More Tick Trouble?
Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and piroplasmosis are the only tick-borne diseases known to affect U.S. horses. But that doesn’t mean no others exist—only that none have been discovered and reported.
Blacklegged ticks harbor different species of Borrelia that may turn out to be associated with disease in horses, says Linda Mittel, DVM, senior extension associate with Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center. And they’re not the only disease carriers—dog ticks, lone star ticks and other tick species carry various infections. In all, ticks are known to transmit more than a dozen diseases to people, including tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. “There have been no reports of these diseases affecting horses and horses may not be susceptible to the organisms that cause them. But with improved diagnostic tests, we may be surprised,” Dr. Mittel says.
Researchers at the AHDC are in the final stages of a multi-year project aimed at identifying other diseases that ticks may be spreading. Dr. Mittel says, “We have found potentially novel tick-borne infections in the horse that may be associated with fevers of unknown origins,” including various species of Anaplasma and Ehrlichia. The group hopes to release more specific findings later this spring or summer.
Ticks, such as this engorged specimen, can present serious health risks to humans as well as horses.