Articles > Lyme Disease in Horses Requires Health Treatment


17 Aug 2010

 It's easy to overlook Lyme disease, but it's a real illness that can do a lot of damage at any time of the year.
A horse who just doesn't seem quite "right" might be a candidate for a Lyme screening.

What is Lyme disease  --   It is a bacterial illness caused by a spirochete called Borrellia burgdorferi. The bacteria are spread by a tick, commonly called the deer tick, and can infect horses, cattle, pets, as well as humans. Lyme disease in horses is quite common for animals living in high risk areas.

Equine Lyme disease is not easy to identify - Early Lyme symptoms, such as fever and irritability, are nonspecific and easy to miss or dismiss as a virus, work-related arthritis or various causes of muscle pain. The most common symptoms are lameness and changes in the animal's behavior. You may notice the animal shifting frequently from limb to limb, and showing signs of a general stiffness. 

Lyme disease in horses is a tricky diagnosis even for experienced veterinarians, since these animals are prone to muscle and joint injuries, so it’s difficult to relate such problems immediately to a bacterial infection. Also, the blood test can only show that the animal has been exposed to the bacteria and that its immune system reacted, but this doesn’t mean that the disease has been triggered.
Symptoms – associated with Lyme infection in horses include:
• Fever (probably early infections)
• Ill-defined, shifting lameness not explained by injury or level of work
• Poor performance
• Personality changes
• Laminitis
• Anterior uveitis (ERU/moonblindness-like eye changes