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How to Recognize EPM??

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  • How to Recognize EPM??

    I have a young horse who is a cute paint gelding. He seems to be on the clumsey side. He's unbroke and is unsure of his size; the girl who gave him to me treated him like a dog so he thinks he's a lap dog. He is sort of clumsey from time to time, being a little off balance and he'll take a funny stagger step occasionally, granted he was being turned in a tight circle in his stall.

    I'm worried that he's got EPM. I know I should have a vet out to do the test for it but the spinal tap is expensive and I want to BE SURE he needs it before I go forking out all that money.

    According to the websearches I've done the symptoms are:
    "•Ataxia (incoordination) and
    weakness: Generally centered in the
    rear limbs, symptoms worsen when
    the head is elevated, or the horse
    moves up or down slopes. The animal
    may stand splay-footed or lean against
    stall wall for balance;
    •Spastic or stiff walking;
    •Muscle atrophy or loss of condition:
    Most common in the hind limb region;
    can involve face, neck or front limbs;
    •Facial nerve paralysis, head tilt,
    difficulty chewing or swallowing,
    snoring, roaring, drooped eyelid or lip,
    abnormal eye movements;
    •Back soreness from asymmetric
    use of hind limbs;
    •Attitude change;
    •Acute recumbency: May suddenly
    lie down or fall asleep;
    •Collapse, death."

    HOWEVER: I want to hear it from someone who's been through it. I want to know what it looks like. I don't want to read something and think "OH! He's got that!" like people do with webMD. I want to know what it looks like, what order the symptoms tend to progress in and what treatment is like.

    Iron Star Equestrian

    Heels Down, Eyes Up, Plan Ahead

  • #2
    Incoordination is ususally the first symptom. Stumbling, loss of muscle tone in the rear are also signs. One test that you can do is have someone walk him and you pull his tail toward you while you are walking at the side. a normal horse will resist. You can also cross one back leg over the other and again a normal horse will quickly place the foot back. EPM treatments are expensive. I have used Silver Lining Herbs EPM regimine on a EPM horse that I had a couple of years ago and it worked. I think the cost them was around 200.00 and I used 2 bags of each so the total was around 400.00.


    • #3
      your vet can do a neuro exam on the horse for little $ to see IF you actually need further testing.
      "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


      • #4
        Originally posted by Equestryn View Post
        HOWEVER: I want to hear it from someone who's been through it. I want to know what it looks like. I don't want to read something and think "OH! He's got that!" like people do with webMD. I want to know what it looks like, what order the symptoms tend to progress in and what treatment is like. Thanks!
        If you catch it early, your horse can have a good, fairly normal life. If it is EPM, be prepared to fork out a few thousand dollars for meds. They work well, and help allot. Our vet used a combination of visual physical exam and a blood titre test. The combination of the two led us to a positive EPM diagnosis.

        My 2yo Clydesdale mare had it. We put her on 56 days of double dose Marquis, and she recovered very well. She still has a little bit of hind end laxity, and one of her hind legs just doesn't have as good a range of motion, but well enough to do light driving and she had a beautiful foal this year, with no problems.




        • #5
          My horse may have it.. Vet tried pulling his tail to the side as he was walking, and had him turn in a tight circle. He had some difficulty stepping lightly and crossing his hind legs over. Blood has been sent out for testing, but unfortunately takes 7-10 days to come back. But I'm working on getting Marquis, so I'll start on that as soon as I can get it even if the blood test doesn't come back (and yes, I know the test isn't conclusive).

          Definitely have your vet out. Even if you don't do the spinal tap, the vet can do some other things to see if he has neuro symptoms. Blood tests can at least give you an idea. The people at Cornell said if you suspect EPM, start treating immediately.
          Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
          Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
          VW sucks.


          • #6
            I would say stumbling is the big one, especially when there isn't any obvious cause that you, the vet, or the farrier can find for it. Also, my guy began getting weird spooky episodes--he would be fine, then he would go into a bizarre nervous fit, and then he was fine again.

            Catch it early with vet testing--the damage isn't reversable but it can be stopped if you catch it early enough. We didn't figure out what was wrong until the post-motem analysis.
            Author Page
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            • #7
              Paints also can be prone to EP*S*M, also called PSSM... a couple symptoms can be similar... stumbling, loss of coordination. Not all EPSMers tie up.

              And depending on how young, and what stage of growth, it could just be an uncertainty of his own locomotion. My most athletic horse, as a 2 and 3 yo did somersaults too many times to count--giving me heart failure each time. Was as uncoordinated as they come... she was lanky and growing and anything but graceful. Her daughter Absolutely Could Not pick up a foot for the farrier for about a year between 3 and 4. She just Cound NOT figure out how to stand on three feet. It wasn't manners or training, it was a motor skill thing. <shrugs>

              Certainly worth the neuro checks, because both EPM and EPSM are more readily treated and have better outcomes when caught early, and it's WAY cheaper to rule them out than to guess and hope...
              InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

              Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


              • Original Poster

                Thank you so much for the input!

                The only symptoms of EPM he shows is the uncoordination. He's not lame, his muscles don't shake and he doesn't hold his head funny. He seems okay but it's been a question in the back of my mind since the first day I saw him take a weird step.

                I'll be doing some research into EPSM/PSSM and other causes of stumbling.

                Thanks again!!
                Iron Star Equestrian

                Heels Down, Eyes Up, Plan Ahead


                • #9

                  they thought our large pony had it, it started with a slight lameness and we had the vet look at him. he did the spins holding the tail, etc. we were lucky they were testing the marquis stuff at a vet center and we got into the clinical study. they did the spinal tap and all the treatments free. what we found out is that almost every horse is a carrier, most don't manifest into epm. so no test is absolute, that epm is the problem. after 6 months and then doing the milkshake stuff, we still had some money left on his insurance so we took him to another vet clinic(both were equally good) and they did another spinial test and decided that one of his neck vertebrae were messed up. they concluded that this was his problem and not epm. so we turned him out for 8 months, brought him back to have the vet evalute him before his life insurance ran out.he was sound as a dollar(maybe not a good analogy!) and is still sound 9 years later. we never sold him because we couldn't have gotten much with that history, the barn we are at has a huge lesson program so he has a job and a home until he can't do it anymore and then i'll find a yard for him to mow. we will never know if it was epm or the neck, but he's well now.


                  • #10
                    My first horse had/has EPM.

                    He was a 3y/o TB when I owned him. I had just started him U/S, and these were the symptoms he displayed that made me bring the vet out:

                    *Constantly dragging his back feet, to the point his hoof would square off.
                    *Costantly stumbling, especially when riding downhill.
                    *Would not lunge properly, going in circles made him unbalanced.
                    *Was very uncoordinated. (He was running around his paddock one day, and just summersaulted into the electric fence. He was ok, except for a cut on his front leg & abbrasions on his chest.)

                    The vet did a basic neuro test, and thought it might be Wobblers. He went to a big farm about an hour away from me, to be a babysitter to the rescues they brought in (he is a great babysitter!). They did further tests, and even though he did have a lesion on one of his vertabrae, he tested positive for EPM in a spinal tap.
                    <3 Vinnie <3
                    Jackie's Punt ("Bailey") My Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbred


                    • #11
                      Equestryn...I watched a vet doing a PPE and she specifically did this test to look for signs: Yielded the horse's HQ on the ground, a.e. poke/pressure near stifle to get horse to move hind around, maybe a 1/2 circle. She was looking to make sure the horse crossed his feet over each other. He did and was fine. This is just one test or sign but I thought it's something you could try while you wait for a full eval. Good luck!


                      • #12
                        Call your vet and pay for the spinal.
                        I have never had a horse with it, but I boarded at a barn where a horse had it, and he was not taken to the vet and diagnosed till he had extensive damage. The marquis worked, but the horse was too wasted to be of use and the owner sent him off.
                        The horse had sore feet and a sore back for years before he started wasting, He supposedly was a "hard keeper" so he was fed 3x a day, but still had trouble keeping weight on. I noticed him in crossties one day, and told his owner his rump had "sunken" the muscle in his rump had atrophied and he looked like he was losing weight fast. His owner said it was the way he was standing. A few months later, when he was losing more weight, the owner was riding him in the ring and his hind end collapsed. The owner laughed and kept jumping him and even took him to a show the next day, but someone intervened and she didn't show him.
                        A week or so later they took him up to a lameness expert, who did the spinal and found it was EPM.
                        You do not want to wait like that owner did. Marquis will work but cannot restore what the protozoa have destroyed. Get a competent vet to do a spinal if you think it is EPM. The vet gave the owner a small poster with all the symtoms, which poster was affixed to the horse's stall. That horse had all the symtoms including facial paralysis/difficulting in eating, all symtoms except seizures. So sore back, sore hooves, difficulty in eating, losing weight, loss of hind end coordination, etc., all are signs of EPM, but they could indicate other things too. Get the spinal and find out for sure.
                        I moved my 2 horses but was terrified they would contract it, we are in possum country, where feeding out in a paddock at lunchtime, where the other boarder was, can cause horses to ingest possum feces from spilled grain.


                        • #13
                          Two months after I bought a young mare, I got a call from my farrier that she might have injured herself. When I had stalled her earlier in preparation for the farrier, she came in running and playing.
                          I broke several traffic laws racing home to find her staggering and obviously in distress. When the vet got there he quickly diagnosed EPM (MANY years experience) and ordered medication to be overnighted. Shortly after he left, she went down and never got up. My "overnight" medication arrived at 4 PM. I was frantic by then.
                          It became obvious that the protazoa had migrated to a part of her spine that completely paralyzed her and she was euthanized at 6 PM. Had I known the day before that it would never improve I would have never let her spend a night like that. I later learned that the vet's opinion was that she had 30% chance of surviving and being useful.
                          I feel good that someone was with her every second that she was the ground. A friend lost one after treating it many months and others have told
                          me that they would never put a horse through that again. I'm thankful I made the choice not to make her suffer any longer, or to be impaired.
                          This is a decision that should be made on the basis of how badly the horse
                          is affected and the prognosis.
                          I am hoping that studies to cure or prevent EPM will be increased. This is an insidious, horrible disease and I hope most of you will never see it.


                          • #14
                            I have recently finished 2 months of Marquis. Yes, it was expensive, but I must say the results are great. My horse is 17hh and lanky. I thought he was just a hard keeper during winter. I fed all kind of weight supplements, alfalfa, Ulcergard, etc. The muscle wastage in his hindquarters was beyond profound. I had the vet come out and take blood, do neuro tests and fecal tests. I wondered if he had an infestation, which he didn't. The test came back positive. He looked so depressed. He didn't have the stumbling or fail any of the tests, he just looked so wasted. By the third week, I could see a slight weight change, by 6 weeks, he looked much better. The farrier added wedges on the front to give him support. I am now riding him about 20 minutes a day on gentle hills. His stifles are weak, but he is getting stronger. He doesn't startle or stall walk like he used to. EPM can present in so many different ways, I know a spinal tap is preferable, but I didn't want to put this horse through this, as he is 15. This horse loves to work, and I find that I have to hold him back. If you treat EPM, be prepared to be committed to it as long as you have the horse, relapses are always possible!