Lyme disease is a terrible illness that can transform the most healthy, willing equine companion into a stiff, irritable soul within a matter of weeks. While the condition is treatable with antibiotics--usually doxycycline or minocycline--the bacteria that cause it can remain dormant in the body and cause symptoms to reappear months or years down the road. So, as with many diseases, it's better to protect your horse against Lyme disease than it is to wait for it to develop and then treat it. But with no Lyme vaccine made specifically for horses, protecting your horse can be a bit of a challenge. Here are three ways you can get started.
Administer The Canine Lyme Vaccine
Though there is no equine formulation for the Lyme vaccine, some veterinarians have been using the canine vaccine off-label to hopefully offer horses some protection. There have been no studies to confirm, without a doubt, that the canine vaccine protects horses against Lyme. However, a study conducted by researchers affiliated with Western University did recently find that the canine Lyme vaccine elicited an antibody response in horses. Theoretically, this should indicate that it offers some protection. See if your vet will administer a canine Lyme vaccine to your horse. There's no guarantee that it will protect your equine companion, but then again, vaccines are never 100% effective anyways.
Use Tick Repellent Sprays or Drops
Chances are, you already use fly spray to keep flies off your horse when you ride. Check to ensure the product you are using also repels and kills ticks. Some do, and others do not. If your fly spray does not repel ticks, look for one that does. Then, get into the habit of applying it liberally to your horse's legs before you turn him or her outside each day. If your horse lives outside 24 hours a day, you'll want to visit him or her in the pasture to re-apply the product daily.
If you don't or can't spray your horse daily, there are spot-on tick repellents that you apply to your horses's wither area and legs. They offer a couple of weeks of protection.
Check For Ticks
Ticks do not transmit Lyme disease immediately. They have to be latched on to their hose for at least 24 hours to pass it on. So, if you check your horse for ticks regularly, you have a good chance of finding and removing them before illness occurs. If you do find a tick, use tweezers to pull it straight out from the skin. Do not burn the tick or try to twist it off. You may break off its mouth parts in the process, causing it to regurgitate infected blood into your horse's bloodstream.