Your horse comes in from being outside and is barely able to move. His legs are swollen, he has a fever, is sensitive to the touch, and has a loss of appetite. He has chills- intermittently shaking. He wont touch his hay, his eyes are dull, and he looks depressed and tired. You call the vet and they run hundreds of dollars worth of tests- CBC, x-ray his legs to ensure there is no fracture; they diagnose him with Lymphingitis. You begin a course of antibiotics. You cold hose. You give him Banamine. Your wrap his legs while he is on stall rest. A week later, the swelling has subsided, his fever has dissipated, and his appetite is back.
You get a text saying that your horse “ran away” when he had been let out earlier that day. But when you get to the barn, you notice when he turns he looks like his hind end is falling out from under him..remember when you were little and someone would kick into the back of your knees and your legs would buckle? That is what it looks like. So you watch him. You are holding your breath, hoping he is just weak from stall rest. You decide, based on the vet’s recommendation, to let him stay outside for the evening. You take extra measures- leaving his stall open, with the light on, wrapping his legs, etc- and go home. Every time your mind goes to “what if..”, you reassure yourself that your horse is going to be okay and that you’re following the vet’s advice and after all, your horse had been running around earlier that day.
The next morning your horse comes inside and it takes him an hour to walk from the paddock to his stall. All four legs are swollen. He has a fever (101.5). He is covered in sweat. He won’t touch his food. He has scrapes all over his body and looks like he fell. You call the vet- again- and they come out to look at him. They note his back sensitivity, his fever, the swelling at his joints (especially the front). They note that his Lymphingitis seems to have come back. The vet draws blood to check for Lyme. They start him on SMZs and Prevacox. You once again wrap his legs, ice his joints, give him a sponge bath with alcohol and cool water to bring down his fever. You brush him, change his water, put extra fans directed at his stall. You put down extra shavings. And you watch him.
A few days go by and you get a call saying that your horse has tested positive for Lyme…and while your heart sinks, you are also relieved that there is an explanation for your horse’s recent symptoms. You plan to begin antibiotics and pretty much not breathe for the next 30+ days while your horse is pumped with antibiotics. You pray that he doesn’t colic. You pray that you have caught Lymes in time. You pray that the damage is reversible. You research everything you can on the disease. And you sit and wait….
Below are resources on Lyme Disease in horses- treatments, symptoms, the course of the disease, and the prognosis.