Illinois Birddog Rescue - Ticked Off!

Ticked Off!

Treatment Protocols/Infected Dog & Puppy Alumni - Tick Panels for Dummies - Infected Litters - K9 Breast Cancer - Heartworm Positive Treatment and Success Stories


IBR's Tick Borne Disease Data Through 2013

The data on this map was compiled by testing done in dogs and cats rescued from the states designated with a color. Additional data came in from referral dogs. Anaplasma, Babesia (DNA testing on a tick attached to a dog) and Lyme disease was found in the London, Ontario Canada area as of 2013.

I am still working on this spreadsheet but the data of all the pets we have tested and treated and still learning from can be overwhelming. Please consider a donation to help keep us going!!!

2009/2010 Tick Borne Illness Data

After 2 years of testing (2009- 2010) and retesting using several different tick panels available to us depending on the availability of each test per state per foster home, our data is in. Out of 159 dogs and puppies tested, 136 came up positive for one or more of the following diseases: Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). While the testing methods were not consistent and we feel we missed many co infections, the fact that 81% of our incoming rescue dogs are infected is alarming. We do feel that most infections are transmitted from mother to pup and sadly most dogs and puppies will never get diagnosed and treated because the information available to pet owners and their vets is inaccurate. Rocky Mountain spotted fever continues to be the most common infection and was found from coast to coast.

As we have foster dogs that have been in our program for several years and all the laboratory data (Tick Panels and CBC/Chems) to back up our findings-- we are also quite confident that there is no such thing as an "Exposure Titer" and any positive titer must be treated aggressively. We are starting to realize that while RMSF is never considered a disease that will go chronic, we have dogs and humans that have struggled with it for years and it may not be curable. In 2011 we started to add Cefuroxine with doxycycline for the stubborn cases os Lyme disease with RMSF coinfections and that treatment regemine has been amazingly successful.

The cost per test averages $100 across the country and we have to test dogs and puppies multiple times and compare their Complete Blood Counts and Chemistries. This can add up quickly so we do need your help with this important research. I am continually amazed with how many potential adopters have been affected by these diseases in their own pets or family members.


Larger View of Map




2010 Stats


Belle & Harmony- both RMSF pups at 6 months old.

  • Dogs diagnosed and needing treatment for Heartworm disease: 7

  • Brandon-ADOPTED (Setter-IL)/ HW+, Lyme disease & RMSF, Ollie (Setter-IL)/HW+, RMSF, Rosey-ADOPTED (Pointer-OK)/HW+, Ehrlichia & RMSF, Praline (Pointer-IL)/HW+, RMSF, Ladybird-ADOPTED (Pointer-KY)/ HW+, Lyme disease & RMSF, Sassy (Pointer-OK)/HW+, Lyme disease & RMSF, mastitis, Mandilyn (Pointer-IL)/HW+ (former nursing mother), Myrna Loy-(Setter-OH)/HW+.

  • Other incoming dogs & puppies with tick borne illnesses: 15

  • Edmund Dantes (Setter-IL)/ Lyme disease and RMSF (Grade 5 heart murmur), Fannie Price ADOPTED (Setter-VA) Lyme disease & RMSF, Harmony-ADOPTED (Setter-IL)/ RMSF (Setter puppy pictured above). We think Harmony was actually infected by her Mother, Moira (Pointer-OK)/RMSF, Harvey-ADOPTED (Setter-IL)/Lyme disease, Hudson (Pointer-IL)/ Lyme disease & RMSF, Hickory-ADOPTED (Setter-IL)/Lyme disease & RMSF, Murphy (Pointer/GSP mix-TN)/ Lyme disease, Snowy (Setter-TN) RMSF, Guster (Pointer-IL) Lyme disease and RMSF, Eric-ADOPTED(Setter Mix/Valentine's Puppy-OK) Lyme disease (diagnosis at 4 months), Keely- ADOPTED (Setter Mix/Valentine's Puppy-OK) Lyme disease (diagnosis at 4 months),Pat- ADOPTED (Setter Mix/Valentine's Puppy-OK) RMSF (diagnosis at 6 months), Coleus- ADOPTED (Pointer mix came in at 9 weeks old) RMSF (diagnosis at 6 months), Speck (Senior Setter-IL) Ehrlichia, Lyme disease & RMSF.

  • Nursing mothers diagnosed with TBI's: 2

  • Fannie (Super Mutt-IL)/RMSF and Valentine- ADOPTED (Super Mutt- OK)/ Ehrlichia & RMSF. All puppies will be tested at 6 months for antibodies.

  • Dogs & puppies previously adopted and diagnosed and undergoing treatment now for tick borne illnesses (new catagory): 18
  • Including Tucker (Pointer mix- OK) diagnosed with RMSF in 2009, diagnosed with Babesia in 2010.
  • Dogs or puppies diagnosed and undergoing treatment now after consulting with IBR about our TBI research (based on dog's behavior, tick bite and stray history): 12

  • Honey (Golden Retriever- KS) Ehrlichia, Rio (Gordon Setter- MN) Anaplasma & RMSF, KC (Chow Mix-IL) Lyme disease, Quincy (Setter Mix-IL) Lyme disease, Sage (German Shorthair Pointer- WI) Ehrlichia & RMSF, Belle (Pointer-IL) RMSF at 6 months old, Fulton (English Setter- Ehrlichia / Adopted from ACES), Mason (Wirehair Pointing Griffin- IL), Bear (Labrador Retriever-IL) Lyme disease, Chloie (Irish Setter- IL) RMSF, Spike (English Bulldog-IL) Lyme disease, Jiro (German Shorthaired Pointer- IL) Lyme disease, Savanna (Pointer mix- MN) Lyme disease.

    What We Know


    Ticks are problematic disease carriers that can infect many pets that are not protected by basic flea and tick prevention. Most of the dogs and puppies (purebreds and mixed breeds) we bring into Illinois Birddog Rescue come from all over the country. As many are strays and owner surrenders that may have suffered abuse and neglect, we know that if not protected, they are at high risk for tick bites and subsequently the tick borne diseases Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and others including Babesia, Bartonella and Cattle Fever. Diagnosing dogs and puppies with these diseases can be tricky and troublesome as many in the veterinary community are usually focused on Lyme disease and not acquainted with the subtle symptoms dogs may exhibit with short or long term exposure to the others. As many infected shelter dogs are being saved and transported across state lines hundreds of miles from their original state and adopted though rescue organizations across the country—Hurricane Katrina dogs for example—it is possible that a chronic infection may be missed until it is too late. We were very surprised when our first English Setter from Louisiana tested positive for RMSF.

    Testing for these diseases can also be complicated. IDEXX Research Laboratories promotes the least expensive testing kit called a 4DX Snap test that offers a fast positive or negative result for Heartworm disease, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma. This test can be hit or miss depending on what stage of the illness the infected dog is experiencing, and sadly it does not test for RMSF—the most prevalent illness we are seeing across the country. Because of the inconsistencies in the 4DX Snap Test results--the past few years we have started using Serology (antibody) testing that offered a better diagnosis for at least Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and RMSF. Currently the testing we recommend is the IDEXX 371, or IDEXX 3716- Lyme Quant, however we have found that test to be inconclusive for Lyme disease in dogs with lower antibodies. We also recommmend Antech's SA330 as a back up--but it will miss RMSF in low antibody levels--levels that frequently cause issues in many of our dogs.

    With that in mind, the beginning of 2009, Illinois Birddog Rescue was on a quest to gather as much data as possible as to the frequency of our incoming dogs being infected with Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and RMSF and the home state that each dog was coming from. (Fig 1). Using IDEXX lab code 371 and Antech lab code SA330 Serology testing, the statistics of infected dogs and puppies was alarming. (Fig 2). Out of 57 dogs and puppies tested, 46 were infected with either Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, or RMSF, or in many cases a co-infection of at least two or three out of four. (Fig 3).





    One Special Pointer and Setter Fighting Tick Borne Diseases


    Heathcliff & Lani- nice back!

    Lani and Heathcliff were saved from being killed in over crowded shelters in Kentucky and Illinois respectively. Both were infected with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (from tick bites or from infections from birth) and Cliff also had a third infection of Ehrlichia. Lani never showed any interest in upland birds and was a challenge in foster care. He had separation anxiety, destructive issues, was a fence jumper and dug huge holes in the yard until we diagnosed his Lyme disease via an IDEXX 371 tick panel. After diagnosis and months of antibiotics, as his brain started to heal, his scenting abilities rebounded. Not only is he one of the most amazing working dogs off leash, his nose is 100% reliable on birds.

    Cliff struggled with his tick borne co infections for months manifesting in some fear and rage aggression. We see these behaviors most often in affected Setters. Once he started treatment he showed his true hunting abilities and completed his Junior Hunter Title in the AKC. He is also a working hunter in his adoptive home. Both boys still continue to struggle with the diseases coming out of remission, but thanks to IBR's research, they will hopefully have long and happy pain free lives.


    Heathcliff on Pheasant.


    Lani on Pheasant.

    It is with much sorrow and sadness that Healthcliff's adopters had to put him to sleep in February 2011 after only a year of joining their family. Cliff was a very happy boy after he settled in--but his Rocky Mountain spotted fever infection and we suspect Lyme disease infection continued to plague him and he started to act out resulting in a few bite incidents. His family was left with no choice but to let him go and out of his pain. Cliff's story just affirms how important our tick borne illness research is. Happy Trails Cliff-- we love you!


    Get to the Point! Two More Special Rescue Pointers


    Adopted Pointers Petey Pie & Rex make it look easy!.

    Petey Pie was pulled from a shelter in Hinsdale, IL. He was surrendered by his owner and was originally bought by a breeder in Bloomingdale, IL. He was frightened and the shelter staff deemed him unadoptable at just 6 months old and had an IBR volunteer not stepped up to pull and foster, he would have been killed.

    Rex was in an over crowded shelter in Indiana--the victom of his owner losing his job and being evicted. His owner had no luck finding a home for his house pet and hunting companion and as his breeder was unwilling to take him back, Rex was surrendered to the local kill shelter. We were so full when his photo and pleas for help kept coming via email. We didn't have a foster home and funds were low--but a plea on IBR Facebook brought in a donation from Canada so we saved him and put him into boarding. Rex's shelter papers had the name and phone number of his previous owner and after a phone call, we found out his story. Rex came from good bloodlines and had been hunted in Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota. He had over 1,000 birds shot over him. What a tragedy his death would have been.

    Blood work via the IDEXX 371 Serology panel showed both boys were infected from tick borne illnesses and given their low titers and repeat testing--Petey was certainly infected from birth. He still struggles with health and behavior issues- but his foster family eventually adopted him and he is now dual registered with the FDSB and AKC and competes in Hunt tests and hopefully Field Trials as he is nearly 100% broke to Wing and Shot.

    We were thrilled to have the opportunity to put both boys on pheasant in March. What a pleasure to see two Pointers that would have been killed--doing what they were bred to do and benefitting from IBR's tick borne illness research. This is why your donations are so important to help keep us going!


    Petey--diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.


    Rex- diagnosed with Lyme disease.


    2009 Another Ruff Year--Stats

    Our 9th year of operations posed more fundraising challenges as the sick, injured, neglected and abused dogs and puppies came in one after the other. As we scrambled to find funding to help our current population of dogs and puppies in foster care, we were blessed with new enthusiastic help. Our tick borne illness diagnosis, treatment and research also continued as more and more dogs and puppies came into our care infected with Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Rocky Mountain spotted fever or the combination of two or three. At this point, when we don't get a positive serology for a tick borne illness--we are still suspicious. We tested 78 dogs in 2009 and 61 were positive (that's 78% or 8 out of 10) and we suspected a few more with odd behaviors had a false negative and we treated anyways. As most of our heartworm positive dogs also had tick borne coinfections, that posed more challenges for us to help these dog recover and find new forever homes. Sadly the hardest issues were our sweet girls with mammary cancer. Our vets only give these dogs a 50/50 chance of surviving beyond 18 months post surgery, but we feel that is a worth the extra time and expense to let these girls learn about how it is to be loved and cared for. If only they had been spayed...

    Here are our statistics for our incoming dogs and puppies for 2009.


  • Dogs & Puppies Saved: 105
  • Dogs & Puppies Adopted: 80
  • Dogs diagnosed and treated for Heartworm disease: 13
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease: 8
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease and Anaplasma: 1
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease and RMSF: 11
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease, Ehrlichia & RMSF: 2
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Ehrlichia: 3
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Ehrlichia and RMSF: 5
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for RMSF: 25
  • Dogs & puppies diagnosed and treated for Anaplasma: 1
  • Dogs with Mammary cancer: 4
  • Deaf dogs or puppies: 2
  • Cherry eye surgery: 1

  • Poor Sweet Duckie (sleeping setter) is now in hospice care. She came to us in February of 2009 after her back leg had been amputated. Upon arrival she was diagnosed with Heartworm disease, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. She also has mammary cancer. After 11 months in foster care and with ongoing treatment, she is heartworm and Lyme negative but she still has chronic Ehrlichia and RMSF. She was too anemic to do any surgery until recently and during her spay it was discovered she needed her spleen removed because of a tumor. This is so sad and the doctor has given her 10 months to live. We are hopeful she will outlive his prognosis. Duckie's story


    Co-Infections,Heartworm Disease and Behavior Problems


    The frequency of co-infections was very common and often problematic in dogs that needed treatment for Heartworm disease. Treatment for Heartworm disease on a dog with an underling tick borne illness must be taken very slowly. We pre-treat each dog for up to 2 months with Doxycycline to try and help the dog’s immune system fight off the tick borne illness. Our research shows that even after heartworm treatment is completed, the dog may still struggle with the original underlying tick borne illness and Doxycycline treatment may need to continue for months afterward.

    Further research shows that out of 45 dogs infected, we found serious dog aggression in 16 dogs including 2 that we considered euthanizing due to unpredictable rage behavior. Most of the dog aggression was noted in dogs suffering from Lyme disease and RMSF exposure. We do know that these infected dogs are in terrible pain; suffering from high fevers and headaches that may manifest itself in aggression and terrible rage behavior. Other undesirable behaviors we noted in the infected dogs were chronic food allergies, eye irregularities (that could lead to blindness), ear infections, (deafness in a 4 month old puppy), mental illness including obsessive compulsive digging and escaping tendencies, cage anxiety, separation anxiety, and hyper-active behavior. Post treatment (up to 8 weeks on Doxycycline), many of these dogs become highly adoptable, loving and overcame some of their past aggressive behavior. Almost immediately after treatment starts, we are also see a calming affect over these dogs, their hyper activity and obsessive compulsive behaviors diminish and amazingly their joyfulness and playfulness returns.

    Interesting enough, as most of the dogs we rescue are hunting dogs, many will go from scatterbrained hyper behavior to starting to lock on point as their brain function improves. The before and after behavior in a Pointer or Setter treated for a tick borne illness is quite dramatic.


    IBR's Sweet Seventeen aka Jules


    Jules looking amazing on point.

    Jules on nice pheasant find.

    Jules is one of IBR's amazing success stories. She only had a few days left in an over-crowded shelter in Hopkinsville, KY in December of 2008 when we located a foster home for her. Upon arrival to foster care, Jules showed some fear aggression and bloodwork showed she had Lyme disease most likely because her owner didn't use a flea and tick preventative. We started her on antibiotics even before we got the Lyme diagnosis because her behavior was untypical of a happy- go - lucky Pointer. After 3 weeks on antibiotics we had her spayed but it was too soon and she struggled with swelling and pain. Jules continued to show fear aggession and anxiety for several more months. The first time we tested her on pheasant the end of February 2009, Jules was overwhelmed, frightened and couldn't even be handled. She would just cower on the ground--she was so pathetic--poor baby.

    In early March, Jules moved to foster care with the President of IBR to help build her confidence. With several months of antibiotic treatment for her Lyme disease, Jules finally started to show improvement in her temperament and personality. Much to our delight, her confidence and birdiness began to show through. As her brain started to heal, Jules started to lock on point on every tweetie bird and squirrel in the back yard. Off leash training started at this time and Jules showed herself to be a true Field Trial prodigy- running with huge independent casts, taking every tree line all the while her tail whipping back and forth with such energy and enthusiasm. Jules also showed herself to be 100% reliable with her recall no matter how big she ran while her off leash training continued.

    In April of 2009, with Jules' progress in foster care and her natural ability to point coming back, she was registered with the AKC and was allowed to run in a Field Trial for ribbons. Jules ran beautifully off of horseback and we have no doubt she is from Ferrel Miller's breeding stock- watch Animal Planet's Breed All About It--Pointers. Sadly, what Animal Planet doesn't know is that any dog or puppy that doesn't meet with Ferrel's standards are culled (killed). It is common knowledge that Mr. Miller will take a load of pups to Canada for training and several won't return to Paducah, KY.

    With the 17 Jules has tatooed in her left ear--she is just one of many of a Field Trial Pro's assembly line of Pointer pups (much like the puppies in the Animal Planet Video) that didn't cut it--through no fault of her own because of her undiagnosed Lyme disease illness. What a tragedy it would have been if Jules had been euthanized in an over-crowded shelter and dumped in a land fill in rural Kentucky somewhere.

    As a side note, TWO IDEXX 4DX Heartworm, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma Snap Tests missed her Lyme disease. A Tick Panel Serology test caught it. We treated Jules for 12 weeks on doxycycline and retest 2 months later showed she was cured. UPDATE February 14, 2010 I called to check on Jules this past February to let her adopter know she was being featured in The Pointing Dog Journal. --and I was told she had shut down. I suggested we meet so I could assess the situation--and as soon as Jules got out of her adopter's car--she hid under his car and wouldn't run at all--and walked with her tail tucked behind her. I am sure her new daddy meant well- but I do think he was too hard on her and didn't realize American Field Pointers need to run big. Too hard training at trying to keep her in 100 yards ruined the confidence I tried so hard to build in her. That--and somehow she got infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever in his care which I am also certain affected her personality and lack of confidence. ANOTHER tick borne illness this dog has had to suffer through. I was devastated by this disasterous adoption and was able to convince her daddy (who did love her) to return her to my care. Jules started back on antibiotics February 14th and 3 weeks later after some TLC in a female only foster home and some fun confidence building romps at the dog park--my baby Jules returned to field trialing on March 6th. My bracemate was a nice man--but his use of a whistle and tone of voice--immediately shut Jules down at the start of our brace. I encouraged her to keep going and she ran a very nice race. I don't think her scenting abilities are completely back and she wasn't as bold in her running as she was last Spring--but this was a good first step and she still has a long road to recovery as RMSF is just a nasty disease. Some dogs do carry baggage from the abuse of a former first owner--and I am sure the fella who had her originally in KY--was very unkind to her. We will be looking for a female only adopter in the future. I do wish her adopter had contacted me sooner. I will update her progress.

    Read more about Jules' story.


    Peter Parker is a very handsome Lemon and White Field bred Pointer that came to us from Eastern Tennessee. Darth Peter had one of the worst cases of Lyme disease Rage Aggression I had even seen and he was almost euthanized because of it. His aggressive behavior was unpredictable around other dogs and he couldn't control himself when he would snap. Thankfully several months of Doxycycline cured his disease while foster care helped him regain his confidence around other dogs. As Peter's sparkling personality started to come through, he also began to point birds and was eventually adopted to a wonderful family as a pet and hunting companion.

    Peter scent pointing pheasant.


    Ladybird on point.


    Lots of intensity!

    Ladybird came to us from Henderson, KY and was only hours from being put to sleep in a over-crowded shelter. Upon arrival we saw tick bites all over her head and started her on doxycycline immediately. Tick panel showed Lyme disease and RMSF. She struggled for months with fevers, joint pain and anorexia. In foster care, Lady would also show some aggressive tendencies towards her foster Pointer brother and sister and her obsessive compulsive tendencies would manifest itself in out of control hole digging. She overcame the Lyme disease quickly but needed several more months of treatment to get over the RMSF. Post treatment, Lady showed her amazing pointing skills on upland birds. She was adopted by Oxford (RMSF survivor) and his family and will be a spoiled pet and hunting companion.

    The Human Factor


    Our research into the diagnosis and treatment of RMSF in our rescue dogs hit close to home when one of our volunteers became ill with some strange symptoms the summer of 2009. After months of suffering from terrible headaches, fevers, hot flashes and chills. chronic abdominal pain, renal issues, lack of focus at her job, depression and in 2007, Anterior Uveitis, affecting both eyes causing extreme sensitivity to light, this volunteer was not only diagnosed with RMSF—but also Typhus, which is transmitted by fleas. Further testing is being done to see if she has any additional co-infections. She lives in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio and could have been infected by wood ticks falling out of the trees around her property, but for a time she lived in South Carolina. Her diagnosis was difficult to achieve and her first doctor refused to do a human tick panel because she didn’t exhibit a rash commonly found in many RMSF infected patients. Technically she has Rocky Mountain spotless fever. Her diagnosis has also helped us in regards to one of the most important revelations we have found through our research- that successful treatment for RMSF requires at least 8 weeks of Doxycycline antibiotic therapy especially for dogs that have had clinical signs and positive antibodies for months or years. This refutes most of the treatment therapies suggested by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Our volunteer’s symptoms became worse at the end of the 10 day course of antibiotics she had been prescribed for by her health care practitioner and she will be completing the full 8 weeks under her current doctor’s care and will also be consulting with an infectious disease specialist to determine if she may have additional vector borne co-infections.

    Research Money Needed


    The average cost of an IDEXX or Antech Serology test for Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and RMSF is about $120 nationwide. It is very costly since there must be the follow up retesting post treatment prior to adoption. It becomes even more costly with the added complication of heartworm treatment- but not spending the extra money on retesting would be unethical for us as a rescue given all that we have learned in 2009

    We are still learning so much about these diseases. After a year of solid research, we are certain that the veterinary community is very uninformed about the frequency of these diseases, the coinfections, the coinfections that may affect how a dog recovers from heartworm treatment and other serious health issues and how many pets are at risk across the United States. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, especially, is incredibly misunderstood and all published evidence about this disease is to the contrary of what we are finding. So many animals are suffering needlessly and only through more funding can our research be used to help dispute what is commonly known in the Vetting community. We welcome any donations to help us continue this very important research.

    Lyme Vaccine- Don't Do It!

    As many veterinarians are not fully educated in the frequency of multiple tick borne illnesses one tick can carry- vaccinating a dog for Lyme disease is giving pet owners a false sense of security. While Lyme disease is a huge problem across the country, Ehrlichia but especially Rocky Mountain spotted fever are far more common-especially in the Midwest. Also our latest testing on dogs and puppies leads us to believe Lyme disease can be spread from the mother dog to her puppies. I can only imagine the damage vaccinating a dog or puppy already infected with Lyme disease would cause.

    The best defence to keep your pet safe and healthy is using a good flea and tick preventative, removing any ticks before they get engourged and more importantly--doing annual or bi-annual Tick Panel Serology testing to make sure your pet is not showing any antibodies for any of these diseases.


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