Considering how many horses are being treated for Lyme disease in the North East, you’d think that there would be more definitive research about Lyme and its treatment.
In truth, there is still a lot that we (the royal we here, including veterinary researchers) just don’t know about how Lyme (and other tick-borne diseases) affect horses. Although it has been shown that horses are infected by Lyme, the connection between the infection and the symptoms associated with Lyme are more tenuous. In some studies (at least one at Cornell) where horses have been intentionally infected with Lyme, the majority of the subjects showed no signs of illness during either the acute and the recovery phase. In other words, it’s hard to create Lyme in a controlled setting.
It does not, however, appear to be difficult to find horses with symptoms of Lyme out in the real world. Which makes you wonder how often Lyme is mis-diagnosed. The symptoms associated with Lyme can often be attributed to other causes. When my vet examined Freedom she offered some alternative scenarios: he could have a virus . . . a vitamin E deficiency could cause the soreness . . . pain in his front feet could have made him reluctant to jump . . . or he could have pulled a muscle
Confusing the issue even more is that because Doxy has such strong anti inflammatory properties, it might be “curing” something other than a tick borne disease. One vet told me that if you gave owners bute instead of Doxy, close to 75% of the horses treated would show marked improvement during the course of treatment.
That has not stopped me from treating Freedom for Lyme. Right now he’s on Doxy while I wait for the more detailed results of the multiplex test. It is obvious that he was in pain — maybe not continuous, but certainly bad enough at times to make him really uncomfortable. He is such a willing horse that he must have been trying his best to keep soldiering forward and I feel guilty for pushing him.
Today I took him for a long walk out on the trails. We went early — before the humidity and heat set in, and he was alert and happy to moving out. He also seemed very slightly off on his right hind. Of course, while it’s easy not to associate every symptom with the Lyme, I think it’s more likely that he bruised his sole on the rocks.
His body certainly is still sore. After the ride I gave him a massage and got lots of releases again. I think this will be our plan for the next few days. Long walks and massages until he tells me he’s ready to do more.