One of the many hazards facing the 62 equines now resident at The Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre Foundation in Rojales is the possibility of them being bitten by parasites.
Sue Weeding, co founder of the foundation with husband Rod, discovered this year that it is not just the animals that can be affected, more about that later.
When Dexter their huge Andalucian mule was rescued back in 2011 he was very sick. Having been found by 3 Spanish brothers wandering around on a roundabout in Almoradi, they walked him back to their property in Catral where Dexter collapsed.
Sue, Rod and the brothers somehow managed to get Dexter into the horsebox and back to Rojales. Dorothea their equine vet came in and took a blood test to check Dexter for equine aids and tick fever. Fortunately for Dexter he did not have equine aids because that would have resulted in him being put to sleep. This particular disease is highly contagious and is passed on by the horse fly between equines.
Dexter had tick fever or "Equine Piroplasmosis". The medication used to control this disease is lethal for donkeys and can seriously affect mules. Dorothea advised Rod and Sue that Dexter had a 50/50 chance of survival. He pulled through and is now living happily among his equine friends at the EHCRC.
The centre had another scare at the beginning of the year when Dallas, the beautiful former show jumper who they rescued in December 2012 was not well. He was showing all the symptoms of tick fever, in particular swelling of his rear legs. The fever is caused by two parasitic organisms, "Theileria Equi" and "Babesia Caballi". Primarily transmitted to horses by ticks, the parasite infects the red blood cells. This causes massive death of red blood cells that leads to amnesia and lots of dead residue in the blood stream. The clinical signs vary considerably from lack of appetite and weakness to jaundice, a swollen abdomen and swollen legs. In severs cases death of the horse can occur.
Dallas has recovered but will be on medication probably for the rest of his life.
Back to Sue's story.
She explains, "Some time around March this year I was bitten on my shoulder by something. I had an itching circular rash approximately 15 cm around the bite mark but I thought nothing of it. I then started to become light headed, had aching joints and generally did not fell 100 %. Because we are so busy and focused on looking after our 62 equines, and physically working twelve hours a day and more sometimes, your own personal health is not a priority and you soldier on. My condition deteriorated in September and I began to get worried. I suddenly remembered an article that I had read in the Costa Blanca News about Lyme Disease which was about the effects of being bitten by ticks.
I had cut it out because ticks can be transferred to humans by pets such as dogs and horses of which we have many. A visit to my doctor in Rojales confirmed that after I had my blood test results I had contracted Lyme disease. My doctor was particularly interested because he was studying this very subject and he now had his test case. The blood test also revealed that because I had delayed my diagnosis my kidneys had also been adversely affected and had early signs of malfunction. Thankfully I am on the mend with the prescribed treatment and getting back to normal with a new lease of life".
Lyme disease can strike anyone, anywhere. If treated in it's early stages the complications that Sue experienced can be avoided. There is no vaccination that can protect us from Lyme disease so it is very important to reduce the risk of contracting it in the first place.
Stay out of long grass or plants if walking your dog, ticks cannot jump so they could attach themselves to your pet,s body or your skin and clothes as you brush past. Cover bare skin to make it difficult for the parasite to attach itself to you.. Consider using an insect repellant containing DEET before you go out. Most importantly check your skin and clothes and your pets coat before you go indoors so that the ticks do not come in with you.
Sue concludes, "Thanks to the article in the Costa Blanca News I took action after reading how dangerous this illness can be. Left longer I could have contracted Meningitis, Facial Nerve Palsy, severe Arthritis and the very worst case, death. This parasite is a really nasty little insect and those carrying the Lyme disease bacteria live in long grass so please take care when out and about and check your clothing and skin often.