Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vaccine Info and Satanic Plots

I haven't had time to write any blog posts, but for anyone interested, this is the only published data I have been able to find about vaccinating horses for Lyme disease.  The second link refers to a study that is occurring right now and will end in September 2015.  Pretty slim pickings:



Emma has decided that she is NOT going to eat her medicine.  Molasses is gross and sticky.  Apple sauce is a plot by Satan to destroy all that is good and wholesome in the world.  Apple flavoring is just plain wrong and don't even think about ruining carrots with those nasty, evil little pills.  I think we are going to have to use the dreaded syringe.

She gave me quite a scare on Saturday when she didn't want to eat anything after just one day of medicine.  I talked her out of a complete hunger strike with some hay pellets, a little walk and a whole bale of hay out on my snowblower path - the lure of forbidden territory.    This morning, Ramsey gave his food dish a very skeptical look.

It's going to be a very long month.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Plan of Attack

My vet and I have come up with a treatment plan for my little herd (with a bit of input from the great people at the Donkey Sanctuary - thank you).  The treatment for Lyme is generally 30 days of antibiotics, with doxycycline being the first choice.  There are several issues though, the main one being that doxycycline is in short supply and the price has become astronomical (I actually doubt that the supply is really limited anymore as the problem that caused the shortage happened in 2012 and has been long since resolved.  However, there is a lot of demand for it now due to the massive rise in Lyme disease and the drug companies are milking it for all its worth).  The cost of treating just Tessa would be $1500 for the doxy alone.  The two donkeys add up to about the same so add another $1500 plus vet visits.

Fortunately there are some other options.  My vet has treated a LOT of horses in the area and has had good results using minocycline instead instead of doxy.  It's not the first choice, but it seems to work.  In fact Riding Buddy had to treat Hawkeye last fall, which I have been meaning to write about, there is some really interesting hoof stuff there.....

At any rate, I can treat all three with minocycline for about $500 vs. the $3000 doxy would cost.  We weren't sure this was safe for donkeys as my vet has never used it in them before and I am not familiar with this drug.  However, the Donkey Sanctuary says it should be OK and I definitely trust them so we're going to try it.  If the price difference weren't so huge, I'd opt for the doxy, but a $2500 price difference.....yeesh!

The minocycline arrived this afternoon and everyone got their first dose.  I managed to get all of them to eat it with just a little help from the molasses bottle.  I'm very much hoping that that will continue, the last thing any of them need is sweet feed.

The really big worry is what to do after treatment.  Lyme is a bacterial infection so they can get reinfected as soon as treatment ends.  During the warmer months, I find at least 15-20 ticks per day, especially Spring and Fall.  I spend nearly an hour a day searching for and destroying deer ticks.  It obviously isn't enough and nothing seems to work to keep them off. 

Most worrisome is that it is the nymph stage of the tick's life cycle that transmits 90% of the disease and I almost never manage to find those.  The biggest adults are about the size of a sesame seed and the nymphs are the size of a pin head.  The nymph is the second in on the left.... 

The vet has suggested I try Ultra Boss, which is a highly concentrated Permethrin Insecticide.  She says it does seem to help, but I hate to use so much of that stuff.  I'll probably do it anyway because what else is there?  I am besieged.

Things are a little easier for the dog as there are some products that do work to kill ticks on dogs although, the ticks are rapidly becoming immune to them.  I used to use Frontline Plus on Tanner, but found that the ticks in this area are immune to it now.  I am currently using Vectra on Connor, we'll see how long that works.  He is also vaccinated for Lyme, which is somewhat controversial as there is some question of its effectiveness.  However, Connor's vet saw over 300 cases of lyme last year, with many of them resulting in catastrophic kidney failure (the first thing we did when Tanner got sick was test for Lyme - he was negative).  The dogs who have been vaccinated have not become ill so Connor got the shots.  I'll also continue with the Vectra because there were also over hundred cases of anaplasmosis just at that one clinic.  This is a very small town and only a very small percentage of animals ever get tested so those are very high numbers. 

For whatever reason, cats almost never get Lyme disease.  It's possible, but rare as they have a natural resistance.  I'd really like to see some research into what gives them immunity.  Maybe a better vaccine could be made from that?  Hopefully, someone is working on that.

There is no vaccine for horses.  However, many people in this area (and especially in areas like mine where the exposure rate is extremely high) are using the dog vaccine to vaccinate their horses.  I first heard of this several years ago and the risk seemed too high at that time.  Now....I might do it.  It's a questionable thing to do, but a lot of horses have now gotten the shots for several years with no adverse reactions and, so far, none of those horses have gotten Lyme or been reinfected.  I am not aware of any donkeys who have gotten the shots though so that is rather (a lot) scary.  Which is worse, a possible vaccine reaction or almost certain Lyme disease? 

Testing for Lyme is very simple now.  There are two options.  The first, easiest, cheapest test is called a SNAP test.  It only requires a few drops of blood or serum and actually tests for Lyme, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and heartworm all in one.  The same test works for both horses and dogs and it only costs about $30.  The other Lyme test was developed at Cornell and is fairly new.  It is more expensive (around $70-80 here) and only tests for Lyme, but it gives a lot more info.  It can tell the difference between an acute or chronic infection and can differentiate between a bacterial infection vs. a vaccination response.  If an animal has been vaccinated for Lyme, you'd have to use the Cornell test.  The treatment is the same regardless of which test you use.

As for me, I have been tested several times over the past few years and, so far, am negative.  I've been bitten several times that I am aware of, however, a tick has to be attached for at least 24 hours and hot water will kill them.  Since life can not go on without a hot shower every morning, I've avoided the plague so far. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 For 3

Tessa's Lyme test got goofed up the first time around so I just got the results.  Yup, she's positive too.

100% success rate for the ticks, 0 for all my control efforts.  Oh, and there is a shortage of doxycycline.  We're really on a roll now.

Sarcasm aside, if you live in the area, you might want to get you and your critters checked.  I know of many other cases of Lyme in the area, it is epidemic. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Random Revue

I hate being right

I've had the feeling for the past couple of months that something isn't quite right with my beloved long ears.  It's not something I could easily put my finger on, just a bunch of little things that are off.  It's Emma not wanting to be scratched or petted.  It's the rash she got that turned into a staph infection.  It's the way she turned back into her lovable, huggable self two days after I started her on antibiotics. It's Ramsey shifting his weight off his good foot or stomping at flies that don't exist.  Ramsey acting grumpy.  Ramsey is many things; he's bratty, pushy, spoiled, charming, huggable, lovable, nosey, but never grumpy.  I knew there was something wrong.

When the vet was here last week I had her test them for Lyme disease.  The results came back today.  Emma is off-the-charts positive and Ramsey just a little less so.  I knew what she was going to say as soon as the phone rang.  I really, really hate being right.

We'll begin treatment just as soon as we figure out what the best option is for donkeys.


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Ramsey Update

A couple of people have asked how Ramsey's foot is doing.  I'm sorry its been so long since the last update.  The never ending battles with snow and cold has sapped all my will to keep up with foot photos.  I took these photos a couple of weeks ago when we had a brief reprieve in the weather. 

Ramsey's foot is doing well.  I had a vet out here last Thursday to do dental checks and vaccines.  She had not been involved in any of Ramsey's previous foot care and was interested in his story.  Her opinion was that she was, "amazed at how normal his foot looks".

This first photo was taken mid trim and you can see that the wall connection is about as good as it ever gets.  That crescent shaped cut on the left side of the foot is where that nasty abscess was that he had last Fall.  That is all dead hoof and I cut most of it out....

You can see it a little more clearly here after I trimmed further.  From this view, it is all that lumpy, rough area on the right.  

I have finally gotten the knack of keeping the foot well balanced despite all its opposing angles, twist and missing bits.  The large horizontal crack you can see in this next photo is where that abscess broke out at the coronary band. 

That crack will continue to keep migrating downwards as new growth comes in from above.  In a healthy hoof, this would ordinarily just grow out and break off with no trouble.  Since this is where Ramsey is already missing a large piece of coffin bone and the hoof wall does not grow well on a good day, I will have to keep a very close watch on this when it gets closer to the ground.    I will keep the foot wrapped and may put a cast on the foot to protect and support it when he loses this chunk of hoof wall.  If the snow ever goes away and it gets muddy, I will wrap the foot as a precaution against bacteria invading the compromised area of his hoof.

The one aspect of Ramsey's foot that I am not happy with right now is that I have let it get much too tall.  The balance is great and it is nice and straight, but it's way too tall. 

This is an object lesson in hoof care - you have to focus on the WHOLE hoof and in order to see the whole hoof, you have to look at the WHOLE donkey (or horse).  You can see in this photo that this foot is significantly taller than his other foot making him lop-sided. This can cause serious lameness issues.

One of the reasons this foot got so tall is that it grows a lot more sole than his other feet (I believe that extra sole is his body's way of protecting the foot) and trimming sole is one of the things I find the most difficult. It is especially difficult on Ramsey as he also grows a super tough frog that fills in the collateral grooves. Normally you can get an idea of true sole depth by measuring the depth of the collateral grooves (those are the deep grooves on either side of the frog), but that is extremely difficult on this foot.

Donkeys grow a great deal of very tough sole that will not wear down on its own if they live on soft ground like mine do.  It just gets denser and thicker and it has to be trimmed or else the foot gets taller and taller until it fall over.  It is why you see so many neglected donkeys who have terribly deformed feet. When trimming horses, you almost never want to touch that sole.  When trimming donkeys, you have to.  This is the aspect of trimming donkey hooves that I find most difficult.

If you scroll back up to that first picture, you can see that it looks like I am already trimming into live sole, something you would never want to do to a horse.  I took a deep breath, screwed up my courage and took off nearly a half inch more after that photo was taken and ended up with this.....

Ramsey was a lot happier after I trimmed this down and the sole looks better than it did in the first photo.  The foot is still a bit taller than the other and I will take a little more off each week until it is where it should be.  One of the only advantages of the snow is that it does help soften that dead sole that needs to come off.  If I take it down as much as I dare each week, the snow will soften the surface and make it easier to see what can still come off.  

A perpetual work in progress, but not a bad looking foot all things considered.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Painfully Slow Progress

We had a couple of nice days last week and a couple of grey, drizzly days that managed to knock the snow pack down by about seven inches.  We still have a whole dog's worth of snow though, at least 24 inches....

The little hint of Spring did have everyone feeling better and more cheerful for a few days.  The snow became even more difficult to get around in though as it is half ice now.  Even Tessa flounders around trying to get through it.  The poor donkeys can't get manage it and they are not at all happy about it.

I think the little bit of warmth just made it more cruel now that we are once again back in the arctic.  I am having to snow-blow nearly every day because of the wind whether it snows or not, I get my very own personal blizzard every day.....A blizzard a day keeps happiness at bay.

For all my blogging friends out there who keep posting pictures of Spring flowers and birds and who are complaining (!!!!!) about 70 degrees, I don't think I can bear to visit for a bit.....

.....I have to just bury my head and pretend it isn't happening anymore.

Getting Big