Nova Scotia

Yarmouth horse owner spreads word about little-known tick-borne disease

Sarah LeBlanc’s horse, Sloane, was recently diagnosed with anaplasma

Sarah LeBlanc with her 10-year-old barrel racing horse, Sloane. (Submitted by Sarah LeBlanc)

A Yarmouth, N.S., horse owner wants others to know about anaplasma, a tick-borne disease that her horse, Sloane, contracted before Halloween.

“If you see swollen legs on your horse, it means something, do something,” said Sarah LeBlanc, Sloane’s owner.

Anaplasma causes serious fevers, loss of appetite and swollen and painful limbs. If a fever is left untreated, it can lead to other complications like laminitis, which can damage a horse’s hooves. Anaplasma is rarely fatal and usually responds well to treatment.

On Monday, LeBlanc received confirmation that a blood test determined Sloane had anaplasma and Lyme disease.

LeBlanc said she first realized something was wrong with her 10-year-old barrel racing horse last Wednesday.

Sloane is responding well to treatment of anaplasma. Her owner, Sarah LeBlanc, says she first knew something was wrong when she saw Sloane’s legs were swollen. (Submitted by Sarah LeBlanc)

“If you have a horse with four swollen legs, it’s not the result of an injury, it’s got to be the result of a side effect or something,” LeBlanc said. “And so I thought I would give it 24 hours to see if it goes away on its own.”

Swollen legs aside, LeBlanc said Sloane seemed pretty normal and she was still eating.

But when a horse farrier, a person whose job it is to put horseshoes on horses, saw Sloane that night, she was advised to speak with a vet as soon as possible.

LeBlanc called Dr. Megan Crouse, a veterinarian from the South Shore Veterinary Services in Wileville, N.S., and described the symptoms. Crouse told her it could be anaplasma, a disease LeBlanc had never heard of.

Crouse told CBC News in an email that anaplasma pops up at this time of year. She said it can be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications and supportive care.

Local vet sees uptick in anaplasma cases

Crouse said her clinic has treated between 10 to 12 cases this year and all have been in the last four weeks. She said it is spread through tick bites.

“The carrier must bite and be attached for 24 to 48 hours to spread infection,” Crouse said.

Tick prevention is key.

“Things such as keeping pastures clipped short, using fly/tick repellent daily, daily thorough tick checks are all things to help prevent exposure,” she said.

LeBlanc said she always checks Sloane and her other horse for ticks. She said there are a lot of them in her area.

“I’ve been picking hundreds of the ticks off the horses,” she said.

LeBlanc posted about the ordeal on Facebook last week and as of Monday, it has been shared about 500 times.

“It’s an illness, it’s a disease and you just can’t ignore it and let it go untreated,” she said.

The good news, LeBlanc said, is Sloane’s temperature continues to be normal and she’s responding well to the medicine.

“She seems happy and content, so she is certainly on the road to recovery,” she said.


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