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Lyme Disease or Equine Borreliosis is a tick-borne infection caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi. It is sometimes called Lyme disease, named after the town in which it was first discovered. The tick often buries its head into the skin. A large percentage of horses can show no symptoms at all of Equine Borreliosis and can develop antibodies to the infection. Because Equine Borreliosis presents symptoms such as lameness and soreness of muscles which can be caused by various other conditions, diagnosis of equine borreliosis is difficult. Therefore ruling out other causes for the symptoms is the number one priority as a precise diagnosis depends on tests which can be expensive and involve retrieving the organism from the affected tissue.

It would appear that horses kept at pasture seem to be more prone to equine borreliosis than horses kept in more confined areas.

The disease is known as Lyme Disease as it was discovered in Lyme,Connecticut USA.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Many of the following symptoms can be associated with Lyme Disease or Equine Borreliosis

  • mild pyrexia (high body temperature)
  • lethargy
  • weight loss
  • stiffness/lameness
  • muscle soreness
  • synovial effusions
  • laminitis
  • uveitis (inflammation of the eye)
  • behavioural changes
  • hyperaesthesia (unusual sensitivity)
  • ataxia (loss of co-ordination)
  • encephalitis (a viral infection of the brain)
  • renal disease
  • abortion
  • poor performance
  • orthopaedic problems

Cause of Lyme Disease

The cause of Lyme Disease is infection transmitted to the horse through tick bites. Contact with the tick usually occurs in areas of brush and tall grass.

Treatment of Lyme Disease

You should contact your vet to confirm diagnosis. Serology tests will most likely be carried out but these could take a few months to get a correct reading. The most common treatment takes the form of antibiotics such as penicillin and/or tetracycline.

A recent product called ceftiofur, has proved successful with cattle, and has been tried (off-label) to treat horses with reoccurring Lyme disease. Treatment takes between 2 and 4 weeks. Anti-inflammatory products may also be prescribed.

Unfortunately, symptoms frequently re-occur even though treatment may have appeared successful.




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