infection occurs, emphasizing the importance of prompt tick removal and prevention.

Tick prevention methods, such as repellents and regular inspections, are effective in reducing the risk of RMSF. Prompt tick removal is essential, as only a small percentage of ticks carry the bacteria.

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Signs of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Signs of RMSF in dogs include fever, lethargy, appetite loss, and various physical symptoms. Early detection and treatment are essential for recovery.

Owner taking a tick off a dog.
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How Is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Diagnosed in Dogs?

Diagnosing RMSF in dogs involves a combination of clinical signs, blood tests, serology, and PCR testing. Early detection and prompt treatment are critical for successful recovery.

How to Treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs

Treatment of RMSF in dogs typically involves the use of doxycycline and supportive care. Timely treatment and management of symptoms are essential for a positive prognosis.

Preventing RMSF in Dogs

Preventing RMSF in dogs involves tick prevention strategies, regular inspections, and prompt tick removal. Consult your vet for the best tick prevention methods for your dog’s specific needs.

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All You Need to Know About Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs