The fresh and warm air in spring time invites every horse fan to have a long ride through colorful forests and grasslands! But watch out for tick bites! Ticks hide in high grass but can also fall down from the leaves of the trees. If they once managed to bite the horse, this can have dangerous effects on the health of the horse.Ticks are very small insects which can communicate very dangerous infections. In most cases the pathogens come from wood mice and arvicolinae. Until today scientists could not clarify if horses can be affected by the dangerous Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto or the Borrelia burgdorfi sensu lato bacteria. While the ticks suck the blood out of the animal they communicate their own salivary juice into the skin of the host.
After some time the pathogen can spread into the whole organism. The main problem of a tick bite is the difficulty of an early diagnosis. The symptoms are more or less identical with a normal influenza and due to the thick coat you cannot spot the red circle around the tick bite on the skin. In most cases you identify the infection when the entire organism already is affected. However there are some symptoms which need to be noticed:
1. Stage of an Equine Borreliosis
First symptoms for an Equine Borreliosis (some weeks after the tick bite):
- Red circle on the skin
- Lack of appetite
- In some cases infection of the eyes
- Muscle tension
2. Stage of an Equine Borreliosis
If the first symptoms are not noticed the pathogen will spread into the whole organism and the disease enters the second stage (2-5 months after the tick bite). The horse suffers from Equine Lameness and general joint pain. Additional symptoms are meningitis, radiculopathy, kidney disease and nerve paralysis in the face. If your horse has one of these symptoms you should therefore not only consider typical diseases like Equine Laminitis but also an infection with the dangerous bacteria.
3. Stage of an Equine Borreliosis
In the third stage of the disease (six to twelve months after the tick bite) the horse suffers from immense movement problems. In worst case the horse has rheumatic pain or chronic joint pain and it may become impossible to ride the horse anymore. This course of the disease is very crucial. However it only takes place in few cases. Only 20 % of the infected animals reach the third stage of the Equine Borreliosis. If your horse however has a good and healthy immune system there are high chances that the horses´ organism is strong enough to fight against the dangerous bacteria.
In general it is very difficult to prevent your horse from a tick bite. It is impossible to avoid any kind of high grass or any trail ride! Therefore we have to search for other prevention measures.
The most important thing is to check the body of the horse after every single trail ride. Especially in spring and autumn you need to be carefully and palpate all parts of the body.
If you find a tick and want to remove it, it is crucial to remove it with a tick forceps. You need to be very carefully because it is important that you remove all parts of the tick so that nothing is left in the body of the horse. However, you should never use your finger nails to remove the tick! If you do so you only mash the tick and tiny parts of the insect stay in the horses´ body and continue to communicate the dangerous bacteria into the horses’ organism.
A strong and healthy immune system is the best prevention against any disease
In general a healthy immune system is the best prevention against any kind of disease and especially against a dangerous infection of a tick bite. A strong immune system supports the function of the bacteria in the intestinal flora. These bacteria then are able to fight against the dangerous and aggressive bacteria so that they finally leave the organism.
Therapy of an Equine Borreliosis
Due to the fact that an Equine Borreliosis mostly is diagnosed in a very advanced stage the therapy is very prolonged. Moreover the whole therapy is very difficult and requires the right timing: antibiotics can only attack the dangerous bacteria when they are in an active period of growth and reproduction. Scientists found out that especially the residues of the bacteria, the so called neurotoxins, are very dangerous for the organism and do not get attacked by the antibiotics. The normally so effective medicine therefore is not sufficient and you need to make use of further products.
Goldenrods, Yellow Bedstraw, propolis and vitamin C
Several natural products are able to support the immune system. Therefore they relax the muscles and sooth the pain. It is recommended to use Goldenrods and Yellow Bedstraw in a dose of 30 g per day for a period of 6 weeks. The plants help to eliminate the neurotoxins out of the body. For a general support of the entire immune system you can additionally make use of a resinous mixture of bee propolis and vitamin C.
Antibacterial and tonic medicine
Garlic and several medical uses of silver have disinfectant and antibacterial effects which help to sooth the pain caused by the infection. Moreover Field Horsetail, Arnica and St John´s wort help to support the functions of the muscles and sooth the pain of the nerves. After an intensive use of antibiotics you can additionally make use of lactobacilli which prevent a new growth of the dangerous bacteria. We generally recommend to contact your vet before feeding any kind of natural products. Together you can figure out the right dose for your horse.
The therapy against Equine Borreliosis always is difficult
To sum up: the dangerous infections caused by a tick bite are crucial and can come up many years after the actual bite. At this time the disease mostly already entered the third stage and then the therapy is very difficult. During the therapy you should always not only feed antibiotics but also further natural plants. They help to support the immune system and therefore the natural defender against the dangerous bacteria.