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damned ticks and lyme - testing for lyme?

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  • damned ticks and lyme - testing for lyme?

    I have a 2 year old in a lovely pasture with new friends. all is well and then the ticks start getting on him. I read every post here and put probably every chemical on him and he's pretty tick free. just a few tiny ones on his face which, frankly, may even be dead.

    He is being vaccinated on Wednesday - regular series including west nile, and I'd like to also have him tested for lyme. He asymptomatic although it might be hard to tell as he just grazes and naps all day anyway.

    I'd like to get experiences from the group here on lyme, testing, treatment. My understanding is that they might test positive for lyme but never show symptoms. If he came back positive I might choose to NOT treat and see how he fares... good or bad?

    What I want is a sense that he'll be OK and I can stop smearing him with toxins and stop worrying. If there is no lyme. great. If there is lyme but he doesn't react to it (this can happen yes?) great. If in fact there is lyme and he is susceptible and requires treatment. I may just want to move him.

    It's strangely difficult to find nice pasture in NorCal and he really likes his new pals so I'd HATE to move him again but if I have to have him on antibiotics all summer, also not great.

    Of course I'll ask the vet but this is a new vet as I've moved him out of my previous vet's region so I'd like some opinions here as well.

  • #2
    Unless you test him and he is negative, you should not give the canine lyme vaccine to untested or positive for lyme horses.

    Ask the vet to bring a snap test...same one they use on dogs and have him tested on the farm...takes all of 10 minutes.
    If negative, then its ok to vaccinate with the canine lyme vaccine. If positive, there are no studies on what happens if you vaccinate and I have been told not to vaccinate those horses who have been positive in the past.

    I use equi spot every two weeks religiously.
    Do you really have lyme that bad in northern california?
    save lives...spay/neuter/geld

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    • #3
      I only have a couple of things to add to the discussion. One is what my vet told me, which is that if a horse is not symptomatic she does not recommend testing, as every horse in this area tests positive. She puts much more weight in the clinical picture -- how the horse is behaving. (She does test -- when the 29 year old retiree here began acting 'off" she tested many things, including Lyme, and found that his titre was high, so we treated).

      I guess testing could give you a baseline titre so you have something to compare if he starts acting off and you do another test later.

      I don't know how endemic Lyme is in Northern Calif., but around here there is no point in moving the horse as lyme-infected ticks are EVERYWHERE.

      (And if it is not so endemic, then I wouldn't worry so much about a couple of tick bites).
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      • #4
        Good luck! I hope the test is negative for Lyme. I've been battling Lyme with my horse for 3 weeks now. He had a catheter inserted for his IV Oxytetracycline. He's been a real pain about it. We have four more bags to go and we are done. Then onto the doxy for 45 days.

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        • #5
          All of my vets have been of the "only treat if horse is symptomatic" persuasion. I am also in an area where Lyme is endemic, and my vet says it would be a rare horse who lives around here who DIDN'T test positive - but that doesn't mean they need treating.

          Prevention-wise, I use fly sprays and spot on treatments, and I pull off ticks as soon as I see them (as they have to be embedded for 24 hours to transmit the disease). And, honestly, I don't worry about it, because worrying does me no good. Heck, I pulled a tick off myself this weekend, and have somehow managed to avoid going into the paroxysms of horror that non-outdoorsy people seem to experience at the very sight of one of the critters...

          I HAVE treated a horse for Lyme, for the record, so I'm not cavalier about it because I've never encountered it. It's just there's not much you can do about it in the long run, so why stress now?
          Proud member of the EDRF

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          • #6
            I would NOT vaccinate for Lyme. BTW, it is not enough to just snap test for Lyme, as other have said, many will test positive. You would need a titer test. I would not treat an asymptomatic horse, but, if I suspected some issues with it I would get a titer test and see where I stood.
            "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              there is some lyme in this area but not lots. there are also not a lot of ticks. evidently just where I am. So it wouldn't be hard to move him away from ticks.

              I'm hoping he just tests negative and I can stop worrying about. why NOT use the dog vaccine?
              also, he's 2 and just standing around in pasture and lazy so I can imagine that symptoms would be harder to spot like lameness, stiffness, lethargy.

              Comment


              • #8
                I just got finished with treating my Paint gelding for Lyme in mid-April. He had the 45 days of doxy, which my vet was able to provide in a flavored, concentrated form from a compounding pharmacy. This made it much easier to feed, especially since I had to rely on other people to cover for me several days of the week.

                Apparently only about 10% or so of "positive" horses actually show clinical signs, and he showed little evidence that he had Lyme. He is pasture boarded and was in a dry lot except when we hacked out. I took one tick off him last year, so I was shocked when his titer showed "high moderate." Suffice it to say I'm spending a lot more time cleaning the dock of his tail, sheath, etc. I haven't decided what chemicals to use. This morning I found what I think was a deer tick on his canon bone, and it was biting as it was hard to get off.

                So I am making no assumptions about "tick free." I can only hope that he will not be "chronic" or gets bitten again. It looks like it will be a very bad year for ticks since we had a mild winter and very warm spring.

                I know that one owner did have their 4 y.o gelding vaccinated after a SNAP test and a very long discussion with the vet.

                I googled for Lyme and Horses and found several interesting articles. The best one came from myhorse.com.

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                • #9
                  You can give horses a canine Lyme vaccine? Can somebody provide more info please?

                  Is it safe? How long has it been around?
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                  • #10
                    Dr. Divers at Cornell has done a study on horses receiving the canine lyme vaccine. But, that study was only done on horses who tested negative.

                    It is considered off label, so many vets will not do it.

                    I have 10 horses, of them, I have done numerous elisa/western blot as well as snap. The snap in my situation, if positive, is always followed up with a elisa/western blot. The correlation has always been accurate. If positive snap, horse is also equivocal - positive. If negative snap, elisa is also in the negative range. That has been my experience, not saying it is the bible.

                    I do vaccinate the horses who were initially negative, and each year do another elisa/western blot prior to vaccination and they are still negative. I think that is pretty significant.

                    I had a dam and her foal, who I did not vaccinate, and was planning on doing it this year, but his snap showed positive this spring, but the elisa/western blot was equivocal. I will not vaccinate him, and I am kind of bummed he was infected before I had a chance to vaccinate him.
                    His dam is negative however, and will be vaccinated. It is a 2 shot series, one shot and booster in 3-4 weeks.

                    Since it is off label, I would discuss it with your vet. Is it safe? Hopefully, but again, its off label, and from what I understand, even the canine lyme vaccine has issues.

                    I have vaccinated 3 horses, this is their 3rd year.

                    I also want to add, not all ticks carry lyme. Some carry much worse diseases. I also think lyme infected ticks seem to be spreading but I think there are 'hot' spots and other locales that are not yet lyme infested.

                    I am also pretty religious about using equi spot, as much as I hate putting chemicals on the horses, I feel they need the tick killing equi spot, frontline, etc provides.
                    I prefer not to spray them, since I don't like breathing in those chemicals.
                    I think it helps, but isn't fool proof to avoiding lyme.

                    Lyme is one of those diseases that there is an awful lot of conflicting information out there. It is still at a stage where it is mysterious and does manifest itself in different ways as well as response to treatment.

                    I think it is totally odd that in 2007 I had 5 horses with lyme, and were also treated. They have gone from positive to equivocal to negative and back again...I don't get that part. how does a positive horse, without treatment go from that to equivocal with only 3 stains? Or go totally negative?
                    Its just plain odd how they swing, not just the elisa but the western blot.
                    save lives...spay/neuter/geld

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      thanks! I'll ask about that canine vaccine and if he tests positive keep a very very close eye on him. I'll also put a call in to UC Davis

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Someone mentioned that it's not enough to do the SNAP test because it will almost always show positive and that you should also do a titer. It's actually the opposite. If a horse has been exposed to lyme, the titer will show positive for the antibodies. The antibodies are there when there's an active infection as well as when the infection is gone as well as if it doesn't blossom into anything (i.e. if the horse fought it off himself). Antibodies can mean a lot of things. So the titer is not always the most accurate method - it'll often give you a false positive if the horse has been exposed but doesn't have the infection. The SNAP test looks for a very specific antibody only found on live lyme spirochetes...so it will only come up positive if there's an active infection. I've had to treat several horses over the past couple of years and their titers are always positive. The SNAP test has been the best indicator to tell us when it's actually an active infection - that's when we treat.

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                        • #13
                          Ty, that seems to be my experience too...snap is only positive when there has been a positive elisa and western blot.

                          My question to you however is you mention titre and antibodies...when you mention titre, are you meaning elisa value?

                          For example, just had 4 horses tested for elisa and wb thru cornell.
                          they came up for elisa and wb as follows:
                          270 elisa, negative for wb
                          120 elisa, equivocal for wb
                          394 elisa, equivocal for wb
                          196 elisa, equivocal for wb

                          The only one we also did a snap test prior to sending blood to cornell was the horse who was 196, and on the snap he showed positive.
                          as an fyi per cornell
                          the elisa is categorized as follows:
                          0-120=negative
                          130-379= equivocal
                          380= positive.

                          I think it is interesting to see a horse with an elisa of 270, yet be negative on the western blot.

                          My vet can't explain it to me either, and when I bring this up, she says, hmmm, very interesting!
                          save lives...spay/neuter/geld

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