If you live in the Northeast or certain parts of the Midwest in the U.S., your horse may be at higher risk for contracting Lyme disease—a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). Lyme disease gets its name from Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified in the 1970’s. Since that time, the disease has been studied in both humans and animals.
In 2003, researchers at Cornell University conducted research on Lyme disease in horses and reported that 50% of horses in the Northeastern United States tested positive for exposure to Lyme disease.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Lyme disease can be a tricky diagnosis in both humans and horses for several reasons. Symptoms may not show up for six weeks or more, and because the disease often mimics other conditions such as osteoarthritis, rhabdomyolsis, or EPM, it may be easy to misdiagnose. To further complicate issues, not all infected horses will show symptoms.
- low grade fever;
- muscle tenderness;
- muscle wasting;
- weight loss;
- depressed or irritable attitude;
- stiff or uncoordinated gait;
- swollen joints;
- shifting lameness;
- sensitivity to sound and touch; and
It’s important to note that these symptoms may stem from the bacterial infection, itself, or they may come from the body’s immune response to the infection.
What to Do if You Find a Tick on Your Horse
It’s important to check your horse for ticks on a daily basis and remove any ticks you find as it typically takes at least 16-24 hours for a tick to transmit the disease.
If you do find a tick on your horse (or yourself), do not grasp it between your thumb and finger and pull it free, as this may force material from the tick into the skin. Instead, grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible and pull straight up with a slow, steady force. Once the tick has been removed, use an antiseptic such as rubbing alcohol on the bite.
Additionally, you can take the removed tick to your veterinarian who can submit it for testing. If the tick tests positive for B. burgdorferi, that means your horse has been exposed to the bacteria which causes Lyme disease (but this doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll develop symptoms).
Veterinarians typically treat Lyme disease with antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline and they may also suggest anti-inflammatories such as Banamine or bute to ease your horse’s discomfort, but because horses can develop recurring symptoms due to Lyme disease, an herbal product such as our Lymex can help protect your horse in the long run. This signature product can be given in conjunction with traditional treatments as well.
Lymex supports the horse’s immune system and aids in relieving symptoms like inflammation, lethargy, as well as muscle and nerve pain. If used on a continual basis, this formula can help prevent Lyme flare-ups.
If you suspect Lyme disease in your horse, contact your veterinarian right away. As with many diseases, the sooner it is treated, the better chance your horse will have for a full recovery.