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Surviving Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - One Dog's Story

 by james on 03 Feb 2023 |
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One Dog's Story of Surviving Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Angelo and Diana Scala were aware that they would get a dog and that it would be a Boxer before they got married. Sure enough, they chose their Boxer Louie from a breeder's litter practically immediately after their wedding. In the final days of 2010, when they brought the eight-week-old puppy to their Downers Grove, Illinois, home, neighbors and total strangers alike never ceased to compliment them on their gorgeous canine. Louie was quite attractive, Angelo remarked.

He was also crazily lively, but Angelo knew what he and his wife were going into because he had grown up with a Boxer. The Scalas adored their quirky, excitable dog, who was also patient and devoted. Giuliana, their daughter, was born, and Louie took on the role of her watchful big brother. When the Scalas' daughter Antonella was born a year later, Louie received a new sister. As the girls' cribs were replaced with beds, the dog spontaneously developed the behavior of kissing each child on the cheek before bedtime.

The Scala family took good care of Louie and the Scala's kids in return. For a number of years, Louie's life story was enjoyable but largely unremarkable. Then, in May 2015, a medical enigma brought on by a tick bite put the Scalas' resolve as pet parents to the test.

The Beginning of Louie’s Health Problems

When Louie's nose started bleeding, the issues started. Diana reported that "the blood wouldn't stop." "It was terrible; it wasn't like a minor nosebleed."

Angelo reasoned that the nostril that kept opening might be a scab, but Diana was doubtful and feared something much worse. Louie was taken to the vet by Angelo. While the majority of the blood test results were normal, Angelo noted that something appeared elevated. He was informed that Louie's liver may have a problem or even have cancer, but it was decided to hold off and have another examination later.

Before the scheduled follow-up visit in June, Louie started vomiting foam and his food. Knowing that Diana would find it challenging to take the ailing dog in for an appointment while also caring for the couple's two other toddlers, Angelo made the decision to take him to the veterinarian before he left town on a business trip. Diana was expecting twins.

The possibility of bloating, which is dangerous and occurs when a dog's stomach fills with gas, liquid, or food and expands, was warned to Angelo.

After receiving medication for his gas, Louie was told to return the following Monday. When Angelo brought Louie back for a checkup the following Tuesday, the vet decided to leave Louie in the hospital for the remainder of the week because the levels in his blood work were much higher. The veterinarian indicated they would clean out his kidneys while still believing they were dealing with bloat. After a few days, Louie was released to his owners in the hopes that he would get better over the Fourth of July holiday. However, the following day, Louie's rear legs started to swell, and Diana continued to assert that something was really wrong. The doctor concurred and suggested Louie visit a specialist.

According to Dr. Jennifer Herring, one of the vets in charge of managing his care, "Louie was quite a sick kid when he [was] presented to the ER for the first time." However, she could tell that Angelo and Diana were determined to take all necessary measures to assist Louie in overcoming whatever was causing the nasal bleeds, swelling, and vomiting.
 
 
A Medical Breakthrough

Despite numerous tests, doctors were unable to identify Louie's issue.

Louie had undergone a tick test, but the veterinarians at the VSC chose to conduct more thorough parasite testing. Despite this, nobody had any reason to suspect Louie had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a condition that is uncommon in Illinois and is transmitted by ticks.

After Louie had been brought to the VSC, a vet called Angelo a few days later to let him know that Louie wasn't improving with any medication and that, with his permission, they were going to test a particular sort of steroid. Although Angelo consented to use the medication, it didn't appear to help, and the next day he got a call suggesting that it might be best to let Louie go. The Scalas traveled a long distance in silence to see Louie. His face was blown out like a basketball and his body was swelled. However, Diana and Angelo could see that Louie seemed pleased to see them and that the spirit of their cherished dog was still present.

The Scalas wanted Dr. Jerry Thornhill, one of VSC's Internal Medicine Specialists, to weigh in on one more blood test before deciding whether or not to put Louie down. Thornhill contacted Angelo the following day to let him know that Louie had slightly improved over night and that the test results revealed that Louie had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The veterinarians were now aware of the situation.

Diana recalls hearing, "Lyme illness would have been far worse, but this can be treated."

Living with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Any canine can develop depression, anorexia, arrhythmia (an abnormal heartbeat), blood clotting, and even death from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Along with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Louie was given a number of medicines to take, and he continued to slowly but definitely get better. Louie had been in the hospital for 18 days before the veterinarians finally approved of his return to his home.

Herring extols the virtues of the Scalas and Louie while Angelo gives the doctors who treated their dog credit for saving the animal. She claimed that Louie was a fighter whose family stood by his side 

Louie is still healing about a year later (and there are now four kids living in the Scala home). In order to ensure that he continued his hyperbaric oxygen therapy for months after he was discharged from the VSC, the Scalas had to accompany him to the animal hospital every other day.

Despite the fact that Angelo thinks he has only paid a little over $6,000 out of pocket because of his pet insurance, Louie's medical expenses already total more over $60,000. Although Louie is currently receiving treatment for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the frequency of his visits to the VCS has decreased. Louie still appears quite gaunt, but he seems more like 

Now, Diana says, "we'll start to say, "Louie, calm down," when he acts irrationally or excessively. "But then we recall how we first worried that we might not get Louie back and how we made a pledge to ourselves that we would not take it for granted if he ever got the chance to drive us crazy once more. We can still feel our want for one more day, and we are just grateful that he survived."

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