How long can a horse live with epm ?

horse Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a severe horse illness that may be difficult to identify. Its symptoms are similar to those of a variety of other equine health issues. Furthermore, indications and symptoms may differ from one horse to the next. Some horses have modest symptoms, while others have severe problems.

EPM exposure is widespread. In reality, almost 50% of horses in the United States have been exposed to the protozoal parasites (Sarcocystis neurona and Neospora hughesi) that cause this severe illness. The exposure rate might reach 90% in certain locations of the United States.

Through robust immunological protection, the great majority of horses are able to fend off these pathogens. Unfortunately, only a tiny number of people die as a result of the brain damage caused by these pathogens.

Despite the fact that EPM is a common illness with instances documented all throughout the United States, only approximately 1% of horses will succumb to it.

How Does EPM Spread?

how does epm spread

This parasite does not transfer from horse to horse. Instead, it spreads by the intake of sporocysts found in possum feces.

Sporocysts may be picked up by horses via grass, contaminated hay, polluted feed, or contaminated drinking water.

When a horse consumes sporocysts, the organisms enter the digestive system and go to the circulation.

Sporocysts may pass the blood/brain barrier and target the central nervous system (CNS) once they enter the circulation.

How Can You Tell Your Horse Has EPM?

For many horses, the immune system responds quickly and fights off the pathogens. Others give up. The emergence of symptoms in these cases might be slow or abrupt.

Here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Weakness and muscular atrophy are frequent occurrences. Your horse’s hindquarters and top line may lose condition. They may be sleeping more than normal. Atrophied muscles in the front legs and face are not uncommon.
  • Your horse’s mouth, face and eyes may become paralyzed. You’ll notice this by a droopy affect around the lips, ears and eyes.
  • In order to prevent falling, your horse may stand splay-footed or lean on buildings.
  • Your horse’s feeling may be lost anywhere on its body, but most notably on the face and neck.
  • Seizures and even collapse may occur in severely afflicted horses.
  • Swallowing difficulties might result from a loss of muscular coordination.
  • Your horse’s movement may be stiff and stilted (spasticity).
  • Your horse may be suffering from ataxia (loss of coordination).
  • Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, is a frequent symptom.
  • Your horse’s head may be tilted to one side or the other.
  • Your horse may go lame or exhibit ad unusual gait.

Symptoms differ from horse to horse, and a horse may display just one or a few of them.

The intensity and kind of symptoms shown by your horse are determined by the location and severity of lesions caused by the organisms on the spinal cord, brainstem, and/or brain.

Typically, the symptoms are asymmetrical, affecting just one side and not both.

If you notice symptoms of EPM in your horse, it’s very important that you contact your vet right away. Quick diagnosis and treatment can make a tremendous difference in rate of survival.

Is EPM Always Fatal?

is epm always fatal

Your horse may survive an EPM episode if discovered early and actively treated. Four variables seem to impact the severity of the condition. They are as follows:

  1. The amount of organisms consumed by your horse makes a difference. If your horse consumes a large amount of infected grass, hay, or feed, he is likely to have a considerably more serious disease than a horse that has just been exposed to light.
  2. Treatment timeframe. The longer your horse goes without treatment, the greater chance the parasites have of reproducing and causing harm.
  3. The location of the injury seems to influence the severity of the sickness. Damage may occur anywhere along the spinal cord, brainstem, or brain.
  4. The amount of stress seems to have a significant influence on the intensity of the symptoms. If your horse is stressed out while diseased, the symptoms and harm will be severe.

What Can You Do to Prevent EPM?

Your location strongly influences your horse’s chance of contracting EPM. Because the disease is spread by possums (and possibly by rodents) your horse is far less likely to contract the syndrome in parts of the nation where possum populations are low or nonexistent.

Even yet, bear in mind that feedstock and hay cross state lines, and you might be feeding your horse a product that has come into touch with possum excrement.

To avoid contamination, follow these protocols:

  1. Secure your feed and hay. Keep feed in metal containers with tightly fitting lids, and keep your feed room and hay storage areas locked so that possums and other vermin can’t contaminate your hay.
  2. Feed your horse the appropriate quantity in a weighted container or one connected to the wall to prevent spilling. To prevent attracting mice, rats, and possums, wipe up any spilled grain as soon as possible.
  3. You should never feed your horse on the ground. Grain should always be fed in containers, and hay should be fed in hay nets or in a manger.
  4. When choosing grains, seek for ones that have been heat treated since this destroys the sporocysts.
  5. Keep vermin under control through use of a professional pest service or traps. Don’t use poisons as this may cause you even more problems. Be sure to dispose of vermin carcasses quickly and carefully.
  6. Keep your horse’s water tanks filled with fresh clean water. Clean them frequently to avoid multiplication of harmful organisms.

It is also crucial to realize that exposure to the parasite kills just a small percentage of horses.

Maintaining a regular schedule of veterinarian appointments and inspections, as well as keeping your own property clean and possum/rodent free, can go a long way toward preventing your horse from this fatal illness.

How Long Can A Horse Live With EPM?

It’s impossible to say how long a horse will live with the disease, and surviving with EPM is not a goal that any responsible horse owner would strive for.

It is critical that you call your veterinarian as soon as you see any suspected signs of this neurological condition, receive a diagnosis, and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Here’s a video of a horse that was swiftly identified and treated aggressively.

This horse recovered.

Here’s one of a horse that was diagnosed and treated but eventually died from the condition.

Different horses respond differently to treatment, but the faster you can get a diagnosis and begin aggressive treatment, the better your horse’s chance of recovery.

What Will The Vet Do?

Your veterinarian will do a thorough neurological examination. He or she may also wish to do a blood test and collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.

Testing and treatment may be pricey, but they may save your horse’s life. Your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan based on the findings of the exam and tests.

Treatments include a mix of medications and other therapies. Anti-protozoal and anti-inflammatory medications may be administered.

Additionally, your vet may recommend that you supplement your horse’s feed with CBD oil or vitamin E as an antioxidant. Vitamin E is known to help support healing of nervous system tissue.

Are There Any Complications Or Side Effects?

The use of EPM medicines might have a harmful impact on your horse’s iron levels. Your veterinarian will want to check your horse’s white blood cell count, platelet count, and iron levels during therapy.

There are several uncommon side effects connected with the use of antiprotozoal medicines. In stallions, for example, fertility may be compromised.

Pregnant horses may also endure pregnancy difficulties, putting their foals at danger.

Maintain constant touch with your veterinarian while your horse is being treated. Any changes in behavior or symptoms should be reported. Keep an eye out for adverse symptoms including severe equine diarrhea.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

How Long Does Treatment Take?

Surprisingly, given the severity of the ailment, the period of therapy is rather brief.

In general, an infected horse may need antiprotozoal medications licensed by the FDA for around a month.

Treatment might take up to nine months in certain situations (depending on the medications used).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can you help your horse resist EPM?

Be sure to build up your horse’s immune system by providing a full, well balanced diet enriched with supplements such as probiotics, B, C and E vitamins.

2. How can you keep possums out of your barn and pasture?

The greatest thing you can do is ensure that there is no loose food accessible to them. Possums are omnivorous, so they will be just as drawn to surplus horse feed as they would be to stray dog or cat chow. Feed no more grain than your horse can consume in a half-hour period. All feedstuffs should be stored in metal containers that close firmly.

3. Will possums be attracted to hay?

Possums won’t eat hay, but they may sleep in loose hay or between bales of hay during the day. Store your hay in a possum-proof storage building to keep it clean, dry and free of contact with possums.

4. How can you keep possums off your property?

Some people feel that a densely woven wire fence would keep them out, but in my experience, this has not been the case. If there are a lot of possums in your neighborhood, fence your property in such a manner that a watch dog can keep your horse company. Possums will be kept at bay by a good dog.

5. Can herbal and homeopathic remedies help with EPM?

I, personally, do not believe that herbal or homeopathic treatments will cure this (or any) disease; however, herbal supplements can boost the immune system and may be a good preventative. There are ready made herbal immune support products available for horses, and judicious use of them won’t hurt and may help. Homeopathy is another matter. In my personal opinion, it won’t help and may hurt, but if you want to consider this route, you should discuss it thoroughly with your veterinarian.

Sharon Moore

Managing Director at Moore Racehorse Trust

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