In recent years, there have been more cases of Lyme and Anaplasma diseases in horses in parts of Europe. We haven’t got the statistics for the prevalence of the diseases in horses in Malta yet – but now we can collect them and we will.

Lyme disease comes from a bacterium called Borelia burgdorferi, while Equine granulocytic anaplasmosis is caused by Anaplasma (A.) phagocytophilum. Both are spread by ticks that are infected. These ticks aren’t common in our local horses, but if they’ve been infected in other European countries, they might test positive for these diseases, even if they don’t look sick.

Lyme disease can show up in different ways in horses. Fever and lameness are key signs. Other symptoms include sore muscles, behavior changes, hoof inflammation, and eye issues. There have been rare cases of brain inflammation in infected horses, but they don’t usually have the heart, kidney, or liver problems that people with Lyme disease can get.

Both diseases can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your vet. Your horse will need to take these antibiotics with their food twice a day for at least a month. However, having Lyme disease once doesn’t make your horse immune. They can get infected again if they’re bitten by another infected tick. So, regular check-ups are crucial throughout your horse’s life.

Lyme disease doesn’t spread right away when a tick attaches to your horse. It takes about 12-24 hours. The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to check your horse carefully every day and remove any ticks you find.

Using insect repellent sprays and products with permethrin can help keep ticks away. Apply them to your horse’s head, neck, legs, belly, and under the tail. If your horse has been in a place with known cases of these diseases and is still healthy, consider using a product meant for dogs.

Though we haven’t seen many cases, we’re now offering in-house tests at Vets On Wheels Clinic in Marsa to quickly check if your horse has these diseases with just a drop of blood. You should test your horse if they’ve come from another country or moved to a new stable. Test again eight weeks after finding a tick on your horse. In places where horses have had these diseases, test at least twice a year. We’ll share data on how many horses test positive on our website blog.

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