How Long Can a Horse Live with EPM?

How long can a horse live with EPM? Is a widely asked question that most advanced horse keepers are tired of answering and probably listening. Like humans, the horses do suffer from fatal diseases that end up making the horse euthanasia dependent or taking their lives.

The most common examples of such diseases are; equine herpesvirus(EHV)/Rhinopneumonitis, Potomac horse fever, equine influenza(flu), streptococcus equi (strangles), Tetanus(lockjaw), and Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis(EPM).

The Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis or EPM is a life-taking disease that directly attacks the horse’s nervous system. It is caused by a couple of parasites but “Opossums” are majorly blamed. The horses get infected by this deadly disease when they ingest the disease-causing parasite through contaminated food or water. 

A lot of the horses end up losing their lives to this fatal disease whereas a noticeable number of EPM infected horses somehow manage to survive. It’s easy to predict whether the horse would be able to survive or not by the severity of the infection. Mostly, the horse keepers start preparing themselves for the “final goodbyes” because the majority of horses loses the battle in just a blink of eyes. 

In this article today, I will try to leave no stone unturned to answer this question. Now that, even my readers who are solely reading this article to expand their knowledge know, what EPM is? What happens when a horse gets EPM infected? It’s fair to move ahead and discuss How long a horse can live with Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis or EPM?

To be honest, it’s hard to say or even predict how soon your horse is leaving or when should you start looking for a replacement. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say if the disease has taken the horse fully under control, it’s time to get prepared for the final goodbye as the horse can leave for eternal peace any day.

Related: Selenium Deficiency in Horses

Why is it so hard to judge how long a horse can live with EPM?

It’s super hard to give an accurate satisfactory answer because how long can a horse live with EPM depends on the quality of treatment being provided and the severity of the infection. 

If the infection has been declared “incurable” by the vet the horse may or may not be able to live more than a few months but if the disease is still treatable or the chances of survival is fifty-fifty but it would still be impossible to predict the time it may take to get well or the time horse has left to live. 

So, it’s now clear that it’s hard to judge how long a horse can live with EPM as it varies from horse to horse. Some horses get to live a year whereas the others can’t even survive Months. 

Now let’s discuss Everything you need to know about this fatal horse disease called “Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis” or “EPM”

How long does it take to become obvious?

More or less ninety days. The signs get visible within thirty days but can only be noticed by an experienced person or professional vet. But after a good 90-day silent battle even a naive can judge the horse is suffering from a fatal disease.

How can you get the confirmation of the disease?

The EPM can be confirmed by the vet either through a physical examination or a blood test that is meant to detect antibodies to S. neurons. Moreover, the signs can also help you judge the disease within 90 days of its occurrence. 

It’s not a viral disease

The parasites cause the disease and the horses usually get it through contaminated food or water. The infected horse can not pass on the disease to another horse like a viral disease.

EPM can only infected the horses

EPM, the disease that is caused by parasites, can only infect or kill the horses. No other animal or human case has been reported yet.


Symptoms of Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis” or “EPM”

The horses that are infected by the disease find it difficult to stand or walk without falling down and in worst cases the horses may have difficulty in bringing their head down for grazing. 

Moreover, the horse would weaken and the symptoms would get worse day by day. However, the early detection and treatment can bring ease.

The symptoms of Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis are asymmetric so one side of the horse’s body may be mildly affected whereas the other side calls it quits.

EPM is hard to judge by the early signs as a lot of diseases pass on similar alarming signals.  These signs include; decreased tongue tone, loss of appetite, general weakness, altered mental status, and facial paresis, etc.

It is treatable if it’s detected early 

EPM is curable only when it is detected early but most of the horses end up losing their lives because it’s hard to detect by its early signs. The early detected Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis is being treated by the following treatments;

  • Rebalance (sulfadiazine & pyrimethamine)
  • Marquis (ponazuril)
  • Protazil (diclazuril)

The drugs used in all the above-mentioned treatments do not kill the parasite but they minimize the infection or prevent further damage.

The treatment is generally expensive, it can cost you around $600 to 800. The early or mildly infected diseases can be cured within 28 to 30 days whereas the moderately infected horses may need more than 120 days to be able to function normally. 

Prevention from EPM

Like coronavirus, we haven’t found the cure for this fatal disease as well. It can be prevented to a large extent by the proper storage of horse feed and careful disposal of animal carcasses.

In brief, EPM stands for Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. It’s a deadly disease that affects the horse’s nervous system. It is often asked, how long can a horse live with EPM? Well, the answer is, it’s hard to give an accurate idea as it can not be predicted easily.

How long can a horse live with EPM depends on the quality of treatment and the severity of the attack? Lastly, these views are not professional please contact a vet to get a more clear idea.

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Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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