Most of what we hear about Lyme disease focuses on the danger to humans, but it’s our canine and equine companions who are even more at risk. Timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease in dogs and horses is essential. Together with drug therapies, it’s also crucially important to provide the strong, consistent nutritional support they need for physical and mental well-being on the way to recovery.
Lyme disease earned its name from the Connecticut community where it was first detected in humans in 1975. A PhD student, Willy Burgdorfer, discovered the organism responsible for the disease in 1982. The bacteria known as a spirochete was named Borrelia burgdorferi, after the original discoverer. In 1984, the first cases of Lyme disease in dogs were reported. By 2006, Lyme had become the most common tick-borne illness in the United States.
The Rising Cost of Treatment:
Commonly doxycycline is prescribed, but the price of this antibiotic has skyrocketed in the past two years from $36.00/bottle to upwards of $400.00. The cost of doxycycline rose faster than any other generic drug from 2012-2013. Tetracycline, also used in treatment, has additionally escalated in price, along with minocycline, which is only somewhat less expensive.
Elements of Lyme: Inflammation, the Immune System, and Relapse
One of the benefits of doxycycline is its ability to reduce inflammation. Frequently NSAIDs are additionally prescribed during treatment. When the body system is infected with Lyme disease, it can cause an imbalance in the Th1 and Th2 immune complexes which will allow the spirochete to essentially win the battle unchecked. Since this bacteria is very clever, it can use specific evasion tactics by forming a protective coating inside the cell, or move from the synovial lining of the joint (thereby evading the immune system and the antibiotics) to the synovial cells. It can then re-enter the joint at a later stage, after antibiotic therapy is completed. Although some horses and dogs will relapse due to reinfection of the bacteria from a tick bite, many times the relapse is simply because the bacteria has managed to hide in the body and then re-emerge.
Sugar and Lyme:
Sugar can feed the spirochetes, particular refined sugars like molasses, sucrose, or dextrose. It’s best to avoid wheat because it metabolizes to sugar very quickly in the body. Check your supplement labels, as supplements often have added dextrose or molasses for palatability. Fruits like carrots, apples, blueberries, papaya are fine in small quantities.
It is important that the horse or dog get exercise because it supports the immune functions, and helps to regulate the body’s inflammatory response. Another added benefit in exercise is that it can improve emotional and mental health because it increases endorphin production.
Nutritional Support During Treatment:
Probiotics: Taking care of the microbiome of the GI tract is imperative with antibiotic treatments. Generally it is advised to stay on probiotics for several months following antibiotic therapy. It is important to not give the probiotics at the same time as the antibiotics, but timed at least 1-2 hours (or more) after antibiotic administration. While there are many probiotic formulas to choose from, several key factors need to be considered—for example, the amount of CFUs (Colony Forming Units) per serving. CFUs tell us how active and alive the probiotic is. For horses a minimum of 200 Billion CFUs per day is recommended, for dogs a minimum of 3 Billion CFUs. The other key factor is microencapsulation. This protects the beneficial bacteria from destruction by stomach acids. Both BioStar’s Bio Flora and BioStar’s K9 Terra Biota are microencapsulated to protect the microorganisms in the formulas. (See the complete list below of supportive BioStar supplements for Lyme disease in dogs and horses.)
Immune Support: Bovine Colostrum is a unique food, rich in immunoglobulins. It provides specific PRPs (proline-rich polypeptides) to regulate the thymus gland, which is the master of the immune system. Colostrum supplies the Th1 cytokines interleukin-2 and interferon gamma, as well as Th2 cytokines interleukin 6 and 10. Another benefit of bovine colostrum is the high concentrations of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and betacellulin (BTC), which can reduce gastrointestinal damage by promoting cell growth.
Medicinal mushrooms can also be used for immune support, as they are capable of regulating the immune response by providing a diverse class of compounds known as polysaccharide immunomodulators. Like all fungi, these mushrooms produce various antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial compounds to survive in the wild against pathogenic or competing organisms. Fungi lack immune systems, so these compounds are their defense. The antibiotic penicillin, and the antifungal drug griseofulvin are both produced by the fungus. The most studied medicinal mushrooms for the immune system are: turkey tail, reishi, maitake, and cordycepts.
Collagen Support: Collagen is one of the tissues damaged by the spirochete. Vitamin C found in the diet is vital to the production of collagen. A good, non-fruit food source of vitamin C is kale. Chia seeds are high in the amino acid proline, a major constituent of collagen. Chia also provides beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Bovine colostrum also provides the Transforming Growth Factors (TgF A & B), which promote cell proliferation and tissue repair.
Antioxidant Support: Glutathione is an intracellular antioxidant found inside every cell in the body. Glutathione is comprised of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione protects cells and mitochondria from oxidative damage, supports the reduction of liver inflammation, and is crucial for liver detoxification. When the spirochete is killed there is a release of toxins, free radicals, and oxidizing agents. These compounds can trigger more inflammation.
The top food for maximizing glutathione is un-denatured whey protein. Quality whey protein provides the key amino acids for glutathione production and a unique form of cysteine (glutamylcysteine) that is highly bioactive for converting to glutathione.
Anti-inflammatory Support: Turmeric and boswellia play important roles in the regulation of inflammation and provide analgesic benefits. This is important for the joint and body soreness in horses and dogs, associated with Lyme disease. Turmeric can also increase cellular glutathione, thereby increasing antioxidant support.
Diet: Lyme disease increases stress on the body system, while the antibiotic therapies can add to the problem by irritating and upsetting the GI tract. (Read about Aussie shepherd Kemosabe’s experience with this here.)
Horses and dogs with compromised immune systems benefit from a GMO-free diet and low-to-zero exposure to herbicides, particularly glyphosate.
- Horses: We recommend access to hay or pasture for at least twenty hours per day. If feeding a commercial feed, we recommend adding some organic alfalfa pellets or cubes for additional protein, fiber and calcium. Timothy pellets can also be used. Supportive foods such as chopped kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds and adaptogenic herbs like holy basil or ashwaganda can also be fed in small quantities.
- Dogs: Consider adding some raw food to commercial kibble such as: buffalo; egg (including the shell) from antibiotic-free chickens; antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef; and canned whole sardines to provide important enzymes and nutrients. You can do this up to three times per week. Supportive foods such as chopped kale, apples, blueberries, carrots, pumpkin meal and adaptogenic herbs like holy basil or ashwaganda can be fed in small quantities. Be very careful with dog treats, as they are often loaded with added sugars.
Supportive BioStar Supplements:
- Bio Flora EQ (probiotic)
- Chia Seeds
- Colostrum-38 EQ
- Locomotion EQ (un-denatured whey protein)
- Comfort Zone EQ – Ultra (turmeric and boswellia)
- True Balance EQ (Holy basil, medicinal mushroom complex)
- Optimum EQ (whole food multi vitamin/mineral)
- K9 Terra Biota (probiotic with medicinal mushrooms)
- K9 Asta-Zan 14 (antioxidant)
- K9 Colostrum-38
- Chia Seeds
- K9 Comfort Zone – Ultra (turmeric and boswellia)
- K9 Optimum (whole food multi vitamin/mineral)
Recommended Stages of Supplementation:
As soon as your dog or horse has been diagnosed with Lyme, start on a probiotic, along with chia seeds and colostrum. Three to four weeks later, add antioxidants (Locomotion for horses or Asta Zan-14 for dogs) and Comfort Zone – Ultra, equine or canine formula. For horses, True Balance can be used at the beginning of treatment or at the end of treatment to provide stress relief, liver support, and immune support.
One of the greatest challenges presented by Lyme disease in dogs or horses is the tendency for relapse. In an upcoming part two of this article, we will examine this, along with the chronic phases of Lyme.