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Lyme treatment protocol with repeated tick exposure?

My horse tested positive for Lyme and anaplasmosis from a simple IDEXX test performed by my local vet last fall. It’s hard to say whether he was symptomatic as he was definitely more sensitive and hot, but nothing I could conclusively say was caused by Lyme. However, I had removed many deer ticks over the summer so finally tested in the fall.

We treated with 30 days of doxy. Horse maybe seemed a little happier in his body – less body sore and sensitive.

Several months later and I have already found two deer ticks attached. I own my own property. We keep the fields properly mowed, but I think the deer actually prefer our lovely mowed pastures. I rarely ever found ticks on horses on this property, but within the last 3 years, the numbers are crazy.

My local farm vet probably won’t pull a titer for me. However, assuming that I trailer to a clinic for a titer, can anyone provide some info on what I can expect for a protocol for treating Lyme with repeated exposures?

Also, I am going to start treating with equi-spot, but I welcome any other ideas for repellants. If there are any suggestions for treating fields, I welcome those as well. I have not found any good ideas in my google searches.


I have found that as long as I am using a fly spray with permethrin, which is contained in many, I have no tick problems. I have had the most luck with UltraShield Black with the flies so thats mainly what Ive used the past few years. The first fall I had my gelding, I started noticing ticks. It didn’t dawn on me right away that I had stopped using fly spray because they flies died down. Once I started using it again, no ticks to pick off.


I had a similar experience with the UltraShield Black. I sprayed legs, under the chin, and tail even through the winter as it doesn’t get cold enough long enough in Virginia to make a dent in the ticks any more.

I went on vacation for a week in autumn one year. I was gone for a week where he didn’t get sprayed and he was SWARMED with ticks when I got back.


It’s probably not the deer that are bringing the ticks in. Despite the name, deer ticks are commonly carried by mice, chipmunks and other rodents. So if there are any mice in or near the barn, they are more likely to be your culprit!

The Ultrashield (black bottle) I have found to be pretty effective. You can also use Show Sheen or similar on the horse’s legs; it seems to be helpful at impeding the ticks from crawling up the horse’s legs.

But ultimately, you might also want to soak some cotton balls in permethrine (spelling) and put those in the corners of your feed room and tack room. (Or you can spray the balls with Ultrashield). Let the wee beasties take the cotton balls back to their nests where the permethrine will kill the ticks living on the mice.


I can’t answer your question on treatment protocols, but I can say that I live in a heavily tick infested area, and I use Freedom 45 religiously- same as Equispot but the applicator is MUCH easier to use. I pick off many unattached ticks after trail rides, but pretty much never find attached ticks or evidence of bites on my horse. Other horses on the farm definitely do get tick bites, even the retired ones just turned out in the fields. Anecdotally, I definitely think it works.

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Freedom 45 and EquiSpot, alternatively.

I feel your pain. Mine are out 24/7, and I have one that seems to have chronic lyme.

Make sure to apply it on each of their legs also. I found banging the tail helps, as that is one way ticks find their way onto a horse is through the tail brushing with objects/plants ticks are resting on.

There is a Lyme vaccine, it may be worth talking to a good vet about.

I agree anecdotally it works - make sure if you go on trail rides you spray them before you go.

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I will definitely try the soaked cotton balls. However, we have a strong and thriving deer population that loves my fields, so they are highly suspect in my eyes. A local friend is going to bow hunt our fields next year. I’ve never permitted hunting previously, but it’s time.


I brought Lyme naive horses into Lyme central, and it’s gone about as well as you’d expect. Even though I look them over carefully for ticks, and use spray, and garlic, they routinely test positive despite very rarely finding ticks. Those deer tick nymphs are just SO SMALL. I’ve even gotten Lyme twice myself.

So I test yearly and treat whoever is positive enough. Sometimes we start with oxytet. Then it’s weeks (4? 6? It all runs together after awhile) of minocyline.

This year, I’m planning on using the Lyme vaccine. I really should’ve just done that to begin with. It has to be dosed a few times each season, and IIRC it’s double the dog dose. But whatever hassle that is, it’s got to be less than treating.

Why won’t your regular vet draw blood for a titer? Do you know how to do an IV stick? Pulling blood for Lyme isn’t anything special, and I’ve just picked up the tubes and dropped off the blood before, if we don’t have another reason for the visit. Saves me the call fee, and the vet the time in her busy day.


I’ve had three with lyme/anaplas. My vet will not treat if I pull a tick off of them. She specifically told me she will only treat if symptomatic, so it’s always a wait and see situation that makes me nervous.

My vet works for a small animal practice but runs his own large animal work independently. I suspect that because he does not go into the small animal office every day, he is less thrilled to pull blood that needs to be sent the next day. That’s totally a guess. However, I’m in the sticks and he is the only one that will come to me, so I basically just thank him for whatever he is willing to do.

I asked said vet about the dog vaccine and he said he hadn’t even heard of it. I will likely try to pursue the vaccine elsewhere too.

I am no good at IV sticks. I have tried a couple times, but I’ve lost confidence and would gladly pay for the service if I could get it! Maybe I’ll offer to drive the blood samples to the clinic for the vet instead.

That is frustrating since the symptoms are so amorphous.


Offering to drop the blood at the clinic sounds like a nice compromise!

Here’s one of the papers on using the dog vaccine in equines, you can share with your vet :slight_smile:



My horses all tested positive for Lymes a couple of years ago. At the time my vet said, worst case scenario you could do the 30 day treatment every year and it would be effective and fine for the horses. In this scenario, we were talking about horses that are all in their mid 20s. Not sure I’d do it with young horses, and not sure if anti-microbial resistance would become a concern over time. But all this to say the vet said repeat treatments are effective and safe.

I now use fly spray all through tick season (which is about 7 months here). I didn’t find Ultrashield to be enough on its own so I mix in Boss Pour-on insecticide. I first tried the Boss as a spot treatment, but it irritated their skin.

I started using the dog vaccine on my horses last year. My dog vet thought it had a fairly low effective rate, but I’ll take whatever help I can get when it comes to preventing Lymes.

Lyme, not Lymes. It was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut.

I’m in southern Maine and it is endemic. We assume If you test every horse on a farm all of them will test positive. The vaccine was developed for dogs and isn’t approved for horses. Some people have used it but I don’t know how you would know it was working. I have used Equispot. I put it on the back of the legs, up the butt, and on the poll.

My horse had Lyme in 2010. He didn’t show much in the way of symptons. The BO has an amazing eye for spotting movement problems that are invisible to a lot of vets. She said he had a bit of stiffness that went from one leg to another randomly. She called me at work, said the vet was there. She had him tested for Lyme without the snap test first. The vet started him on compounded doxy powder that he kept on the truck. We did 6 weeks that I think is better than four. I did the morning dose and missed one. Another woman at the barn did his evening dose. He was the alpha. She held the bucket through the fence and no one bothered him. Convenient.

The BO’s older son had it. She thought she knew a lot about it until the kid went to an MD. He did 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off medication for a couple of months. The MD also explained that if you don’t kill all the organisms they burrow into tissue and re-emerge.

Idexx is a local company that started operations in the 1980s. Their Lyme snap test for horses was one of the primary drivers of their early success and rapid growth. We almost always have had at least one of their employees boarding their horse.


Let me know how it goes. This will be my first year using it too.

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I’ve used the dog lyme vaccine for years on my horse (as well as on my dogs). I live in western Mass so it’s basically lyme central around here. My husband has had lyme (at least twice), I’ve had one dog that had lyme (before I started using the vaccine), and my previous horse had multiple bouts of lyme–she was infected before anyone thought that lyme disease was a problem for horses. She was re-infected–or else relapsed–at least three times.

My thoughts (informed by experience but not by a medical degree) are that I’ll take whatever protection the lyme vaccine affords. My current horse has been vaccinated for the past 5 years and so far so good.

(And I’ll point out that the Cornell test is way more accurate than the snap test; the Cornell test can tell the difference between a horse having been exposed to the disease but is not currently symptomatic vs. a horse that has an active case of lyme).

But I also think that some individuals (horses, dogs and humans) may just be more naturally resistant to the disease. For example, I spend a lot more time than my husband does out in the woods, riding and walking the dogs. He’s gotten the disease at least twice while I never have. (I’ve been exposed, according to my blood tests). Only one of my dogs (out of three) has ever gotten the disease, despite being managed (in terms of vaccines) and walked in the same way.

Lyme is a bad disease–very debilitating for many individuals who get it and very hard to eradicate completely, in my experience. And also individuals can develop a long-term or chronic form of the disease.


I have never given my horse the dog Lyme vaccine for 2 reasons-

  1. I’ve read that the protection wears off very quickly- so likely pointless unless you’re planning to do it like every 3 months or something.

  2. There are a number of other also very dangerous diseases carried by ticks, which the vaccine even in dogs will do zero for- so I’m still going to be doing everything I am already doing anyway.

Antibiotic resistance is a very real concern, and not all ticks actually have a disease when they bite, so it makes very good scientific sense not to treat just because a tick was found attached. There’s also some thought that the Lyme bacteria does not always cause disease- that’s the reason not to treat an asymptomatic animal. Of course it’s harder to pinpoint symptoms in an animal than in a human, but again, antibiotic resistance.

Sure, this makes sense if what you’re doing is preventing Lyme infection. I think for a lot of us in the New England ish area, we’re doing everything we can and our horses are still testing positive for Lyme.

I’m not planning to vaccinate because I want to use less fly spray. I’m planning on vaccinating because I’m treating horses yearly despite doing everything I can to prevent infection.

If you’d like the info about the immune response the canine vaccine triggers in equines, it’s in the paper I linked above.


A vaccinated horse will show an elevated OspA titer on the Cornell Multiplex (ask me how I know :expressionless:).

I am in NE PA and Lyme is also endemic here. We have routinely vaccinated the horses with the dog vaccine for over 15 years now. Personally, I have found the Merial vaccine seems to last longer than the Duramune in my herd, but YMMV.

As of yet, we have not had any adverse reactions to the vaccine. We acquired two new horses a couple months ago that I intend to start Lyme vaccination with in a month, so hopefully that record will continue. As @Simkie said, we vaccinate because we are still seeing symptomatic horses despite doing everything else possible, so figure every bit helps.

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