Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis is a neurological disorder that can cause serious damage to the brain and spinal cord of horses. The protozoan parasite Sarcocystis Neurona is responsible for the condition. It can also be found in birds and wild animals. EPM can affect horses of all ages, breeds, and cause weakness, paralysis, and muscle tremors. EPM treatment requires aggressive and prompt treatment. Preventive measures are also required to minimize the chance of infection.
What is Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis?
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis is a neurological disorder that is caused by the protozoan parasite Sarcocystis Neurona. This parasite is often found in the environment, especially in birds and wild animals. The protozoan parasite infects the horse’s brain and spinal cord, causing nerve damage. EPM is most commonly seen in the following signs:
- Muscle tremors
These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may be present in any one or all of the four limbs.
Diagnoses of EPM
EPM diagnosis is based on the combination of horse’s clinical signs, a physical exam, and laboratory testing. EPM is diagnosed using the most commonly used laboratory tests:
- Tests of blood to determine if the protozoan parasite is present in the bloodstream
- CSF (cerebrospinal Fluid) analysis to determine if the protozoan parasite is present in the brain or spinal cord
- To detect the presence of the protozoan parasite in urine, we recommend that you test your urine.
EPM treatment requires aggressive and prompt therapy. Anti-parasitic drugs such as diclazuril and ponazuril are the most common treatments for EPM. These can be combined or used alone depending on individual horses’ clinical signs and laboratory results.
To kill the protozoan parasite found in horses’ bodies, anti-parasitic drugs can be used. Ponazuril or diclazuril are the most common anti-parasitic drugs used to treat EPM.
Corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation and reduce neurological symptoms. Prednisolone is the most common corticosteroid used to treat EPM.
Horse owners can take a few steps to decrease the chance of horses getting EPM.
- Avoid areas where wild animals might have been present such as barns, pastures, or barns where birds or rodents may have nestled.
- Do not feed horses any food that has been eaten by wild animals.
- Make sure your horses are free from all debris and dirt.
- Check horses regularly for signs of infection, and get treatment immediately if necessary.
- Vaccinate horses with the S. neurona vaccination to prevent EPM.
What are the chances of horses receiving EPM?
Horses with EPM have a good prognosis if they are treated promptly and properly. The treatment usually includes supportive care as well as anti-parasitic or corticosteroid medication. Most horses show improvements within 4-8 weeks. However, some horses may need longer.
Can EPM be stopped?
EPM can be avoided by taking precautions to minimize the risk of infection. For example, horses should not be allowed to roam in areas that wild animals have been present. Horses should also be kept away from food that may have been eaten by wild animals. Horses should be kept clean and free of any debris.