How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented
Tick control and prevention methods significantly reduce the likelihood of infection. Maintaining antibodies against B. burgdorferi through vaccination can further protect your animal. Antibody amounts and duration of vaccine antibodies can vary in individuals. Verifying your animals antibody response to vaccination helps to assure durable protection.
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Ticks are less visible on animals, particularly those with dark coats, than they are on humans, and animals do not usually develop an observable bull’s-eye rash. Symptoms of Lyme disease usually show up earlier in dogs than in horses, and while some of the symptoms are the same, dogs are more likely to experience the disease’s early flu-like symptoms, which include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and swollen lymph nodes. Both dogs and horses, if infected with Lyme disease, may show the following symptoms weeks or even months after the tick bite:
- Lameness, especially “shifting leg” lameness
- Swollen joints
- Pain upon being touched
The Stages Of Lyme Disease Infection
- Early localized infection. This lasts 1 to 4 weeks and is characterized in humans by a bulls eye rash at the site of the tick bite which takes 3 to 30 days to appear. Unfortunately, this would be virtually invisible on a horse so early stages of infection will invariably be missed. The trend in human medicine, and a wise one IMO, is to treat with doxycycline at the first report of a tick bite, regardless of any symptoms, when in an endemic area for Lyme . Only a single dose is needed.
- Early disseminated Lyme. This means the organism has spread beyond the general vicinity of the tick bite. This stage begins weeks to months after the initial tick bite.
- Late disseminated Lyme. The disease enters this stage weeks, months or even years after the tick bite. It is associated with the most severe signs, in a variety of organ systems.
Recognizing that Lyme occurs in stages is important because it has been well established in humans that the longer the interval between infection and treatment, the more difficult to impossible it becomes to really cure the infection.
The only symptoms present in the early localized disease, other than the rash are very nondescript such as easily missed mild fever, aching, fatigue, transient swollen lymph nodes. The chances of detecting these in your horse are minimal. Even if the horse does seem off at some time, it is so nonspecific youre not likely to think Lyme.
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Different Treatments May Work For Different Types Of Lyme Disease Infections In Horses Fact
With more details offered in the new testing by Cornell, we can now identify if a horse is recently exposed, suffering from the acute early stages of the infection, or experiencing chronic infection. Treatment may vary based on how long the horse has been experiencing symptoms and the details of their test results.
For example, a horse with recent exposure and early stages of acute infection may respond to doxycycline since the disease has not yet settled in the horses system. However a horse with a low grade chronic infection, while their test counts may be on the lower side of the positive range, may need more aggressive, longer term treatment with the more expensive antibiotic, minocycline. Both drugs are tetracycline antibiotics, but based on their different chemical makeup, can treat horses differently.
Lyme Disease Can Be Cured In Horses
The most common forms of Lyme disease, which are non-neurologic, can be treated with antibiotics like intravenous oxytetracycline and oral doxycycline.
The treatment usually lasts between four and eight weeks. It is possible for horses to still have antibodies in their blood after treatment. These levels are indicative of the bodys reaction to infection and not necessarily the immune response to treatment.
A single treatment should usually be successful and the horse shouldnt be expected to relapse. Although it is possible for horses to become symptomatic in the long-term, this is uncommon and the veterinarian would not expect that the horse will experience long-term side effects.
Dr. DeNotta explains that there are two more serious dangers. If the horses are still experiencing problems after treatment, this could indicate that there is something else.
Just to muddy the water a little more, tetracycline antibiotics are really good anti-inflammatories, she says.
If the horse has a lameness problem that is not being detected, it might seem to be improving while taking the medication. The pain will then get worse once the medication is stopped.
Dr. DeNotta states that one cycle of antibiotics should be sufficient. If the horse is able to tolerate the antibiotic but then becomes worse when it is removed, I wonder if the horse has pain that was caused by the anti-inflammatory property and not the bacteria infection.
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So What Do I Do If I Think My Horse May Have Lyme Disease
The short answer is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. In some cases horses can show a multitude of symptoms and actually not have Lyme disease, but be afflicted by other issues or lamenesses, while in other cases, a low grade chronic Lyme infection can be barely detectable by outward symptoms and the horse may just seem slightly off in some way.
The Animal Hospital of Sussex County offers both the Snap 4DX Plus test by IDEXX as well as the Multiplex Assay through Cornell Universitys Animal Health Diagnostic Center. If your horse doesnt have outward symptoms, but is in a high endemic area such as Sussex County and the surrounding areas, a quick, inexpensive snap test can get you a simple positive or negative so that you can determine how to proceed. A positive snap test should always be followed up with the multiplex test so that the stage of infection can be determined and a specific treatment plan for your horse can be developed.
If your horse is already showing symptoms, we recommend the full multiple assay so that you can get the detailed information you need to start treatment right away and help your horse on the road to recovery.
Dont let Lyme disease sidleline you and your horse from enjoying time together!
Chemical Prevention And Dewormers
Chemical wipe-on, pour-on and spray-on products, such as Co-Ral, Deep Woods Off, and Frontline spray can all be applied to the horseâs body and are effective for several hours.
Alternatively, oral dewormers such as ivermectin or moxidectin can be used to kill the tick once it has bitten the horse. The benefit of oral dewormers is that they are effective for much longer periods of time, usually 4 weeks.
A tick must be attached to the horse for 12-24 hours before transmitting B. burgdorferi bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. So the best way to prevent this disease is to carefully monitor and remove any ticks on your horse as soon as possible.
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Canine Ld Vaccines Being Used For Horses
There are no LD vaccines approved for the horse, so canine vaccines are used. Vaccination can be stressful to the immune system and has led to relapses. A recent study showed that all current canine vaccines produced only short-term responses in horses. It is important to note that many, but not all, of these horses have negative responses to other vaccines, such as rabies, West Nile virus, and others, once they have had LD.
Snap Tests For Horses Are An Inexpensive Alternative To More Robust Testing Options Part Fact Part Fiction
The Snap 4DX Plus Test by IDEXX was originally designed for dogs, but has been approved for use in equines, and it is true that it is accurate and less expensive than the traditional Western Blot titer test, or the now more commonly used Multiplex Assay test developed by Cornell Universitys Animal Health Diagnostic Center. However, the simple snap test just shows a positive or negative and doesnt quantify what type of infection your horse has. To find out more information on the type of infection , you would need to do the full Multiple Assay by Cornell.
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How Can I Keep My Horse From Borrelia Infection
The most important thing you can do is to protect your horse from tick bites. This recommendation, however, is hardly feasible, because there are ticks all around us. If your horse is one of those animals that are magnets for ticks, you can use repellents during tick season. When using repellents, pay attention to your animals tolerance of them.
During daily grooming, check your horse carefully for ticks. Ticks prefer thinly haired parts of the body, such as the head, neck, legs, and skin folds. Borrelia bacteria need between 8 and 24 hours to move from the tick, so the earlier you find and remove the tick, the better.
Tip: Never oil or squeeze the tick to remove it! A tick fighting against suffocation will release large quantities of saliva. It is better to remove the tick in one go!
How Should A Tick Be Removed
Ticks found on a horse should be removed as soon as possible using a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers. However, the horse must be properly restrained by an assistant for the safety of the person removing the tick.
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Are There Special Tests For Borreliosis
For several years there have been specificborreliosis tests on the market these are designed to detect Lyme disease at any stage based on a single blood test by measuring the horse’s immune response. The tests are expensive and the results are not undisputed, as there are no reference values for the horse’s immune response.
Acute Vs Chronic Lyme Infection
Acute infection indicates more recent exposure, where the horse has not yet or is in the earlier stages of being symptomatic. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and early detection and treatment is key. There are a lot of options for antibiotics, and the most common course is a round of doxycycline which can be given for 30 60 days depending on your horses detailed lab results. Your vet will be able to discuss this and the other antibiotics available on the market to develop a plan of action.
Chronic infection is more troublesome, and challenging to deal with as it means the horse has been infected for more than 5-8 weeks, and can be as long as several months to years. If your horse tests positive for chronic antibodies and negative for acute, that means your horse has been infected for at least 5 months or more.
The challenge with chronic Lyme disease in horses is that the disease has often already taken a toll on the horses overall health, and worn down their immune system as well as their mood, appetite, and more. Every case is different, and chronic can be much harder to detect, as horses can have mild to no symptoms that allow them to go undetected for months to years before they progress to the point of bloodwork that leads to the positive diagnosis.
Read Cornells information sheet on the Multiplex Assay test for more information.
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Treatment Of Lyme Disease In Horses
Depending on how severe the side effects are, your horse may need an aggressive round of antibiotics and other medications for pain. There are also several therapeutic treatments that may be used.
Oral doxycycline or minocycline, intravenous oxytetracycline or intramuscular ceftiofur are the most common antibiotics used in horses with Lyme disease.
Your veterinarian may prescribe vitamin supplements, and probiotics to help with digestion. In addition, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will be prescribed for pain and inflammation and possibly corticosteroids for serious inflammation.
Natural Treatments For Supporting The Immune System
The microbiome is the DNA of the microbes living in the gut. Probiotics are an absolute necessity and should continue for many months after antibiotic therapy is finished. The purpose of giving probiotics over the long term is to restore the health of the microbiome. Since soilbased microbes make up most of the natural population of the gut, supplements that use soil origin microbes will more effectively colonize the gut.
Vitamin C is well known for its action in the immune system and on collagen .
Noni is an herb that supports the immune system and has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. In fruit leather form, it is relatively inexpensive and concentrated, while the juice can be quite expensive, more dilute, and contains a significant amount of sugar.
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and support the immune system. They can be obtained through feeding whole flaxseed , naturally stabilized ground flax, hemp seeds, or chia seeds . Flax or hemp oils can be used, but they must be refrigerated during warm or hot weather. Three to six ounces twice a day is the usual dose for seeds less volume is needed with the oils. Blue-green algae also contains significant amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.
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Is Lyme Disease Curable In Horses
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. It is caused by an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is transmitted to people through the bite of infected ticks. Borrelia burgdorferi can cause symptoms such as fever, weight loss, fatigue, stiffness of the neck and joints, lameness and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease can affect both humans and animals.In humans, the disease can be cured if it’s caught early enough. However, this may not be the case for horses as the symptoms are not as obvious. It can be difficult to diagnose due to its similarities with other diseases and its lack of symptoms in the early stages.Lyme disease in horses cannot be cured but treatment usually helps control the symptoms.The antibiotics Doxycycline and Amoxicillin are often prescribed to help control symptoms of Lyme disease in horses.There is no vaccine for Lyme disease and early detection and treatment is critical.
For Animals That Have Not Been Vaccinated Can Osp A Values Be Positive How Should This Be Interpreted
Antibodies to OspA have previously been interpreted as markers for vaccination. Non-vaccinated animals usually have low values for antibodies to OspA, while vaccinated animals develop these antibodies. OspA antibodies have been shown to protect from infection with B. burgdorferi.
However, there is accumulating evidence that antibodies to OspA can occur without vaccination. First, residual OspA is present on the bacterial surface at the time of transmission to an animal. This causes a low and transient OspA antibody response early after infection. Second, antibodies to OspA have also been associated with treatment-resistant Lyme arthritis and with development of autoimmunity in human patients. Similarly, OspA antibodies in non-vaccinated dogs or horses can be considered as markers of chronicity and disease severity.
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Does Treatment Immediately After A Tick Bite Negate Signs Of Early Infection
Not every tick carries B. burgdorferi. The infection rate of ticks also varies with geographic region. Therefore, treatment should not be performed based on a tick bite alone. If the tick was found on the animal it can be sent in for B. burgdorferi PCR. PCR for Anaplasma can be performed simultaneously if requested. If the tick was infected, early treatment can be considered. However, a tick must feed for at least 24 hours on an animal or human for B. burgdorferi transmission to occur. Only a serological test will confirm whether transmission of B. burgdorferi occurred and the animal was infected. Antibodies can be detected in infected animals as early as 3-4 weeks after infection. Lyme Multiplex testing is recommended after that time. Treatment can be initiated immediately afterwards if antibody levels are positive. Treatment during this early infection phase is generally very effective.
Special Considerations For Vaccinated Horses
An approved Lyme vaccine for horses is currently not available. Horses are sometimes vaccinated with one of the three available Lyme vaccines for dogs for attempted protection of horses that are housed in Lyme endemic areas. Efficacy studies of canine vaccines in horses are not yet available, but experimental data suggested that anti-OspA antibodies are protective in horses.
All available vaccines contain OspA antigen as the sole or one of the vaccine components. Antibodies to OspA are identified by the Equine Lyme Multiplex Assay to determine the vaccination status in vaccinated horses. To provide our clients with the best interpretation for each animal, we need information on the vaccine used. This includes the name of the vaccine and the date when the horse was last vaccinated. Please include this information on the submission form when samples of vaccinated horses are submitted for testing.
Recent studies indicate that horses can respond to the canine vaccines, but the responses are typically short-lived17,18. It is therefore recommended to vaccinate horses in close proximity to tick season, approximately four weeks before ticks are typically abundant in the area. Additionally, confirmatory testing is recommended after vaccination of horses since low OspA antibody responses have been observed in individual horses.
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Can My Animal Get Infected Despite Being Vaccinated
Yes. Some animals have been infected despite vaccination. The most common reasons are low or short-lasting vaccine antibodies in the individual animal. It is advisable to monitor the vaccine response annually to ensure the animal develops sufficient antibodies in response to vaccination. Vaccine antibodies can be quantified with the Lyme Multiplex assay as early as two weeks following vaccination or anytime afterwards.