Let's Talk About EPM
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a disease caused by the apicomplexan parasite Sarcocystis neurona that affects the central nervous system of horses. It is a devastating diagnosis for the owner and is quite traumatic for the horse.
As we meet more equestrians, we hear of more and more horses who have fallen prey to this tragic illness. So I wanted to address it here to provide some insight on why it happens and guidance on how to avoid it. The question is often asked, Why are some horses affected, but not others, when they’re living among the same herd or in the same barn? We’ve all heard of EPM or perhaps have had to fight the EPM battle with one of our beloved horses. So, what can we do to protect them?
What makes one horse more susceptible than another?
A horse is more likely to fall prey to EPM when their gut microbiota and intestinal integrity is compromised. Unhealthy gut flora leads to breaks in the tight junctions of the GI tract, allowing rogue molecules, bacteria and parasites to pass through into the bloodstream, spread systemically, weaken and penetrate the blood brain barrier and wreak havoc on neurological tissues and CNS. There you have it. This is why only one horse in a barn may become sick, while all may have had exposure. A horse with a healthy gut and optimal digestion (hint: stomach acid is needed!) is able to pass undesirable bacteria or foreign invaders, such as parasites, safely through his or her GI without negative impacts.
How can we prevent EPM?
Thankfully, the best prevention is DIY... by fostering your horse’s gut through a thoughtful diet. It truly is the very best gift you can offer him/her as it results in a stronger immune system and a higher quality life. So, how can we foster a healthy gut? Simply put: limit pharmaceuticals (injection and pill form) and offer them a pure, organic diet. Avoiding Glyphosate (Round Up) contamination from GMO & conventional crops is critical when trying to avoid leaky gut syndrome (which is described above). Check your feed bags for GMO crops, call the feed manufacturer and ask if GMO's are sourced and seek organic over conventional. Ideally, their diet should include multi-species grass hay and forage (not alfalfa), natural mineral salts (Redmond’s) and appropriate herbs, oils and superfoods. These can all help to support a healthy balance of bacteria, healthy mucosa and a healthy GI lining. It's also important to seek out naturally occurring vitamins and minerals over synthetic. Typically, feeds are fortified with many synthetics which can be harmful to the gut (hello, ascorbic acid!), so learning to rely on herbs, natural mineral salt, forage and whole foods for bio-available vitamins, minerals and amino acids is an excellent practice.
Be proactive. Foster the gut before your horse can become symptomatic. Eliminate problematic ingredients and add in restorative foods. If you have a horse who is already symptomatic, we’re here to help. PM us.️
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” #healthcarenotsickcare