Two weeks later, a second veterinarian from 3H, Tracy Tinsley, DVM, was scheduled to make a farm call to see another horse. I asked if she could take a look at Whisper while she was here. When she came, she gave Whisper the standard physical workup I’d seen so many times now. As she worked, I told her my long tale of frustration and disappointment with the headshaking. I was eager to hear her take on it, hoping for a new avenue to pursue. I was surprised when she said she still thought it might be Lyme disease. this information with Baker after she’d heard it, which led to the initial testing.
When I said that Whisper had just had a negative result on the blood tests, Tinsley explained that part of the difficulty in diagnosing Lyme is interpreting the titers. Results from an individual test can be deceptively low, especially if the horse has a chronic infection or hasn’t yet mounted a large-scale immune response. She suggested we start him on a second round of doxycycline and test him again, just to be sure.
This time, the results were strongly positive for Lyme. I found this confusing. If Whisper had Lyme disease, why wasn’t the first round of doxycycline already controlling it? Tinsley said that perhaps the bacteria were “hiding” in the nervous system, or maybe Whisper hadn’t been treated long enough. She encouraged me to be patient and continue the medication. After all we’d been through in the past year, this was the closest we’d been to an answer, so I was willing to wait it out.
Over the next few days, Whisper’s headshaking, stiffness and irritability began to improve. Within two weeks, his signs were gone. I had my happy puppy-dog horse back. A month later, I was able to start riding him again.
Today, two years later, Whisper is retired due to his fetlock injury. But his headshaking has never returned.