by Aeron Mack
If you are a horse owner on the East Coast, there is a good chance that you have had to deal with Lyme Disease. Also known as Lyme borreliosis, Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans, horses and dogs via the bite of infected ticks of the Ixodes genus.1 There is evidence to suggest it can also be transmitted by fleas and mosquitos.
Lyme Disease is a murky and often controversial topic with doctors. Some doctors still don’t even believe it exists, and many doctors are, at a minimum, unfamiliar with it. The same is true of veterinarians. Those who do not practice in areas where the disease is endemic often know very little about it. But even in areas like Northern Virginia, where the disease is common, many vets are at a loss about how to handle it. Even the very basic task of diagnosing it is difficult. The current tests are unreliable, which often leaves vets and owners guessing at what is going on and how to treat it.
Even after your horse has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, the real work has only just begun. It is one of the most difficult diseases to treat, due to the insidious and troubling capability of the spirochete to change it’s make-up in order to evade detection by the immune system.
“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 in 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.” 2
The disease itself can manifest in horses in a wide variety of ways, which is one reason it can be so difficult to diagnose. Some horses exhibit lameness, but the lameness often moves from one limb to another. Some experience changes in behavior. Some become overly sensitive to touch, or light. Some develop neurologic symptoms, like increased spooking, or trouble seeing objects. What makes the disease even more difficult to diagnose is that the symptoms can change day by day. The tests can be helpful, but are not reliable. Often the vet and horse owner have to go on gut instinct. A history from the horse owner is important; often only the owner knows when his or her horse isn’t feeling well. For many of us who have dealt with this disease in the past, we learn what to look for. We recognize when the horse is “off.” I have dealt with Lyme Disease many times over the last 10 years, and I know what to look for. So when my two riding horses started showing symptoms of being unwell, I was immediately suspicious they had contracted Lyme. The odd thing was, though, they both got it at the same time, whereas the two retired horses did not.
Around May of 2016 I had started riding my two horses Mackie and Halo (both rescued OTTBs) to get them fit for the summer season. I was planning to trail ride, compete in lower level eventing, show them locally, and then sell them at the end of the summer.
After only a week or two of legging them up, I could tell something was wrong. Both horses were acting strangely…. slightly off, slightly spooky, and slightly dull in the eye. At first I attributed it to them being out of shape, and it was spring, and they were just getting back into the routine of daily riding. But the symptoms started to get worse, and I had a strong suspicion it was Lyme Disease. I had my vet test them both for the disease. Both tests on both horses came back negative. I continued to ride them, hoping they would both work out of it. They continued to get worse. I had them tested again. Both negative. I sprung for the expensive multiplex test. Both negative.
After several weeks I could no longer ride them. They were both in obvious pain, and the spark had completely gone out of their eyes. They were both very sick. We pulled blood. We did osteopathic adjustments. I even hired an animal communicator. Nothing was working.
Determined to figure out what was going on, I spent hours and hours online reading articles and papers and studies. My vet did test after test to see if anything else showed up. One horse did test positive for erlichia (another tick-borne illness). But there was one thing that kept bugging me: Why did both horses get sick at the same time? Surely that was an unlikely scenario — both horses bitten by Lyme-infested ticks at the same time? And developing symptoms at the same time? It seemed unlikely. None of the horses had been off the farm, so I felt I could rule out communicable diseases. I was also fortunate enough to have a control group!: my two retirees were fine — no signs or symptoms of illness at all. That meant I could rule out food as a source of trouble, since they all ate the same thing. I could also rule out water as a problem, since they all drank the same water. Having a control group helped me eliminate many factors (botulism, contagious diseases, etc), but still we could not figure out what was going on. I got second and third opinions from other vets. I tried many expensive treatments, hoping we would get lucky and hit something. We injected hocks. We put them on painkillers. Anti-inflammatories. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. Nothing worked. By this time about a month had gone by, and I was more convinced than ever it was Lyme. I was doing hours of research each day, studying symptoms, possible treatments, etc. I threw every herbal and holistic protocol at them that I could think of. Nothing was working. Antibiotics only made the symptoms worse.
Then I noticed something…. something that would be the key to solving the mystery. Both of the sick horses had rings growing out on their hooves. Deep rings. This told me that both horses had suffered some sort of metabolic event… and judging by the growth, I estimated the timeline to be about 6 weeks. This jibed with when the symptoms had started. Both sick horses had the same rings in their hoofline, while the two healthy retirees did not. Now I was getting somewhere. Ok, so what happened 6 weeks ago to the two riding horses that did not happen to the two retirees? Something that could trigger a major metabolic event? I called my vet’s office. I asked the tech to please go back in the records and tell me if anything had been done 6 weeks ago to the riding horses, but not to the retirees. “Well, let’s see” the tech said, “Going back six weeks… okay, here we go….yes: six weeks ago, Mackie and Halo had their spring shots, including Lyme vaccine, and Inky and Honey had spring shots but no Lyme vaccine.” Holy mackerel! I knew what had happened. The two sick horses had gotten the disease from the vaccine. But was this even possible? I had never heard of this happening. My vet said she had never heard of this. I spoke to several other vets, none of whom had ever heard of this. Many said it was impossible.
I started researching vaccines and Lyme disease, but there was no information on equines. None. There was, however, some interesting research in the canine population. This was especially interesting because horses are actually given the canine vaccine off-label. There is no equine Lyme vaccine. There were reports of dogs developing Lyme-type symptoms after receiving the vaccine, especially if it was administered at the same time as the flu vaccine. (Both vaccines contain thimerasol, a mercury-based preservative known to cause autoimmune disease in humans and animals). My horses had both received Lyme and flu vaccines the same day. In canines, I learned that the disease could be transferred to the animal via the vaccine:
Indeed the pathological effects of painful arthritis and neurological disease including cognitive dysfunction can be conferred upon mammals through the vaccine for Lyme disease alone. The lipoprotein antigen used in all Lyme vaccines, including the Lymerix vaccine for humans (which was recalled for severe adverse events that occurred with the use of the vaccine) is now understood to generate autoimmune disease in vaccinated populations.
There is plenty of evidence that Lyme Vaccine Disease is caused in part by autoimmunity. Indeed, the Fort Dodge whole bacterin vaccine can cause Lyme disease [Lyme vaccine Disease] without infection from any actual Borrelia. 3
In human studies, it has been shown that other vaccines can contribute to Lyme symptoms. This is due to both the attenuated or recombinant virus itself in the vaccine, and the adjuvant (mercury and or aluminum). Aluminum and mercury in vaccines allow vaccine components, like the attenuated or recombinant virus, to travel up the peripheral nerves and into the central nervous system. The aluminum increases the permeability of the blood/brain barrier, and allows the viruses, mercury, and antigens to enter the central nervous system directly. Vaccines appear to be a serious biosecurity breech for the immune system, and the disease that results from this Trojan horse is capable of the worst forms of pathology.3
Dr. Thomas Rau, who studies and treats humans with chronic Lyme disease, has done extensive studies on human populations where Lyme disease is endemic. He observed that, of those exposed to the Lyme spirochete, most were able to handle the virus on their own, and never got sick. Of the ones who did get sick, he noted that they all had other viruses.
In his investigation, Dr. Rau discovered the difference between those who healed on their own from those who could not. Those who could not heal on their own also had viruses. In fact, 100 percent of them had viruses – particularly cytomegalia and chlamydia. These underlying viruses and toxicity such as heavy metals – added to the stress of the immune system.
With his discovery, Dr. Rau’s continued investigation led to other revelations. He also determined specific vaccine viruses that were also cofactors:
- Tick-borne meningoencephalitis vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Flu vaccine
- Coxsackie vaccine
- Epstein barr virus (EBV) vaccine4
Based on my research, I determined that my horses did indeed have vaccine-induced Lyme disease, also called Lyme Vaccine Disease. My diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Joyce Harman, a leading expert in the study of Lyme disease in horses. In canine models, dogs who got Lyme disease from the vaccine did not test positive for the disease, because the available tests focus on the vector-driven pathogens, and not the vaccine-driven ones. This explained why my horses kept testing negative on all the tests.
The side effects of the Lyme vaccine mimic those of the actual disease because of the proteins within it that pets aren’t typically exposed to. Experts have found this vaccine to cause arthritis, problems of the heart and nervous system, skin problems, and sudden kidney failure. Many veterinarians have reported that pets given the Lyme vaccine display all the symptoms of Lyme disease, but blood samples taken from the pets showed no evidence that the pets contracted the disease itself.5
Further, Dr. Jordan noted in canines:
… serious kidney disease with protein-losing nephropathy which may not respond to antibiotics. This kidney disease however is immune mediated and relates to the immune response to the infectious agent antigens OR to the antigens used in the Lyme vaccines. This (kidney) damage is from the immune system antibody as it complexes with the antigen from either repeated natural exposure or from vaccine boosters. Reports of Lyme Nephritis without any organisms found on renal biopsies suggests that significant immunopathology results from the antigen as it engages with the immune system and the disease is just as easily caused by the vaccine as it is from repeated exposure to natural infection. 6
If the disease pathology can be triggered from antigen alone, it means that vaccines are capable of inducing disease [emphasis mine] and that the more vaccines are administered, the more cumulative damage will be conveyed. Indeed the pathological effects of painful arthritis and neurological disease including cognitive dysfunction can be conferred through Lyme disease vaccine. The lipoprotein antigen used in all Lyme vaccines, including the Lymerix vaccine for humans (recalled for the severe adverse events of the vaccine) is now understood to generate autoimmune disease in vaccinated populations.7
It is worth noting that in 2000, SmithKlineBeecham fast-tracked a human vaccine to market before it was adequately tested. A reported 170 people developed severe arthritis and Lyme disease symptoms after receiving the vaccine.8 The vaccine was later pulled from the market. There is currently no human vaccine for Lyme.
As for my horses, both have spent the last eight months going through and extensive (and expensive!) detox and immune re-building protocols based on what Dr. Harman, Dr. Rau, and several other experts advise. Many vets now advise against getting the Lyme vaccine. My own vet has changed her vaccination protocol based on what happened to my horses.
My hope is that, in sharing my experience, I may shed some light on this complicated and frustrating disease. Please feel free to share this article provided I am given credit. Thank you.
- Joyce Harman, DVM http://www.harmanyequine.com/chronic-lyme-disease-in-the-horse/
- Patricia Jordan, DVM http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/lyme-disease-and-lyme-vaccine-disease/
- Dr. Thomas Rau, www.naturalhealth365.com/vaccine-Lyme-disease-symptoms-1527.html
- VetInfo.com “Lyme Vaccine Side Effects”
- Marqus AR, Hornery RL, Dally L, Philipp WT, Detection of Immune Complexes is not independent of detection of antibody in Lyme Disease patients and does not contain active infection of Borrelia, Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology Sept, 2005; 12 (9):1036-1040. Reference;Fowalt PT, Rose CD, Macubure V, Long term effects of immunization with recombinant lipoprotein outer surface protein on a serological test for Lyme dose Clin Diagn Immunol 11:808-80. Reference;NAVC Clinicians Brief Sept 2008 pg 46. [Western Blot C6 peptide antibody test serology and histopathology was positive but no intact Borrelia found.]
- Latov N, Wu AT, Chin RL, Sander HW Aledini A and Brannagan III TH, Neuropathy and cognitive impairment following vaccination with Osp A protein of Borrelia burgdorferi, Journal of the Peripheral Nerve Society,2004 Sept; 9(3);165-167. Reference;Otto A, Lyme Vaccine linked to autoimmune arthritis, Pharmacy Today, 2001; 7 (1):10
- Holcomb B. Noble “Did Lyme Vaccine Give People the Disease & Arthritis?” www.rense.com/general5/lyme.htm