Lyme Disease in Horses and Dogs: Part 1


It seems like the incidence of Lyme Disease (Borrelliosis) (LD) and other tick born infections continues to rise and are flourishing this autumn.  I hear from clients about how their horses, dogs as well as themselves are just getting covered in ticks more than ever this season.  Tick born diseases have been increasing in the northeast and throughout North America for more than two decades.  In 1992, I published on one hundred horses that I diagnosed with Equine Lyme Disease based on my acupuncture physical evaluation.  I correlated my clinical findings with the horses laboratory diagnostic tests, response to antibiotic treatment as well as their behavioral history.  It seemed that  there was about  an 82% correlation of my physical examination with response to antibiotics and the laboratory tests.  I have diagnosed hundreds of horses and dogs with Lyme disease since then in the past two decades.  If left untreated it can cause severe debilitating disease and even death.  If not treated appropriately and quickly, it is not uncommon to see it reoccur and become a chronic disease with potentially devastating consequences.

Lyme Disease can be ubiquitous and quite challenging to diagnose.  It has commonly been termed “the great imitator” since it can mimic so many other common conditions.  Whenever I lecture on LD, I state that it is both overdiagnosed and underdiagnosed.  In  the past, it had only been considered part of a differential diagnosis if classic signs such as an acute onset of swollen joints and a fever were evident.  Clinically, I have found that it is not uncommon that the first signs may actually manifest as various sudden behavioral aberrations due to an immune mediated myofascial inflammatory reaction to the spirochaete.  In horses,  some of the first signs that my clients and I notice are a sudden reticence to being touched, groomed, being saddled up or ridden.  The horses may occasionally become aggressive to people when being touched or handled in anyway.     At this point, results from diagnostic blood tests may be negative since it is too early to develop a blood titer.  Unfortunately, too many veterinarians still base their diagnosis solely on the blood tests (Elisa and Western Blot blood tests) despite the reminders by the laboratories that they are not definitively diagnostic.  There is rarely one specific sign that is definitely diagnostic for just Lyme disease.  I use a checklist of criteria to decide if I think Lyme disease may be the cause of the animals signs.

Appropriate and immediate treatment is critical to successfully eliminating the organism from the body.  I recommend a comprehensive, integrative approach to borreliosis, LD.  There are numerous opinions on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of LD in veterinary medicine.   My approach to diagnosis and treatment is unique and is based on thousands of clinical cases in horses and dogs since the late 1980’s when it apparently first came on the scene in New York and Connecticut.  I strongly recommend initial aggressive antibiotic therapy with doxycycline.  Some horses do not appear to absorb doxycycline as well and therefore other types of tetracycline may be more appropriate.  I will follow-up antibiotic therapy with appropriate Traditional Chinese Herbal Formula’s, nutritional support, supplements, as well as homeopathy based on the individual animal and their human caretakers.  I will use acupuncture and musculoskeletal alignment therapies for some secondary complications.   In chronic cases we have found intravenous antibiotic therapy, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and various herbal and nutritional supplements to be extremely beneficial.

It is not uncommon to have co-infections with other tick borne diseases such as Erlichiosis, Babesiosis, as well as others.  They can confuse the diagnosis and lead to incomplete treatment of LD.

As one becomes more educated about the challenges of the diagnosis and treatment of LD, one becomes aware of different options and the various books on the subject.  Three books that I have found beneficial include:

1. “Cure Unknown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic” by Pamela Weintraub, an investigative journalist whose family members contracted LD.

2. “The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments”, by Bryan Rosner

3. “Lyme Disease and Modern Chinese Medicine”, by Dr. Qingcai Zhang and Yale Zhang

In future blog posts I will share more details about my approach and interesting cases that I have diagnosed and treated.

I would suggest that anyone in area’s where Lyme Disease is evident do everything they can to prevent exposure to ticks. If bitten, contact your physician or a physician adequately trained in the diagnosis and treatment of LD.  If you care for an animal in a LD infested area, contact a veterinarian that is also aware of all the various manifestations of LD and the appropriate treatment of LD.

This article is meant for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the diagnosis and treatment of any disease by a physician or a veterinarian.  Consult your physician or veterinarian prior to any diagnosis or treatment.

May you and your animal companions be safe and healthy.


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