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How to Treat and Prevent Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) in Horses?

how to treat and prevent equine protozoal myeloencephalitis epm in horses


Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis is a serious neurological condition that can affect horses. It is caused in part by Sarcocystis Neurona, a protozoan parasite that can be found in the environment. This parasite can cause inflammation and damage the horse’s central nerve system. EPM can cause severe pain and even death in horses. Horse owners need to know the signs and treatment of EPM as well as how they can prevent it from happening.

EPM Signs and Symptoms

EPM symptoms can vary depending on severity, but the most common signs are:

  • Walking difficulties or lameness
  • Movements that are not coordinated
  • Weakness in the hind legs
  • Excessive sweating
  • Neck pain or head tilt
  • Behavior changes like aggression or depression

These symptoms may also be caused or exacerbated by other conditions. It is important that you consult a veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

Diagnose EPM

EPM diagnosis requires both laboratory and clinical testing. It is important to have a thorough physical exam, which can reveal signs of neurological damage and inflammation. EPM can also be confirmed by diagnostic tests like cerebrospinal fluid analysis or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Blood tests

EPM can be detected by blood tests, which can measure antibodies in horse blood. Antibodies may indicate that the horse’s immune system has responded to the parasite, and may be able fight it off.

Tissue Sampling

For further testing, tissue sampling can be used to obtain a sample from cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue. This can confirm the existence of EPM, and provide information about its severity.

Treatment of EPM

Once an EPM diagnosis has been made, treatment can be started. The most common treatment involves antiprotozoal and anti-inflammatory drugs. Sometimes, surgery may be required to remove damaged tissue and relieve pressure on the spine.

Antiprotozoal Drugs

To kill the protozoan parasite responsible for EPM, antiprotozoal drugs can be used. These drugs can be administered intravenously or as an oral medication.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

EPM can be reduced by using anti-inflammatory medication. These medications can be taken either orally or intramuscularly.

Preventing EPM

There are many steps you can take to lower the risk of EPM in horses.

  • Good hygiene is essential in the stable. This includes regular cleaning and disinfection.
  • Avoid contact with horses that may have been infected by the parasite.
  • Keep an eye out for abnormal behavior or signs of illness in horses.
  • If you notice any symptoms, consult a veterinarian.

It is also important to manage your horse well, providing a healthy diet, and making sure that they get enough exercise and rest.


Is EPM contagious or not?

Yes, EPM can spread from horse-to-horse through contact with infected urine or feces.

Can EPM be stopped?

EPM can be avoided by maintaining good hygiene in the stable, avoiding contact from infected horses and practicing good horse management.


Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis is a serious neurological condition that can affect horses. Horse owners should be aware of EPM symptoms and consult a veterinarian if they are suspected. The treatment of EPM involves both laboratory testing and clinical examination.