White dog laying in the grass looking at camera with sad face

Arlington Pet Hospital wants to alert the community after diagnosing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) in two (2) local dogs within a matter of months. While a small number, it raises cause for concern.

"Two cases might not sound like a lot, but this number is alarmingly high. It is equivalent to what might typically be seen at our clinic over three to four years," says Dr. Charles A. Rahm, Jr., DVM, veterinarian at Arlington Pet Hospital.

RMSF is a potentially deadly bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. In Tennessee, the American dog tick is typically the species that transmits the RMSF organism. 

While our pets are often the first indicators of the presence of RMSF in our environment, pets and humans alike can be susceptible to RMSF, which can lead to severe complications and even be deadly if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

"Whenever I see RMSF in an animal it is concerning because it means that the pet owner has the potential to have been exposed as well," says Dr. Rahm. "However, pet owners are not the only ones susceptible. RMSF is a health concern for anyone in Tennessee. It should not be taken lightly, especially in Tennessee, one of the states where RMSF is most prevalent."

While it is said that only 3 to 5 percent of adult ticks in known RMSF areas carry the pathogen, RMSF is still a significant concern in Tennessee, especially during May-August. 

"It is crucial for pet owners and the general public to be aware that RMSF has been diagnosed in our area so they can be aware of the risks and take preventive measures," emphasizes Dr. Rahm.

RMSF tick bites are often painless, and symptoms can be mild, making diagnosis challenging to detect until more severe symptoms arise. *Common symptoms in pets include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and joint pain. Similarly, humans may experience symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, and muscle aches.

RMSF is not directly spread from pets to humans. However, pets can carry infected ticks into the home, where they can then bite humans at put pet owners at a higher risk. For this reason, Dr. Rahm urges pet owners to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their furry companions from tick bites by using appropriate preventative measures.

"By protecting our pets, we also protect ourselves. Simple steps like using tick preventatives, checking for ticks after outdoor activities, and avoiding tick-infested areas can make a big difference. As pet owners, we have a crucial role in preventing the spread of RMSF in our community."

When you see RMSF in our pet population, it reinforces that the disease is around us. They hope to alert the public and raise awareness about the risks, promote preventive measures, and potentially save lives.