Lyme Disease in Horses: A Holistic Approach

Lyme disease is a complicated disease in all species that it effects, and horses are no different. The general consensus is that if homeopathy is used to treat Lyme disease, it must be administered on a continual basis.

Because equine Lyme disease is rare, there are no vaccinations as of yet that are approved for horses for Lyme disease. But it is vital for horse owners to be prepared with a treatment that is viable because it can seriously affect the health and well-being of a horse. Additionally, there are indications that equine Lyme disease cases have risen in number.

Lyme Disease – A Quick Synopsis

Deer tick

The Ixodes, or deer tick, is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease in the U.S.

In a nutshell, Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease that is caused by bacteria which are transmitted by ticks. Common symptoms of this disease include lameness, dermatitis, arthritis, uveitis (infection and inflammation in the eye), and neurologic disease. According to Dr. Downey, Lyme is attracted to joints and connective tissues. Because the symptoms are similar to many other diseases and illnesses, it is often difficult to diagnose. However, once diagnosis has been made, it is vital to start a course of treatment. Often, treatment will include a course of antibiotics, such as tetracycline.

Holistic Treatment

Horse owners who prefer to use a more holistic route for treatment of their animal will need to be vigilant about the course of treatment. However, it has been suggested that the best route of treatment combines a multi-systemic approach that includes alternative, complementary and conventional medicine.

This means that both antibiotics and immune supplements should be coupled for the best result, as the key to treating Lyme disease (which has a tendency to recur) is to strengthen the immune system as much as possible both during treatment and on an ongoing basis. The stage of the disease will need to be taken into consideration before coming up with a plan of attack, and the stage will dictate where treatment needs to start.

Treatment of Lyme Disease

While intravenous tetracycline has been proven to be more effective than doxycycline, long-term management problems have occurred because of the necessity for intravenous doses that can become difficult to maintain over time. Therefore, doxycycline is used more often than tetracycline. The key is to give high doses of the antibiotic twice daily to ensure that the spirochete (the Lyme disease bacteria) does not become resistant. Because Lyme has the ability to mutate, different treatment techniques may be necessary, and antibiotics may not be the answer for every Lyme patient.

Probiotics are extremely important factors in treatment of Lyme disease, although timing of administration of probiotics has been an issue. While some say to give them along with the antibiotics, others say to wait until the antibiotics have fully taken their course. This is because antibiotics sometimes destroy probiotics. Therefore, probiotics can be given on a prolonged basis over the course of months after the antibiotics are finished to continue to boost the immune system.

Beyond Antibiotics and Probiotics

Collagen is often destroyed by the spirochete, therefore Vitamin C has been found to be helpful in minimizing damage from the disease. Morinda citrifolia (also known as Noni) is full of antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which is helpful in soothing the arthritis that is associated with Lyme disease, and it is also known to regulate the immune system.

To provide the immune system with even more anti-inflammatory compounds that are combined with glycoproteins and polysaccharides, medicinal mushrooms can be given to horses. They can also be used to aid in soothing arthritis, and are safe for long-term use. Examples would be Shiitake, Reishi and Turkey Tail.

Omega-3 fatty acids also provide the anti-inflammatory properties to aid in supporting the horse’s immune system. Whole flaxseed is a great, inexpensive way to provide your horse with Omega-3 fatty acids, and you may even already use it in their feed normally. Other things that offer omega-3 fatty acids are: Chia seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flax that is naturally stabilized.

To support the horse’s joints and reduce any discomfort, supplements made specifically for joint health can be given. Glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid, and glucosamine supplements can all be beneficial for joint support. These can be extremely helpful for horses suffering from arthritic conditions caused by Lyme disease.

Other Alternative Possibilities

Acupuncture has been recommended for Lyme disease patients to help with pain control, stimulating the immune system, balancing the Qi and reducing the stagnation of blood. Further into the Chinese medicine methods, Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) has been known to rid the body of spirochetes. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and heat therapy have been effective for humans; therefore these methods may be worth a try with horses.

To be most effective in treatment of Lyme disease, it is important to remember that spirochetes have the ability to alter and adapt to ongoing treatments; therefore changing treatment techniques over the course of time has shown to be quite effective with Lyme disease. Exercise and stress reduction will also be important factors of treatment. The treatment of Lyme disease can be complex; however, with a balanced and ongoing mixture of immune-supporting supplements, bacteria-killing compounds, exercise and stress reduction, most horses can live a fulfilling life that is pain-free, even if they are diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease.

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