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Ehrlichiosis Experiences?

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  • Ehrlichiosis Experiences?

    I'm interested to see what people's experiences have been with horses who've tested positive for ehrlichiosis. What course of treatment did your vet put your horse on? For how long? How long did the recovery take?
    I'm still awaiting the test results for my horse (sent in Lyme & Ehrlichiosis tests), but I'm almost positive that's what he has. He suddenly spiked a fever last weds of 103.8 - which I've been addressing with Banamine (per vet recommend.), & has been very lethargic & shaking his head alot. Before I took his temp, he'd been acting fine, but very reluctant to canter under saddle & basically felt 'heavy'.
    We've started him on doxy, which has been a challenge since he won't eat the pills in his grain, & grinding them & mixing them w/ applejuice & syringe-feeding it is a battle.
    Any suggestions for getting the doxy into him are also welcome!
    Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe

  • #2
    Originally posted by Flipper View Post
    I'm interested to see what people's experiences have been with horses who've tested positive for ehrlichiosis. What course of treatment did your vet put your horse on? For how long? How long did the recovery take?
    I'm still awaiting the test results for my horse (sent in Lyme & Ehrlichiosis tests), but I'm almost positive that's what he has. He suddenly spiked a fever last weds of 103.8 - which I've been addressing with Banamine (per vet recommend.), & has been very lethargic & shaking his head alot. Before I took his temp, he'd been acting fine, but very reluctant to canter under saddle & basically felt 'heavy'.
    We've started him on doxy, which has been a challenge since he won't eat the pills in his grain, & grinding them & mixing them w/ applejuice & syringe-feeding it is a battle.
    Any suggestions for getting the doxy into him are also welcome!
    When I give meds, i first soak the pills in a little water, as little as necessary to dissolve them. THEN I put them in soaked grain or whatever the horse will eat. No powder, so the pills don't taste as bad.


    • #3
      I'm sorry that you are going through this - Ehrlichia is HORRIBLE (I know from first hand experience!). One of my OTTBs got it when I'd had him for only about a month (right off the track). We treated immediately with IV Tetracycline (for about 6 days) along with Bute and/or Banamine as needed. My vet also put him on SMZs. The treatment was 100% successful - he made a full recovery. But we did go through the massive leg swelling (in all four) which I treated with usual cold hosing and sweat wraps.

      Two of my dogs have also been diagnosed with Equine Ehrlichia. One had 4 flareups within 2 years (which can be common with dogs but I don't think is the case with horses). We finally *got rid* of that nasty Ehrlichia after treating her with Doxy for 16 straight weeks. (The one month, 6 week, and 8 weeks treatment durations just weren't enough the *kill* it).

      My other dog got Equine Ehrlichia and it presented with different symptoms than the first dog (which was a couple of years ago). This dog had a fever but the main symptom was a devastating drop in her blood platelets. She was in danger of bleeding to death at any time because of the critically low platelet counts. I had to take her to the emergency hospital every day for blood tests (for about a week). Thankfully, the Doxycycline went to work immediately and every day those platelet counts went up. They went from a low of 10,000 to 224,000 within a week. We kept her on Doxy for 6 weeks (with periodic blood tests) and then had a final test about 10 days after stopping the Doxy. Platelets were still fine (over 200,000). She made a complete recovery. But I do have Doxy on hand just in case I see any symptoms returning (both of the vets who treated my dogs have made sure that I have Doxy just in case either dog gets sick when the vets are not available or I can't get them right in). Time is definitely of the essence when dealing with Ehrlichia!

      I guess what I'm saying is that while Ehrlichia can be devastating (and not have a good outcome), it is also treatable and with good vet treatment and supportive care, you can overcome it. I had three out of three make full recoveries.

      I hope your guy recovers. Please speak to your vet about IV Tetracycline instead of the Doxy pills (especially since he won't eat them!).

      Good luck. I will be looking for postitive updates!


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Claddagh View Post
        Time is definitely of the essence when dealing with Ehrlichia!
        This is why it's so frustrating that my vet (who's also my boss...)is so 'laid back' about his approach in dealing with this. When my horse had the fever for 2 days (while treating w/ banamine) I'd asked if we should start on doxy as a pre-emptive measure & he said 'no, just treat the symptoms for now'. After a couple more days I asked again & he said well, in order to do the IV antibiotics, he needs to be hospitalized (NOT!), so just go ahead & start w/ doxy till we get the results. Argghhh!!!
        Oh- also, his platelets are low....
        My 'other' vet is out of town till tomorrow - & I'll see what he says about treatment. From what I've heard from others, it sounds like 'more progressive' vets start them with IV oxytetracycline & then go to the doxy.
        Thanks for the input, Claddagh - sounds like you've been thru the wringer with this!
        Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe


        • #5
          My gelding was in Saratoga for a week and then went to Northeast Benefit Horse Show, so when he was acting lethargic we thought he was just tired from showing. Boy were we wrong! When he got home we turned him out for a couple of days to rest and relax. On wed morning I pulled him out of his stall and his front legs were filled with edema. I got on to ride and see if they would come down with exercise and the poor guy felt like he could have layed down with me on him. We took his temp and it was 104!!! I called my vet and she knew exactly what is was from my description above. She came every day for 7 days to give him IV antibiotics and DMSO drip. He recovered right away.Thank God for her. Treat it aggressively!!!

          Good Luck and I wish you horse a speedy recovery.


          • #6
            Wow Flipper - I don't know what to say except can you possibly find another vet ASAP. I don't think I would want to deal with your vet, especially on something like this - just too dangerous IMO.

            The vet who treated my dog with the low platelet counts (Board Certified Internist) was initially *sure* that we were dealing with an immune system failure/disease. But when my dog showed marked improvement immediately with just the Doxy, he said that she has a "classic textbook case" of Anaplasma (the new name for Equine Ehrlichia). Upon our discharge from his care, he called in a prescription to my pharmacy for Doxy and said the if I even think that I'm seeing a return of symptoms, to start her on it immediately and then get her in for testing. He said that even if it's not the Ehrlichia again, the Doxy WILL NOT HURT HER. So I don't get why your vet was so resistant to giving you the Doxy in the beginning - just doesn't make any sense since treating ASAP is so important with this disease.

            And about your horse needing to be hospitalized for an IV Tetracycline shot? That is just plain crazy IMO! Does he hospitalize every horse that needs an IV shot? Wow - just wow!

            You definitely need to get some other vet involved here. Not to be an alarmist, but this disease is nothing to be ignored. And how low are the platelet counts? If they are dangerously low, please be careful that your guy doesn't get hurt, bumped, etc. (this was what my vet told me about my dog when her counts were critically low). Internal bleeding could occur spontaneously - and be anywhere (lungs, abdominal area, brain) - just anywhere since the blood cannot clot without adequate platelets.

            I am just so glad (and lucky) that I have such wonderful vets (both equine and canine).

            Hang in there! I'm jingling like mad for you guys.


            • #7
              I did have a horse that had it and he stocked up in all for legs ran a 103.5 temp and was lethargic and off his feed. We treated with 45 pills of doxy twice a day for 2 months which he ate right out of his feed. I have now had 4 horses that I have had to treat with doxy due to tick related issues and I just throw the pills in the feed and they eat them. No grinding up because they are bitter when broken.
              I currently have a horse who seemed otherwise normal but one night was tight, bucking, kicking and reluctant to move forward under saddle. Temp was 105 and for the next three days the banamine brought the temp down but it would spike every evening to 104, 105.5 and then 103.5. We did bloodwork and nothing showed up and negative for anything tick related (first test we ran). However, because of the multiple days of high fever and no other symptoms we are now treating him with doxy at the 45 pills twice a day and he has since not run a temp and just seems to have more energy.
              I also asked about just starting him on the doxy but until you get the bloodwork back you don't know what you are dealing with and you wouldn't want to cover something up not knowing what you had. So far he has now had 3 days of normal temps while on doxy.


              • #8
                One of our horses had ehrlichiosis/anaplasma and did well with 7 days of oral doxycycline. I don't know if that is the recommended treatment, but he did well on it.


                • #9
                  Mine had severe edema in all 4 legs with it, which is another sign of it. Treated with IV antibiotics for 3 days and all was well. Ticks, hate them, wish they would keep their nasty diseases to themselves. You need test the blood pulled asap from what I was told but most vets in my area when they hear the fever, etc. seem to always assume that is what it is and start a course of Doxy while the results are being done.

                  Are you also testing for Lyme?


                  • #10
                    Did you try tossing the Doxy pills into the grain whole? Just give it a try, I NEVER thought my TB would eat them, but he didn't even notice they were there when they were whole and not soaked or anything. I didn't add anything extra to his grain either. He would NOT eat them any other way. Surprisingly I also found he would eat whole Robaxin pills also. He refused them when I ground them up or soaked them.


                    • #11
                      As a Lyme, erlichia etc.sufferer (whole family & dogs, thankfully, horses were boarded 1 hour from our house and were not infected) from Maryland, I am totally tick phobic. We put the in the MaxForce Tick Management System (google it, have to get it from a pesticide company). It is a bait station for mice that rubs pesticide along their bodies when they feed. Mice are the interim host for ticks. You can be 90 to 95% tick free in a year. It was miraculous for us! By the way, I have no financial interest in this, it was recommended by an epidemiologist at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland which is also over run with infected ticks.


                      • #12
                        This is a bad disease but curable. My 5yr old QH had erlichia in March and he almost died! I noticed immediately when I brought him in for morning feed, he laid down in his stall, which is strange b/c he never misses a meal. So he ate his grain and laid down again...I called the vet and put him in the round pen. He would trot around and lay down immediately. We took him to the vet clinic and he was admitted right away and put on IV doxy - he had a huge fever and no white blood cells, he was sicker than we thought, plus he had gotten sick over night and didn't drink so while fighting the disease he colicked, which was worse. We had some scary nights waiting for him to pass the manure while took forever to work through the large colon, etc.. They used ash to see when the manure would pass, plus the drug they give to pregnant woman to induce labor. I thought he was going to die. We only had him 5 months. I went to the clinic 2x per day to hand walk him since only exercise would help the colic, which finally passed!! I had the entire neighborhood praying for my little guy. He ended up being in the clinic for 9 days. They say he's now immune from the disease for 2 yrs, who knows but I'm a tick freak now! Good luck with your horse. They say if you don't catch the disease and treat it, horses can die from it (unlike with lyme) so treat him aggresively! Get that IV pumping! Good luck with everything, I'm praying for you!


                        • Original Poster

                          Thank you all for your help & well-wishes! His temp actually stayed normal today for the whole day! I only started treating w/ doxy. yesterday. Hopefully this continues.
                          Yes, I tried giving him the pills whole in his grain - did that a couple of years ago when I treated him for lyme, w/ no problem. But I think he's caught on... or bit a few too many tablets in the process, 'cause he'll eat all the grain & leave the pills - even if I try coating the bottom of the feed bucket w/ molasses.
                          So I'm crushing them, dissolving in applesauce + molasses to make a paste, & syringing it into him. At 17+ hands, when he wants to avoid the syringe, he does a pretty good job. It's going to be a long month (or so)
                          Yes, we're testing for lyme too. But I've been told that they don't spike a fever like this with lyme....
                          Draftgirl- what do you mean when you said you need to test the blood drawn a.s.a.p..-? I drew the blood on weds, the lab didn't get it till friday. Does that make it less 'potent'?
                          Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe


                          • #14
                            At the first sign of any tick bourne disease, the protocol here is for three days of IV oxytet then doxy. Banamine helps with the possible toxemia(not just for fever). As I have said in the past, PLEASE watch carefully for signs of laminitis for the next month (even without a fever). It appears that Erlichia and PHF can be kissing cousins. I would find a new vet. The ones in this area (and we are on the Mass. border) are treating first, before the test results come back, because the window if opportunity is often less than 12 hours before serious complications set in.


                            • #15
                              Flipper, I was told by a vet friend of mine that if it is suspected, there is a window of time to test the blood to confirm it. I can't remember off hand because it has been awhile but something about catching the organism asap and delayed blood testing maybe not catch them.


                              • #16
                                Flipper, how is your boy today? Has his temperature stayed down? It is amazing how fast the Doxycycline can go to work with tick borne diseases! One of my dogs felt and acted totally normal within hours of her first Doxy dose. She was critically ill with dangerously low platelet counts but she felt fine (after feeling and acting very, very sick just hours before). She couldn't understand why she was on total crate rest! And being only a year old made it worse (puppy energy ).

                                Anyway, I sure hope that your boy is doing OK. Still jingling for him!


                                • Original Poster

                                  His temp is still normal today! Definately looking perkier - phew! Got the lyme test back today - negative (!), & they didn't see ehrlichiosis in the cbc blood sample, but were awaiting the results of the PCR. Tech I talked to at the Cornell lab said they had 5 positive horses this past week....
                                  Yeah, my horse's 'primary care' doc is no longer the vet I work for....
                                  Did you guys give probiotics/pre-biotics, and did you start them as soon as you started the doxy? Recommendations for what brands?
                                  I also found out that his iron value is low. Soooo, 1 more 'additive' to his feed.... He ate it tonight, but now looks at me like "okay, what crap are you going to shove down my throat THIS time??!!"
                                  Thanks for checking in!
                                  Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe


                                  • #18
                                    Glad to hear your boy has turned the corner! Alas, my experience with Ehrlichiosis was with my husband 4 years ago....nearly killed him. Thank God, he's made a full recovery.

                                    For the med issue: if he likes Bananas, just mush up 1 or 2 older ones with the pills.

                                    OR do what Thomas1 suggests: take a piece of soft white bread, spread some jelly on it, put the meds in the middle. Then compress it into a ball and shove in his mouth!
                                    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                                    • #19
                                      Hi Flipper. Glad your boy is holding his own and his temp is still normal. To answer your questions, yes, I did give probiotics during treatment. I use Probios for the horses and the dogs I give active culture yogurt (but not within 2 hours before of after the Doxy).

                                      Also, with one of the dogs, my vet drew extra blood and sent it to the lab to save for the PCR test (if needed). The dog had tested negative for Anaplasma with the Snap 4DX (but my vet *knew* she had Anaplasma anyway). The regular lab blood work confirmed it the next day with a positive on the anaplasma. So he ordered the PCR to identify the species. All of these tests were conducted on blood drawn BEFORE any Doxycycline was administered. Doxy in the blood often causes false negative blood results. I think you said your vet drew blood before he gave you the Doxy so you should be okay with the bloodwork.

                                      Have you had any edema develop in your horse's legs yet? Some do (mine did, and my vet was quite concerned about that). But it all turned out well, thank goodness. And as someone else already mentioned, my horses's *bonus* prize for all of this was that he was naturally immune to Ehrlichia for 2 years. The dogs aren't so lucky - they get no immunity (per my dog vets). Oh well!

                                      Hoping for another good day for you and your guy.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Claddagh - Yup, he's still normal
                                        I drew the blood before I started treating with the doxy. The lab checked for ehrlichia in the buffy coat first, and said they didn't see any. The PCR is still pending - won't know for a couple more days. At any rate, IMO, he responded to the doxy, and even if he tests negative with the PCR, I'm still going with the course of doxy. How often did you give the probios?
                                        Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe