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Lyme Disease in Horses

May 1, 2021
April is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is zoonotic, which means that it can affect both people and animals … including horses. Lyme disease may not be as common in horses as other medical issues, such as colic and thrush, but it can make Silver very sick. A Pickerington, OH vet discusses Lyme in horses below.


Lyme disease, as you may know, is spread through tick bites. The deer tick or blacklegged tick, which has been spreading throughout North America, is the most common culprit. In fact, ticks have become so problematic in the north that they have actually killed moose calves. As far as Lyme goes, it can cause some very serious issues in horses, such as lameness and arthritis, particularly in the front legs; neurologic problems; moon blindness; and dermatitis. There is some good news: some of the health problems that Lyme causes in people, such as heart and liver issues, do not seem to happen to horses.

Time Cycles

While not everyone is a fan of winter, the cold season does give us some protection against the tick invasion. These little monsters are most active between spring and fall, when the temperature is over about 5°C. May and June are the peak transmission times. However, symptoms can take time to appear, so you may not immediately notice anything unusual. Some horses never show any clinical symptoms at all. It’s still important to know what to look for, though. Warning signs include lameness, crankiness, a reluctance to exercise, tenderness, and low-grade fever. Call your vet if you notice any of these red flags.

Trail Riding

Keep ticks in mind if you go trail riding. Fortunately, basic riding gear, such as helmets and boots, will provide some protection. We also recommend thoroughly checking yourself and your horse when you get back. Ticks can be anywhere on your horse’s body, but are most often found in the mane and the base of the tail. If you do find one, use tweezers or a tick popper to remove it. Take a picture of the little beast: this will come in handy if Silver does develop symptoms. Testing for Lyme in horses can be tricky, so tell your vet about any ticks you’ve found on your hooved pal. For more information about protecting your horse from Lyme, contact us, your local Pickerington, OH pet hospital, today!