A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Chronic Lyme Disease in the horse


This is long and technical article, but contains much useful information to help you recognize and treat this debilitating condition. Many veterinarians are unfamiliar with this disease, especially in parts of the country where it is uncommon. Others do not believe it is a problem. The truth is that this is a serious, widespread disease that is difficult to treat.
Joyce Harman DVM, MRCVS

The article is adapted from a paper presented at the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 2010

Lyme disease (LD) has been recognized for about 40-50 years. It is now the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the US and Europe and is also found in Asia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows more than 35,000 reported human cases by 2008. The actual numbers are likely much higher as many cases go unreported. Most cases are concentrated in about 15 states, mostly on the east coast from Virginia north. However it can be found almost everywhere, so consider Lyme as part of any rule-out list.

The Lyme spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) is a very mobile, corkscrew-shaped bacteria. In nature the cycle of life involves ticks of the Ixodes ricinus on the East coast, with other species used in other parts of the US and world. Contrary to popular belief, deer are far from the only host for the infected tick, as the different tick species prefer different hosts. Many small mammals are part of the host cycle, from the white-footed mouse (the main one in the northeast) to the chipmunk, hedgehog and rats along with humans and dogs. The nymph stage ticks are the source of most infections while the adult tick, which is a little larger and easier to see, may be less important.

Spirochetes possess separate plasmids (DNA strands) and have an inner and an outer protein coat which is unusual in the bacterial world. The outside coat comes into contact with its host organisms and can be adapted to whichever host the spirochete comes in contact with.

There are many different outer protein coats, called Osp, and different portions of them are upregulated while the tick is eating its blood meal, even before the spirochete enters the body. A compound called decorin essentially hides the outer layer of the spirochete from the host immune system so that it can enter the body undetected. The spirochetes can then change themselves in a variety of ways so the immune system does not have one single thing to respond to. The spirochete cells also communicate between themselves and exchange information to evade antibiotics, an event that occurs with other resistant bacteria also.

While in the body the spirochetes continue to alter their structure from moment to moment. This probably contributes to the various symptoms that are part of the lyme picture as well as the resistance to treatment.

Spirochetes are attracted to different kinds of cells in the hosts, particularly collagen, so joints, aqueous humor of the eye, meninges of the brain, skin collagen and heart tissue (less so in the equine for an unknown reason) are all susceptible. Spirochetes actually travel faster in collagen then they do in the bloodstream. In Chinese medicine the Liver governs the collagen, sinews, tendons and ligaments so one of the most important factors in Chinese treatment will be to support the Liver.

Infection with Lyme as with many other chronic conditions causes or becomes an imbalance in the Th1 and Th2 immune complexes. The T helper cells (Th1) lymphocytes are characterized by the production of type I cytokines such as interleukin-2, tumor necrosis factor-beta and interferon gamma. The host produces a major Th1 response to try to deal with the acute infection; the side effect of this response can be inflammation. Th2 lymphocytes produce the cytokines interleukin (IL) 4, 5, 6, 10 and 13 and essentially help cool down the inflammation from the Th1 response. If either of these responses are out of balance, the spirochete can win the battle. The reader is referred to the references for more detailed explanation of the immune responses.

The spirochetes are clever opportunists responding to an assault from an antibiotic or the immune system by either changing their protective surfaces, entering a cell and even forming a protective coating inside the cell. Other evasion tactics are that they can create a completely different form usually referred to as a cyst, however there are also blebs and Spheroblastic L-forms. Blebs are partial pieces of material that are shed perhaps to confuse the immune system. Cysts go dormant but can re-activate when conditions are conducive to their reproduction. Antibiotic treatments often seem to change the spirochetes into abnormal motile forms, which can be a cyst or a Spheroblastic L-forms.

Lyme disease appears to actually suppress the body’s natural killer cells (NK) and clinically many horses seen with later stages of Lyme disease seem to mount a poor immune response. This frequently shows up as low white cell counts on a traditional CBC, and it is my personal thinking that this is one reason behind the common low to equivocal Lyme titers.

The longer the spirochetes are in the body prior to treatment the more adjusted they become to the specific immune situation in that host. An example of how this works is that the spirochetes may stay in the synovial lining of a joint, then evade the immune system or the antibiotic by entering the synovial cells. Once the antibiotics are out of the system or the immune system is weakened, the spirochetes reenter the joint.

The characteristic bull’s-eye skin lesion is generally missing in the equine and dog, most likely due to their hair coat. One of the most common things we see is lameness that is difficult to specifically identify. In humans, cognitive problems, irritability, fatigue, headaches, disorganization, nerve pain, deficits in memory and retrieval of information, perceptual motor skills and problem solving are all serious issues. All of these likely exist in the horse though usually what we see is irritability, fatigue, lack of interest in work, perhaps a stubbornness, or perceived stubbornness, or a dullness, all of which are difficult to diagnose.

Arthritis attacks maybe periodic, and may wax and wane, being worse at a full moon. The wax and wane of the symptoms may have to do with the ability of the immune system to respond. Studies have shown that the primary factor leading to arthritic inflammation is the health of the immune system. Spirochete levels have been found to be irrelevant to the severity of the disease.

Cardiac issues do not seem to be a large problem with the equine, however some of our horses with cardiac issues may have Lyme in their background. Perhaps we should check for Lyme even with some of our sudden death cases if possible.

A combination of a thorough history along with a complete physical exam and blood work are required. The history often becomes the most important aspect. Many if not most of the horses show behavioral changes of various sorts, the most usual being lethargy, irritability or lack of interest in their surroundings. In some cases the behavioral changes are more towards the hyperactive or spooky side. The key is that there has been a significant mental change.

The physical part of the history can include shifting leg lameness, stiffness, poor performance, and reluctance to turn, poor jumping performance etc. In many cases, horses have been worked up for subtle lameness’s and have had traditional treatments such as joint injections and various anti-inflammatories but have not responded well. Diagnostic imaging may be inconclusive, or may point to joint inflammation yet treatment of that inflammation yields poor results.

Laboratory diagnosis
Laboratory diagnosis of Lyme disease can be very difficult even in humans where testing is significantly more sophisticated. This is in part due to the cleverness and changeability of the spirochete, and partly because the tests are not good enough yet. With the equine we have basically two tests, the ELISA and the Western Blot. The ELISA gives a positive range, a negative range and a gray area. The Western blot looks at staining characteristics of the reactive bands to give an idea of how likely it is to be Lyme. The tests leave many horses in a very gray area as far as confirming the disease.

Holistic diagnosis
Since Lyme disease has many manifestations there is not one clear-cut pattern from a holistic perspective. From a homeopathic perspective one needs to take a complete history and prescribe a constitutional remedy based on the animal’s presentation.

From a Chinese perspective the Liver meridian is the most affected directly and indirectly by the spirochete. Many horses will exhibit signs of Liver meridian dysfunction, however there is seldom one pattern for all horses. Wind invasion is common and many symptoms are related to that, with shifting signs. There may be Liver Qi Stagnation, Liver Heat rising, Liver Yin deficiency, Liver Blood deficiency and so on. These may be combined with other patterns, often made more complex by long-term drug use.

The real key is to approach each case as an individual, from your perspective and experience, and treat that which is in front of you. It may change from month to month as well as from year-to-year.

There are no vaccines approved for the horse. Canine vaccines are being used. It is my experience that the vaccine is very detrimental to the horse’s immune system and many horses will relapse post vaccination. This was the experience with a human Lyme vaccine that was removed from the market about three years after it was approved. Most horses do not seem to be able to handle much in the way of vaccination once they have Lyme disease.

One reason for the difficulty with the Lyme vaccine is that generally we do not want to vaccinate in the face of an infection (meaning when an infection is already present or could be incubating in the animal but have no symptoms showing). Since Lyme disease is difficult to detect and may be asymptomatic or unrecognized for a long period of time, many horses that were vaccinated likely were already harboring the disease. Most people desiring to vaccinate are in endemic areas, consequently the horses are likely to be infected or at least exposed.

This is the part where we wish we had a magic bullet but there is not one, at least not as I have found. The best approach is a multi-systemic one, using the best of all worlds: conventional, complementary and alternative. Most of the good human Lyme practitioners use antibiotics along with many immune supplements. The real key to treating Lyme is to help the immune system be as strong as possible, not just during the immediate treatment but over the long term. Due to Lyme’s ability to “recur” the immune system must be ready to go to work at a moments notice.

Part of the difficulty in treating Lyme disease is that the bug selectively adapts to the individual’s body, so what works well in one horse may or may not work as well in another.

In the acute stages and generally upon initial diagnosis antibiotics are used by this author. Doxycycline is administered orally, consequently it is generally the starting point. Intravenous tetracycline does have research to prove that it works better than doxycycline, though clinically many horses seem to respond quite well to the doxy. The management issues with long-term intravenous therapy can be difficult in many situations. If management allows, it can be beneficial to start directly with intravenous treatment.

If doxycycline is used, the dose is about 10 mg/kg (50-55 100mg human tablets per 1200 lb horse) given twice a day. The idea behind any antibiotic use is to have the greatest effect at one time. Lower doses allow the spirochete to adapt and become resistant. If the horse responds well before 30 days, then doxycycline is all we use. After 30 days if the response is mediocre or not as good as we want, my preference is to go straight to the intravenous Tetracycline treatment if at all possible. There are many specific protocols, and I do not think there is one that is significantly better than any other.

The use of antibiotics does suppress the immune system in the gut particularly, and from a Chinese perspective damages the Spleen and Stomach due to the cold energy. So the rest of the treatment is designed to counteract those issues.

Horses presented in the later stages or those that have recurrences despite antibiotic usage are generally treated with herbal medicine and homeopathics preferentially. There are many more choices of antibiotics in human Lyme treatment then we have in the horse world.

Probiotics are an absolute necessity. There is certainly controversy about the timing of the probiotics, and there are many conventional practitioners who feel probiotics should not be given until after the antibiotics are finished. However, the only bug we are concerned about killing with antibiotics is the spirochete. Most other bacterial species are valuable assets. The antibiotics may very well kill off some of our probiotics, but that is why I will continue probiotics for several to many months after any antibiotic therapy is finished. ProBi from Advanced Biological Concepts and Digest Plus from Hilton Herbs are my probiotics of choice and often I will use them together for several months as they have different methods of action in the body.

Immune systems supporting compounds of many sorts are used. Many compounds that affect the immune system positively are very expensive so consideration needs to be given to the clients financial concerns. If finances are limited, select the most targeted compounds. Generally Chinese herbs and homeopathics are the most curative in this author’s hands. Many nutritional compounds are more supportive in nature, however they can be critical to the overall success.

Fortunately a few compounds are relatively inexpensive and can be quite helpful. Vitamin C is one such compound. It is readily available in bulk form and palatable with the dose of 4 to 8 gm being the most desirable. Vitamin C is well known for its action in collagen, which is one of the tissues particularly damaged by the spirochete. Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is an excellent source of natural vitamin C. Vitamin C mixed with bioflavonoids and quercetin is also a good source (Equilite).

Noni (Morinda citrifolia) contains many antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory compounds. Studies have shown it is particularly effective for many forms of arthritis and is also a very good immune regulator. In the fruit leather or powdered form it is relatively inexpensive, while in the juice form it can be quite expensive and contains a significant amount of sugar.

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory as well as supportive to the immune system. They can be obtained through feeding whole flaxseed (inexpensive), naturally stabilized ground flax, hemp seeds or Chia seeds (a very stable source of Omega 3’s). Flax or hemp oils can be used however they must be refrigerated during warm or hot weather. 3 to 6 ounces twice a day can be used with the seeds, less volume with the oils.

Medicinal mushrooms have excellent research showing their positive effects on the immune system with polysaccharides, glycoproteins, and anti-inflammatory compounds. There is also evidence they are beneficial in various arthritic conditions. They tend to be more expensive to use, however there immune modulating properties make them a beneficial addition. They are safe and can be used over a long term in a tincture or powder. One common formula used in this practice is a mixture of equal proportions of Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) (Mush™).

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant present in every cell. It is particularly important in the liver and has some direct anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis. For many animals this may be one of the key ingredients in treating Lyme disease. Intravenous glutathione is available and can be given 2 to 3 times a week. This does require veterinary supervision and special ordering, however the actual injection can be given by experienced horse owners. It is very safe and may be able to be used in higher doses, however, a dose around 2000 mg in an adult horse seems to be effective. Precursors such as Alpha Lipoic Acid or N-Acetyl cysteine can also be used as well as some new glutathione products. The web store will keep up with the latest research on the best products.

Supplements to support joint health are important for any horse that has shown signs of joint related discomfort. These include glucosamine-based supplements, hyaluronic acid, glycosaminoglycans, and green-lipped mussels among others. Western herbal anti-inflammatories can also be used. Chinese herbal arthritis formulas based on the imbalances shown can also be useful, particularly alternating with some of the active Lyme herbs as discussed below. If an herbal formula being used as a primary Lyme treatment, general joint support is better done through nutritional supplementation to avoid an overload of herbs.

Main treatments

Homeopathics should be prescribed constitutionally. However, there are several remedies that fit many of the Lyme symptoms quite well. Ledum is one of the major remedies for Lyme disease; its symptoms include effects from toxic puncture wounds as well as insects. A tick bite is both of those. Rhododendron and Kalmia as well as remedies in those families are worth considering.

Western herbal protocols such as those used by David Winston have been used successfully. His formulas alternate every 2 weeks and have to be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Chinese medicine offers one of the best modalities to treat Lyme disease in this author’s hands. Acupuncture is excellent for pain control, immune stimulation, relieving Blood stagnation or pain and moving or tonifying Qi. Among many points that are useful (always treat the pattern the animal presents) are LIV 3, LIV 8, ST 36, KI 3, LI 4, LI 11, LI 10, BL 23, BL 26, SI 3. Acupressure can be also be used at these and other points that your acupuncturist may find beneficial for your horse.

Chinese herbal medicines are effective in both the early and late stage Lyme cases depending on the pattern presented. Many herbs that have direct action against the spirochete are also Chinese herbs that clear toxins, move Blood, expel Wind, Damp and strengthen Qi. Since the spirochete has such an ability to change and adapt to treatment, some of the current thinking is to change formulas on a regular basis.

One way to approach the Chinese treatment is to use a formula geared towards clearing spirochete for two weeks, and alternate with a formula that fits the main pattern the horse exhibits. So one horse may have SP Qi deficiency signs with lethargy and loose stool, so one could use a Lyme formula and alternate with a Qi Tonic and add a different spirochete clearing herbs such as Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) for two weeks. Or a horse showing signs of Liver Qi and Blood stagnation could receive a formula for that and Cat’s Claw for those two weeks. Horses with body pain, Blood and Qi stagnation or Blood Stasis can receive a pain formula. A holistic veterinarian with experience in Chinese herbs can select the appropriate formula for your horse.

Other treatment suggestions
Other compounds can be helpful depending on the symptoms the horse has. Magnesium is a mineral that is frequently deficient in human Lyme patients and is easy to supplement to the horses with magnesium citrate (1 to 3 g per day). Curcumin is an herb that shows excellent anti-inflammatory effects on joints as well as being supportive to the liver. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, if it is available has been shown to be helpful in humans as has heat therapy. Horses that live outside in the sunshine may actually have increased body temperatures for a portion of the day, however in the wintertime that can be difficult to achieve. Garlic may be beneficial, it may also help keep some ticks away and is a good tonic herb. Coenzyme Q10 (100-300 mg per day) is a fat-soluble antioxidant that may be beneficial.

Herbs to support general gut health can be beneficial, especially after prolonged courses of antibiotics. Slippery Elm, marshmallow, meadowsweet are examples. Hilton Herb’s Digest Support contains these herbs.

Exercise at the level the horse is comfortable with is important on many levels. It is good for the immune system; it is helpful for the horse mentally and the Liver needs to move to avoid Liver Qi stagnation. There is no benefit to pushing the horse beyond what is comfortable and if he’s having a bad day, just go for a short walk.

Stress is a huge factor in the recovery from Lyme disease. Herbs can be used to help counteract stress and from many horses once they have recovered and gone back to competition it is beneficial to maintain them on adaptogenic, stress relieving herbs such as APF or Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng). Also important to pay attention to the amount of rest the horse actually gets at a barn. It has been shown that at many busy barns, horses actually get very little rest and sleep. This adds to stress and we know that stress suppresses the immune system.

The treatment of Lyme disease is complex and requires the willingness to keep reevaluating the progress. Most of the horses can be returned to full performance even with chronic Lyme disease, but many will require ongoing maintenance.

Zhang, Q and Zhang Y. Lyme Disease and Modern Chinese Medicine. Sino-Med Research Inst. NY, NY 2006.
Buhuner, SH. Healing Lyme. Raven Press. Silver City, NM. 2005.
Singleton, SB. The Lyme Disease Solution. BookSurge Publishing, Charlston SC. 2008.

33 comments to Chronic Lyme Disease in the horse

  • Hi Dr. Harman,
    I met you several years ago when I brought my nice mare Lily down to you for some acupuncture. She is still with us, and is now 24 years old, retired, and looking great.
    I have a question about Lyme’s. My other mare has recently been diagnosed with Lyme’s (snap test was “off the chart” high, whatever that means). I had her tested at my mother (Catherine Mack’s) suggestion after I explained some very odd behaviors my mare was exhibiting. My mare hunted all last year on the buckle, as quiet as could be. This year, she has been very spooky… violently so, and dumped me off twice when she spooked at things that were not there. I began to notice other things too, particularly connected to her vision… she was starting to refuse jumps, to the point where she won’t even walk over a tiny log on the ground… it’s as if she can’t see where it is, or has no depth perception…. another clue I should have picked up on was the fact that when I did a recent fecal to check my three for worms, the other two were quite minimal for strongyls (sp?), where this mare had an extremely heavy load. That told me her immune system had been compromised, but I didn’t think of Lyme’s at first. I have just started her on Doxy, which she has been on for 3 days now. My question is (sorry it’s taking me so long to get to it)… in your article, you didn’t mention what things we might do for helping the eyes… for example, would Eye Bright help? Do you have any other suggestions to help with her vision? Thanks very much,
    Aeron Mack

  • Joyce

    you can definitely use Eyebright as an herb to help the eyes, however, i think that you will find the spookiness is more from the effects of the Lyme on how she feels and even what it does to her brain. Lyme can invade the brain, and it can also just make them over sensitive to everything around them, because they do not feel well. This is actually a fairly common symptom and later after they recover, can be something to keep an eye as an early sign that Lyme could be coming back.

  • We took in a 12 year old mustang last year from a Lyme endemic area of Ca. Despite being well trained, he was explosively spooky on the trail, so I stopped using him. He also is mentally dull and the other horses shun him. He has a history of chronic thrush, and mild laminitis. I have used 2 things which detox (bind) Lyme toxins and he perks up while on them. Jernigan Neuro Antitox CNS/PNS formula and zeolite(Platinum Performance Osteon). However, he seems to relapse and I am watching a gradual decline. I have also used herbal antimicrobial formulas (Jernigan) which helped, but treating him indefinitely is beyond our sanctuary’s budget. I myself have had Lyme 40 years (undiagnosed for 30). Sometimes, the damage is too great and the bacteria impossible to kill, as it mutates into cell wall deficient forms. I believe this problem is more widespread than most veterinarian’s think it is. Good article, thanks!

  • Kristine Matlack DVM

    Hi Joyce..you are a super vet.tried to subscribe to newsletter, would not go Have used your protocol to save a foundered TB, most grateful What would you apply to very bad but finally healing case of scratrches in 19 yr old TB, ads what would you feed for his immune system On top pasture,out nightonly grass hay,Purina Eq Senior,VitE selenium{low area} Strongid wormer, and 10 grams Vit C right nowAdd Flax? Severe heat complicated healing. Worse case ever I’ve seen, but he is healing now. would like hair back by winter, am usually good at this, but want to do the best you know for him. Many thank PS Got impression when he was on sulf/trimeth when legs really bad that that drug suppressed his immune system, it does in my body, drops my white count to 1200.Have you seen this in horses? Thanks again Kris Matlack 715 374 2321

  • Carol Denni

    I have been told by my vet that your recommendation to him is to use Ledum for chronic lyme, and the amount is 1/4 teaspoon of a 200 C powder.

    I inadvertently purchased some Ledum that is 1 M and is in pellet form. what is the equivalent number of pellets to equate to the 1/4 teaspoon of powdered Ledum?

  • Carol Denni

    Also, do you know what the new Cornell test of OspF value of `1528 equates to in the older tests that were used? Thank you.

  • Donna Donaghy

    Hi Joyce,

    I was wondering whether you had anything to add to this since the creation of the new Cornell Lyme test that is more specific than the old ones. My horse was just diagnosed as “Chronic”, as well as recently infected.

    Donna Donaghy (formerly of MIllwood, VA.) I still use a lot of stuff I learned from you 20 years ago. Now down to 1 horse and living in RI.

  • Mellisa Bucklen

    My pony has gone through the spookiness, change of behavior. on Dec 3 2011 we found out she had chronic lymes. We started on 10 pills of doxy 2 times a day but it isn’t working. She is in so much pain that she is always shifting her feet. You can see the pain in her face. What I want to know is TEASLE seems to work for humans, is it ok for a pony? I have a tiniture of teasle and want to know if it works or should I change her to all the above? I have been told my pony will never jump due to the arthritis. I could really use some directions because our vet isn’t hip on herbs. I have been doing them on myself for 8 years and wanted to start with her immune right away. Now the Vit C you said is that any or is it for a horse? All your stuff that recommend is it for a horse or humans and it is ok to use on a horse?

  • lisa gibbons

    hi my filly of 11 months has been diagnosed with lymes disease she has been on antibiotics for 3 wks now and is still knuckiling over on her fetlock joints and this last wk it has been getting worse, her temperature goes up and down and her pigmentation is very pail. she is drinking and one day she will eat and another day she is not interested. She has the diaherra which never seems to dry up. she is on hay with a handful of haylage mixed in plus a small foal mix with molasses twice a day. I know it gets worse before it gets better but after 3 wks and it seems to be getting worse and not better do you think there is light at the end of the tunnel, and as for reocurring and maintenance for the rest of her life what does this entitle.
    Kind Regards

  • Hi Joyce,
    Me again! Well, the mare tested high pos after the Doxy in 2010… so I did the JW protocol in 2011 (IV tetra/metronidazole/DMSO) and she seemed better.. for a while. Rideable. Then this past summer her symptoms started to return (spookiness, sore feet, etc). I have not ridden her since. It is so frustrating to have this nice horse sitting here unrideable for 2 years now. Do you have any suggestions as to where to go from here? Do you sell a pack of the Chinese herbs/etc. that I could use? Right now she gets her kibble, plus CocoSoya (for Omegas), Source, and Vit. C….. Jeannie seems to be running out of ideas, and I’m at my wits’ end…. any advice would be appreciated! I am happy to bring her to see you, if you are still in the area.

  • Makendra

    Excellent article. So full of information I cant find easily elsewhere. Thank you for putting this infomation out on the web as so much of what you wrote fits in with my experience and confirms my decisions. I also have new information from this article to work with. I will copy and send to my friends having lymes issues. My dog, myself, my horse, and many friends are all learning how to combat these nasty spyroketes. Have you heard much about protease on an empty stomach destroying thr protein cover hiding the lymes? Thus allowing treatments such as doxy to work better?

  • mary

    Hello Dr. Harmon….can you tell me how long they should take the doxycycline? Thank you, Mary

  • Heather

    Dr. Harman,

    I have a question about diagnosis and treatment. I have a mare who is 10 years old. She has what I think of as a weak or slow immune system and takes a long time to heal from any minor cut. She (last 8 months) has developed really odd behavior an seeming lameness. I have had her to the vet and X-rayed for possible lamenesses, but nothing waS as positive as the level of pain she showed. She also seems like she has gotten extremely sensitive and globally sore, her muscles in her back are sore and she is very sensitive to touch. It seems neurological to me, but I have not gotten a diagnosis for her…she is my hunting mare and I really would like her to be back to herself, but feeling a bit desperate right now. She also seems to be exhibiting some rotating lameness or weakness front and hind. She has web treated for an ulcer and has gone on to previcox. With previcox she seems to get around ok on her own (more comfortable) but not being ridden. Any particular thoughts?


  • Kim

    Lyme responds well to homeopathy (of course the earlier Lyme is caught the better). I had contracted Lyme in 2008, and luckily I have an integrated M.D. (Dr. Nader Soliman) who cured me of Lyme with homeopathy. I did not have to take any antibiotics (glad because antibiotics make me sick) to be cured which is something as you can be cured of Lyme without antibiotics. Of course you have to have the right integrated M.D. to successfully cure this disease with homeopathy. I now use lyme nosodes to keep my immune system stimulated (immunized) during the worst months.

  • Salutations Dr. Harman,

    Holistic Horse was kind enough to provide me with this link on a question I posted about Lyme and teasel root. Have you used teasel root for treatment and would you share any information about it? My boy, Kopper, has Lyme and muscle tested good for teasel, no for doxy. I haven’t found anyone that has really used teasel when treating in horses and am curious about it. I will also be incorporating some of your suggestions.

    Thank you for this wonderful/helpful article!
    Inez :o)

  • stephanie

    Do horses lose weight with Lyme? My horse is not eating hay as quickly as usual and is dropping weight…. Thank you!

  • Megan

    Hi Dr. Harman,

    I have a very baffling case that has my own veterinarian questioning. My 24yr old paint gelding has been on and off lame for the last 10 months. He started with it looking like his shoulder hurt when you picked up his left front foot. From there he ended up having what looked like an abscess in the right front. He would get slightly better and then the next week it would be the same problem again. I had him tested for lyme and the snap test was positive but the western blot was a a low untreatable level was what I was told. He then was getting better and now that the weather has gotten colder he is barely able to walk without bute. He is managable on bute but not rideable. I had him at a hadicap riding program but had to take him back because of this issue. He is such a good horse and I am a my whits end trying to figure out whats wrong. I would do more testing but with his age and my financing I can’t afford to put too much into my investigation

    He has had a few injuries in his past a 10 he fell over a coupe with his rider, at 12 he got stuck in a frozen pond for about 1.5 hours which afftected his hind legs because they were stuck under a log but with exercise and strengthing this didn’t affect him for long. Three or four years ago he slipped up the ramp of a trailer landing on his left shoulder, which was the main thought that I thought his soreness was arthritic.

    I would really like some thoughts about this horse, because he really is my best friend and I want to help him feel better so he can go back to his retirement job.

  • Hi Dr. Harman: My gelding had Lyme about 2 years ago. We treated him with Doxy and he seemed to recover. However, since then he has been a very hard keeper. While that is of concern, what is really perplexing is a pattern of behavior that started about 18 months ago. Every 3 to 6 weeks (closer to 6 on average), he exhibits violent behavior in the field and around other horses. He had crashed through fencing, slammed into a metal gate so severely that it looked as though a truck hit it and it had to be replaced. He has cornered and struck at other horses and livestock when he breaks into the paddocks to get at them. Then, just as suddenly as he starts, he stops and goes back to being his usual herd-member self. During this time frame, he is an absolute gentleman on the ground and under saddle. Never a hint of the aggressive or violent behavior. His titres come out clean for Lyme, but we are thinking it has to be from that. That he feels crummy and is reacting to the discomfort. What do you suggest? Another round of Doxy? What sort of multi-disciplinary course of treatment might help?
    Many thanks!!

  • Paige

    Thanks for the very knowledgeable article. My guy was diagnosed with “chronic” Lyme in December 2012. Hit him hard with Doxy, hes on ledium, ProBio’s, immune support and stomach support. 3 months later hes starting to flair up again. Your thoughts on treating w/ a weeks worth of Doxy 1x a month?

  • Polly Irons

    Great article. Before doing antibiotics on my horses for lymes I would prefer to use homeopathic and herbs. Curious if you have any experience with Teasel root. Do you consult over the phone? Thanks.

  • Donna

    Is there a link between Lymes and uveitis?

  • Sherri Tim

    What would be beneficial for a 20ish gelding diagnosed with I.R. and Cushings currently taking Prascend and Thyroid meds. He is sore all over. It doesn’t look or seem like a founder issue. I was thinking lymes. I am under the understanding that he can’t have Glucosamine. Please help.

  • Florence Gillespie

    My 7 year old gelding became sick last August. He was diagnosed with tendonitis in all four legs. Some months later we tested for Lyme Disease, and the test came back negative for active and chronic Lyme, but positive for Lyme ‘vaccine’.

    I understand that Cornell University does not recommend treatment for this result. What are your thoughts on this? I have given him various supplements, and he seems much happier (not nearly so ill), but he still has some swelling and tenderness in his hind legs – he still does not seem ‘quite his old self’. We live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    Florence Gillespie
    February 2014

  • Denise

    Thanks for the article. I just recently got the homeopathic remedy Borrelia burgdorferi and I was wondering if you have ever used that on Lyme disease?

  • Lin Month

    Is linseed the same as flax seed? Thank you.

    Saint-Lazare, QC, Canada

  • Dr. Joyce Harman

    yes, it is, and there is no need to boil it, as many used to do with “linseed”.

  • Dr. Joyce Harman

    I do use nosodes in some cases that I treat as part of a whole program.

  • Dr. Joyce Harman

    I look at the whole horse, and the symptoms as well as the test. in this case, I would proceed with a holistic treatment. if you are interested in assistance with figuring out what to do, please call the office (540-229-1855) to set up a consult. Joyce

  • jen


    I have a 12 year old mare that had Lyme when I bought her. I did not know. I got her to breed. years of lameness allowed me to get her. Shes never took last year but then I tested her and found out she had it. did the month long treatment. 5 days of IV then doxy the rest of the month. I saw improvement in her. Gained weight, happier mare.

    Question: Should I avoid vaccinations because they can suppress her immune system? Also any suggestions on supplements with breeding and Lyme. She always creates a lot of fluid after a breeding. Which we flush, however she is reacting.

    inflammation is her biggest problem.

    Thanks for your advise!

  • Ann G

    Good information. I have a wonderful 6 year old gelding, dx by the Cornell Multiplex test with chronic lyme, OspF 5200 or so. He was treated with 5 days of IV oxitet on the recommendation of my vet. He seemed much better, but now, 3 months later he is sick again. I am wondering if an addition, longer course of IV would clear him or if I should go another route. Are you familiar with “Effective Pet Wellness” products? They make a Lymes kit. Also, I have read that flagyl kills the cystic form of Lyme. Is that being used on horses? Thanks, Ann

  • Cathy VanDerSluys

    I have several horses one of which has been treated for lymes 3 times orally. Her numbers are very high and it is chronic. I spoke with several vets and they didnt overly encourage iv because it is expensive and they werent sure it would work. Her numbers never went down. I have another horse that was treated too. I was wondering what you thought of the ise of ledum for treating lymes.

  • carol couture

    hi, what is the dose of ledum for a horse if it is in pellet form? 1Mil. thankyou

  • Jan

    Thank you for the Lyme information. Have you ever connected Lyme with high bilirubin, heart murmur, or edema in the chest between the front legs?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>