Beware STARI: Tick illness - lameness and joint pain

No, STARI isn't the name of an entertainer in the adult industry, it's a tick born illness that infected a few of our dogs after getting into a bad bed of ticks at training. STARI - Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness has the same signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and is treated with a 3-4 week course of antibiotic.

The dogs infected: Angus, Louie, Luna #1(Paige's Luna), and Luna #2 (my Luna). All have had Lyme vaccinations.

picture of Angus and Louie
picture 2
picture 3

Signs and symptoms include:

  • A rash in the shape of a bullseye at the bite location
  • Fatigue
  • Lameness
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint pain.

Last Wednesday I got a text from Paula, another member of my search and rescue team, letting me know that Louie, Angus, and Luna (Paige's Luna - Paige is another teammate on my search and rescue team, and she is quite the character!!!) had all been diagnosed with STARI by the vet after they developed bullseye sores at tick bite locations. When I got home from work the first thing I did was check Luna over. I wasn't too concerned because I had already gone through her coat several times and pulled a few ticks off, nothing alarming. I did remember feeling some strange scaly spots around her front ankles. While checking her again I felt these scaly spots again… there wasn't enough light inside so I took her out on the front porch and the light revealed what the scaly spots were. These scaly spots were clumps of nymph Lone Star ticks! I could scrape my fingernail along her ankle and peel off 4-5 at a time. PANIC!!

We didn't have any tick bath or treatment at home so we needed to make a run into town to get some tick bath. I rounded up baby Jack, Gabe and Luna and we went roaring to Feeder's Supply to get some tick bath (vet was closed at this point in the evening). When we got back we gave Luna a tick bath and brushed her hair with a furminator - each stroke pulled off 6-10 ticks. I got about 70 - 80 ticks off of her, most of which were slightly above her front ankles. The nymph stage of the tick is very small and hard to see. I think she had mainly Lone Star ticks and potentially a few deer ticks.


Pictures of her legs - you can see the bloody spots where so many had been attached to her.

image of her bloody ankles

bloody ankle two

It was too late in the evening to get to the vet, so I called the vet the next morning. After explaining the events they agreed to call in a prescription to a local pharmacy for Doxycycline. Easy enough right? Wrong. The vet called back about an hour later and said that both Costco and Wal-Mart pharmacies were charging over $259 for 3 weeks of doxy!! Paula and Paige had gotten their dogs medicine from Shively Animal Clinic off Dixie Highway for a lot cheaper, so it was time to head over to the West End of Louisville.


I left work early to pickup Luna, Gabe, and Jack and we went on our cross town adventure to Shively Animal Clinic. The vet is a walk in clinic, so after signing in they let us know we had about a 2 hour wait. To kill some time and feed our bellies we went in search of food. Gabe and I had spotted a little joint called Dixie Chicken on the way, so we headed back for that.

After picking up our food we hung out in the parking lot waiting to be called back. The staff at Shively Animal Clinic were very kind and courteous and once it was our turn they took great care of Luna. I can't believe this place doesn't have any computers. They still register people with a typewriter - everything is typed or handwritten, there are no credit card machines.

The vet looked Luna over and didn't find any additional ticks. They got our prescription ready and I went ahead and picked up some Nexguard to add in to her flea/tick treatment till we get a frost. Nexguard is the new edible flea and tick treatment that is given once a month along with the heartworm medication. The vet recommended we use both with the types of terrain we venture into on a frequent basis. Luna approves of the taste of the Nexguard - I gave it to her and she chewed it up like a tasty treat. That's a stark difference compared to how she licks the Sentinel and spits it out even though it is 'flavored'.


So why was the tick infestation so bad? For the last month and a half Luna didn't have any flea/tick prevention because I had taken her Seresto collar off while a rash on her neck healed from a few months ago. I think the rash came from a tick bath that didn't get washed off from her neck and collar and caused the irritation. The flea and tick collars had expired and I didn't get around to ordering new ones till a few weeks ago but they didn't ship until after our tick infestation.


I used Seresto last year for both Luna and Charlie, and it worked great. Anytime I found a tick on her it was either dead or had not attached. I should have used a topical treatment while her neck healed. The other dogs did have flea and tick treatments and still got infested with the ticks.

Luna modeling

So how has the Seresto and Nexguard performed? I'm pleased to say very good. We spent the last couple of days at my in-laws farm which has a large deer population and we ALWAYS pick up ticks. So far with the combination of Seresto and Nexguard we haven't found any ticks on Luna this trip!

Picture of a tick with a no smoking circle on it