Lyme Disease

STEVE: Lyme disease is kind of a tough diagnosis for most practitioners unless it’s endemic in your area. I ended up coming across it from time to time as a rule-out from other problems. Usually it shows up as an arthritis, but then when you go back and look at a history of the horse has had kind of like a history of maybe a bout with a fever, this sort of thing, and then all of a sudden, they are uncomfortable. They have kind of a generalized discomfort to them. They don’t examine exactly like any other disease process. You almost end up coming up with as a rule-out diagnosis from other things. Then we go ahead and run a titer on them, and we find out they have lyme disease.

The best treatment or the only treatment that we know of is to go ahead and put them on tetracycline derivative, long-term treatment, which most horses respond to quite nicely. But usually it’s a rule-out diagnosis from chronic arthritis or discomfort that you can’t really put your finger on anything in particular, and it’s just not localized in one problem.

One of the complications of lyme disease is they become extremely lame and just uncomfortable in a number of different areas, and they can’t perform anymore. I’ve seen jumpers with it. Horses from back East, where you see it a little bit more commonly. Lyme disease is quite prevalent primarily in the eastern United States, but we’ve seen it disseminate to other places throughout the Midwest. I haven’t seen too many cases out in the far west, but usually eastern US, mid-Atlantic region, primarily from Connecticut down to mid-Atlantic states thereabouts, let’s say Virginia, North Carolina and as far west as Kentucky.

The biggest problem is its vectors that will carry the disease. You’ve got to be careful of ticks and certain biting flies, things like this, but mainly insects will carry it and give it to horses or people as well.