Let's Talk About EPM
What is EPM?
EPM, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, is a disease caused by the apicomplexan parasite Sarcocystis neurona that affects the central nervous system of horses. It can be a devastating diagnosis for the owner and quite traumatic for the horse.
As we meet more equestrians, we hear of more horses who have fallen prey to this challenging illness. So I wanted to address it here to provide some insight on why it happens and guidance on how to avoid it. Also, the question has been asked, Why are some horses affected, but not others, when they’re living among the same herd or in the same barn?
What makes one horse more susceptible than another?
A horse is more likely to fall prey to EPM when their gut microbiota is imbalanced and intestinal integrity is compromised. Unhealthy gut flora can lead 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 help prevent EPM?
Fostering your horse’s gut microbiome with a thoughtful diet is perhaps the best gift you can offer him/her as it should result in a stronger immune system and a higher quality life. A healthy gut can also be the best defense against EPM. So, how can we foster a healthy gut? Simply put: limit pharmaceuticals and offer a pure, organic diet. Avoiding Glyphosate (Round Up) contamination and GMO’s is critical when trying to avoid or recover from leaky gut syndrome (perforations / breaks in tight junctions of the gut wall). We encourage you to check your feed & supplements ingredient lists for GMO crops (soy, corn, alfalfa, beet pulp, canola, etc), glyphosate contaminated conventional crops (wheat, oats), call the feed manufacturer and ask if GMO's are sourced and always seek organic over conventional. If it doesn’t state organic, it’s either GMO or conventional.
Ideally, a horse’s diet should include multi-species grass hay and forage (not alfalfa), natural mineral salts (Redmond’s) and appropriate herbs, oils, superfoods & prebiotics. 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 (sulfates, ascorbic acid, etc), 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. Also, ingredients such as pumpkin seeds and coconut are naturally anti-parasitic and most horses love them! Focus on creating an uninhabitable environment for pathogens by balancing the internal pH, supporting the normal digestive process (allowing stomach acid) and fostering the terrain.
Be proactive. Foster the gut before your horse becomes 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