Poll Recap: EPM Experiences

Veterinarians diagnose horses with EPM based on history, clinical signs, a neurologic exam, and serologic (blood) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitiis (EPM) is a progressive and potentially fatal neurologic disease that can be challenging to both diagnose and manage. In last week's online poll, we asked our readers if they had ever owned a horse with EPM. More than 450 people responded, and we've tallied the results

Of the 467 respondents, 340 (73%) said they have not owned a horse with EPM, while 118 individuals (25%) said they have owned a horse with EPM. The remaining nine respondents (2%) chose “other.”

Additionally, 50 people commented about their experiences with the disease:

Many people commented about their experiences with horses they’ve owned with EPM:

  • “My horse was diagnosed based on physical changes such as loss of balance.”
  • “It took multiple doses of medications to control, then years of careful work to restore function.”
  • “He was treated and had a horrible neurologic episode about a year later and had to be euthanized.”
  • “The protozoa affected the cranial nerves with symptoms such as drooling and loss of coordination.”
  • “My horse was diagnosed in 2001 and eventually euthanized. Better treatment has evolved since then.”
  • “My former event horse got EPM after having ulcers.”
  • “Yes, but feel it was a false positive, as the horse had bad fall (that resulted in) neurologic damage in the hind end.”
  • “In hindsight, we should have let him go sooner.”
  • “Scary! It took months to recover and the medications were hard on her.”
  • “My horse was diagnosed about two-and-a-half months ago. After two months of oral treatment we're still not sure if he is okay.”
  • “My mare was treated but never fully recovered. She limps at a walk but gallops great.”
  • “He showed almost no signs until he became neurologic almost overnight. We lost him.”
  • “We had one horse test positive for exposure, but the veterinarian didn't think he was clinically affected.”
  • “The treatment was long and expensive but well worth it. The mare went on to show and have two foals.”
  • “It was a three-week nightmare ending with putting my horse down.”
  • “He was treated for nine months with the powder and vitamin E, but it didn't work.”
  • “One of my seven Tennessee Walking Horses tested positive and started on Marquis, acupuncture, and supplements. Now he's 95% back to normal.”
  • “My sister's horse Wiley caught EPM and has, with treatment, completely recovered.”
  • “I didn't even know that's what my horse had. I just thought he was clumsy.”
  • “Our stressful and sad battle is still ongoing since September 2015.”
  • “I had a 3-year-old Percheron stud I raised. He had loss of front end coordination and muscle condition. The vet bills were high.”
  • “Two horses were affected. We saved one and euthanized one.”
  • “We've had two, one before Ponazuril (became available) and one after. Both were Quarter Horse geldings, 7 and 9 years old.”
  • “I went to go pick up a gelding and came home with a young colt with bad EPM. On medication, he's moving much better!”
  • “In 1990 he recovered enough for riding, but I needed a year to build back up.”
  • “One had to be put down. The other lived but was unsafe to ride.”
  • “I found massage extremely helpful to get the muscles and nerves firing again. Near total recovery.”
  • “The horse made it through but seems to have big personality change. The whole thing was very scary.”
  • “Several over 30 years with all ranges of outcome from death to revovery.”

Others commented that they had not owned a horse with EPM:

  • “No, thank goodness.”
  • “Gosh, no. And I hope I never do, knock on wood.”
  • “No, it is rarely found in my area (the Arizona desert).”
  • “I hope I never do. I know a few who have, and it's difficult.”

And some shared other comments about EPM:

  • “I worked at a barn where a mare had EPM. She was successfully treated and eventually made it to 4th level dressage.”
  • “But my neighbor's horse died because of it, as did my cousin's.”
  • “I had one tested, but came back negative.”

Interested in learning more about EPM? Discover what ever horse owner should know about EPM, watch a webcast to learn about the newest advances in testing and treatment, read about neurologic exams and more at TheHorse.com! You can also find additional resources by searching for "EPM" or visiting the "Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM)" subtopic page on our website. 

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The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health e-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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