Tag Archives: epm

EPM Tilter. What Do The Numbers Mean?

During my horse’s recent Lymphingitis flare-up, the vet advised that we run labs to test for Lyme and EPM due to his presenting symptoms (hind weakness, twisting his back leg at the walk/walking sideways I refer to it as- “Chance’s swagger”).  As I noted previously, Chance’s Lyme test revealed that he was at the beginning stages of an acute infection…yay for the labs at Cornell University for their amazing ability to give you more than a positive or negative!

A little history before getting to the EPM Tilter results.

About 2ish years ago, Chance was diagnosed with EPM (and one of the reasons opossums and I are not friends since they host the disease as do a few other culprits).  Chance immediately began EPM treatment- he received Protazil in his feed for one month. After hours of research I chose Protazil, although extremely expensive (if you order from http://www.drfosterandsmith.com they sometimes have promotions where you receive store credit for every $100.00 you spend…they did when I ordered and I got a “free” dog bed that my dogs adore), due to the decreased likelihood of Chance experiencing a “Treatment Crisis” (worsening of symptoms) and the ease of administration (other brands require the drug being administered 1 hour before eating or an hour after and so on).  Typically, EPM treatment is done for 30 days and, depending on the residual symptoms, some may require subsequent treatments.  While Chance’s symptoms improved, I wanted to ensure that we annihilated the disease and did another round of treatment but this time with Marquis.  At the end of two months, Chance’s ataxia was gone!

Fast forward to September 2016…Chance, just having a Lymphingitis flare-up, has been tested for Lyme and EPM. Lyme came back positive.  And….so did the EPM test..well, kind of.  Wonderful.  (See why I loathe opossums?)

Chance’s EPM test #2 on 8/30/16 (the 1st one was 2ish years ago) showed the following:

“Combined SAG 2,3,4 Tilter on serum= 1:2000”

So, what does this mean?

The test revealed that Chance had “positive, specific antibodies” detected in the blood work.  This means that he had EXPOSURE to S. Neurona, a causative agent of EPM.   Serum tilters range from <1:250 (negative) to >1:4000 (high positive).  S. Neurona (SarcoFluor) is one of two protozoa found in EPM infected horses, the other protazoa is N. Hughesil (NeoFluor). S. Neurona is most frequently seen, whereas N. Hughesil is not as common.

The vet ran another EPM test to confirm the findings in the 8/30/16 test.  The results showed that Chance had “Combined SAG 2,3,4 Tilter on serum= 1:1000.  Again, Chance showed EPM protozoa in the positive-ish range.

I initially had not seen the results but was told by the vet that he was EPM negative.  So when I asked for the test results to be emailed to me and saw the numbers I sort of freaked out…I emailed the vet to ask for clarification.  She explained,

“The EPM test shows that he was exposed to the organism in the first test we did which is why we did a follow-up test. Since his exposure level dropped from 1:2000 to 1:1000 this shows that he does not have the disease. There is no good one time test for EPM once they are exposed which is why we had to do the repeat to compare the two.”

While this explanation offered me comfort, I was confused…why does he have any protozoa in his blood if he doesn’t have EPM?

I spoke to another vet and she explained it in a bit more detail…I am hoping I am summarizing what she said correctly..

When a horse tests positive for EPM they either have an active disease or they may not.  However, when the test does from 1:2000 down to 1:1000 this typically means that the horse’s immune system is working correctly to fight the disease off- active or not.  EPM testing typically provides you with a % of the chance your horse has an active EPM infection, or at least if you send it to Cornell University.  For instance, lets say a horse gets the results back and it shows that they are “positive” or have been exposed to S. Neurona (one of the two EPM protozoa)…their results are  1:647.  This means that, after doing a bunch of adding and multiplying that this vet kindly did for me, the horse has a 60-70% chance of having ACTIVE EPM.  Meaning, he most likely would be symptomatic (ie: behavioral changes, ataxia, weight loss, difficulty eating, changes in soundness, and a bunch of other neurological symptoms).

My hunch is that Chance’s immune system was boosted because I started him on Transfer Factor (amazing stuff… more information can be found in some of my older posts) again as soon as his results came back positive for Lyme.

Here are the 3 EPM tilters that were run on Chance (oldest to most recent) along with his Lyme test results:



EPM results 9-8-16 copy.jpg


Cleanliness is Next to Godliness


  1. Making sure that the feed is not expired!
  2. To ensure that nothing is rotting or moldy: Mold spores cause colic.  Colic, well, is not only expensive but deadly.
  3. To keep wildlife out:  Many little critters carry diseases that can seriously impair your horse’s health. Diseases such as EPM is passed through opossum urinating on feed, hay, grass, etc and your horse ingesting it.
  4. Checking the feed bins: Ensuring that all feed bins are sealed and have no holes or ways for wildlife to crawl inside.  This is also important to ensure that the containers are air tight so that mold and other bacteria doesn’t get in or grow.
  5. Supplements and Medications: Checking the dates on medications and supplements to ensure that they are still safe to administer to your horse.
  6. Cleaning the feed buckets: This is important to make sure that there is no mold, fungus, bacteria etc growing on the inside of your buckets.  It is also important if you have used any of your buckets to give medication or supplements to ensure another horse’s feed isn’t being contaminated.


Why Clean Feed Rooms?

Feed Room Organization Ideas

Nine Steps To A Better Feed Room

30 Minutes To A Clean Feed Room

Pain in the Neck

My old guy has always had issues with his cervical spine/neck.  Throughout the years he has developed arthritis which has caused symptoms which mirror EPM such as; ataxia, difficulty bending, hind end weakness, difficulty going up hills, lethargy, difficulty balancing when foot is lifted, muscle atrophy, sore back…you get the picture.

When his symptoms first came on I had the vet test for EPM.  The test was positive.  I did my research and found out that about 50% of horses will test positive for EPM but only 1% show actual impairment from the virus.  I went ahead and completed two rounds of EPM medication therapy and still his symptoms continued.  So, I sought out another vet who practiced eastern and western medicine.

After some chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture she felt that his issues were actually due to the cervical spine and not EPM. The vet also showed me how, when looking at Chance straight on, one of his eyes was lower then the other- a classic sign of cervical and jaw issues. We continued with the chiropractic and acupuncture therapy and have continued for over a year and the change has been remarkable.  Along with these therapies, we upped his feed, added supplements, began stretches and different exercises, and had him walking and running up and down hills whenever he was outside.  The dentist has also been of great help by floating Chance’s teeth every few months instead of once a year.  This helps with the alignment of his teeth because he tends to ware one side of his teeth down more then the other; ultimately straining his jaw and neck.

He has rebuilt the muscle on his hind end, put on around 100 lbs, and is able to do stretches while someone is holding his foot up.  He runs when he is outside and is no longer on pain medications (except on the rare occasion).

Here is some useful information on a horse’s back and cervical spine.

Diagnosing A Horse’s Neck Problems

Main Causes of Ataxia in Horses

Arthritis of the Spine in Horses

Back Stretches

Exercises for Spinal Issues in Horses

New Concerns Have Sprung


Chance greeting me as I drive up

The days are finally feeling like spring!  The grass is green, the blankets put away, the sun is shining, and the horses are shedding.

Chance is continuing to gain weight, although as I said in the previous post, he still needs to put on a good 50-75 lbs.  As the days continue to get warmer, Chance’s arthritis seems to become more manageable for him; his stride is longer and he runs around (mostly after Lucky) more frequently.

Unfortunately, when the farrier came out about two weeks ago Chance was too stiff to get his back right shoe on. The farrier decided to come back out to try and re-shoe him and, during that time in between, Chance must have tweaked it…AGAIN! 

 While Chance did not have a shoe on his back right I kept it wrapped to provide some protection and also even out all of his hooves.  However, when I arrived I noticed that Chance was significantly twisting his back right leg inward at the walk & it had some swelling.  The swelling was not horrible but it was noticeable. I cold hosed his leg for about 45 minutes while I groomed him & gave him a dose of Equinox (pain medication) and Ulcer Guard.  I put on his back leg wrap to help with reducing the swelling and provide some extra support.  Chance did his neck stretches effortlessly and was baring weight on his back hind. 

But as I was grooming him I noticed, on the left side his chest, he had patches of hair loss and dandruff.  The area did not look red or inflamed, nor did it seem itchy or painful.  So I continued grooming him and decided to put a call into the vet to come and check his leg and the hair loss.

Of course, I turned to Google to try and find out what exactly could be the cause of the patches of hair loss.


According to a handful of sources, there are a few possibilities for hair loss- mites or Lice, a vitamin deficiency, rain rot or crud, or even just his natural shedding tendency. A skin scrape would help to confirm what may be the cause. 

 As for the swelling of Chance’s back right leg, I decided to call our previous vet who collected and injected Chance’s DDFT with stem cells to heal the hole in his tendon. We have some stem cells left over and I wanted to see if injecting his leg again would be of any benefit.  I also would like to get an ultrasound recheck to ensure that there is not another injury to his DDFT tendon sheath again.

The twisting of his back hind leg is worrisome as well.  

Everything I have read about EPM states that horses can have a relapse in symptoms after treatment is complete. My concern is that the twisting are due to the neurological symptoms coming back since Chance’s EPM treatment has been finished for a little over two weeks…. 

 Our current vet believes that Chance’s ataxia and twisting is not due to EPM but his cervical spine instead.  Could the twisting be worse due to the swelling of his hind leg?  Or is the swelling and the twisting two separate issues all together?


Chance BEFORE tendon injury diagnosis (I need to find the video where he was at his worse)

Chance AFTER Stem Cell Treatments

After 1 round of EPM Treatment

 Chance AFTER 2 rounds of EPM Treatments (Need to get a better video) Before there was no way he would have been able to get up that hill.


After two rounds of EPM treatments, stem cell injections, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, testing, antibiotics, ultrasounds, blood work, adding DuraLactin….Here is a video of Chance yesterday!  He has gained a lot of weight back and hopefully, with the addition of the Rice Bran in his feed, he will continue to gain weight!

I pray that gentle hands may guide my feet; I ask for kind commands from voices sweet; At night a stable warm with scented hay, Where, safe from every harm, I’ll sleep til day. -Author Unknown.

Today I met with a “new” vet, Vet7, who was Chance’s very first vet over 15 years ago, when he was vetted at purchase. She came out to do a chiropractic and acupuncture consultation, along with a general check-up. Vet7, while she has a more holistic approach to vetrinary medicinw, she also practices Western medicine.

Vet7 looked at Chance from head to hoof and took a thorough medical history, and ran some tests. She mostly did some balancing and acupressure type diagnostics, and declared that while Chance may have had EPM, she felt that his ataxia was due to his cervical spine….

She explained her reasoning:

1. EPM diagnostics are sub par at best. Even the spinal fluid testing. And, like I previously posted, about 50% of horses in the USA are EPM positive while only 1% are symptomatic.

2. Vet7 did a stretch test with Chance’s neck- to the left, while he compensated by bending at the top instead of the bottom, he showed little flexibility and increased ataxia while doing so. The right side bend was easier. Typically, horses with Cervical issues have issues with the hind-end on the opposite side. Chance has issues with his right leg.

3. Typically horses with EPM respond to treatment. Chance is on his second round of EPM treatment and while his symptoms have had moments where they are less noticeable, there are other moments when his symptoms are prominent; mostly at times of stress. (ie: trailering, new donkey friends, etc).

4. Vet7 put a needle in one of the points in Chance’s tail. He responded immediately showing that he has feeling and strength in his tail, which is something most EPM horses do not exhibit. Typically, an EPM horse will have weakness in his tail, and a times their tail is too weak to lift when they goto the bathroom resulting in having dried manure along their backside.

Vet7 made some adjustments and stuck Chance with a handful of needles. At one point he fell asleep with his head in my arms. She proceeded to inject different points along his cervical spine and hips with B-12.  She taught me some stretches and massage techniques, exercises he and I could do together to increase his hind-end and neck muscles, and gave me some weight gaining instructions.

Chance will have Rice Bran added to his feed beginning with 1 cup for a week and slowly increasing to 2 cups. This will aid in getting his weight up. Apparently, horses are able to tolerate up to 30% fat in their daily diets.

She also suggested adding a Probiotic to increase his Immune system since the gut is the control center. There were other supplements that she felt maybe helpful as well, Cervical Formula, to help with his neck flexibility and overall health.

As for the exercises, in conjunction with turning him out daily, he and I will do stretches to help increase his neck flexion and balance, and I will hand walk him. We will walk on flat land, up and down small hills, and do serpentines. Eventually, increasing to twice a day and adding ground poles and lunging. This will help to develop the muscles, increase his flexion, decrease the ataxia, and aid in his overall health.


Vet7 will come back out in two weeks to see how he is doing…I’m hoping that we have finally found some answers and are closer to a solution.

IMG_2245  IMG_2249  11021196_860336367174_5928889682290861303_n  IMG_2226

Last night, I was mucking out Chance’s stall when suddenly I saw a little black fluffy creature skeet by followed by my dog.  I stick my head out of the stall, thinking (or hoping) it was the barn cat, only to see that my dog has cornered a skunk!  I yelled for her to “come”, but it was too late.

The pungent smell wafted towards me; it was so thick that I literally felt that the skunk had sprayed me in my mouth.  I grabbed Sadie, and with the help of the farm owner’s son, began to wash her.  I poured tomato juice all over her, followed by Dawn soap, and lots of water.  Thankfully, due to having her Rambo jacket on, she did not get much on her and the tomato and Dawn concoction worked!  The next thing was to tackle the corner of the barn where the skunk sprayed- tomato juice, Dawn, water, and due to the freezing temperatures, salt.

That was an interesting start to my evening at the barn!

The low temperatures has caused the 6+ inches of snow, surrounding the barn, to have a thick layer of ice on top.  Poor Chance has been stall bound for almost a week.  Even on a sunny day, when we try to let him outside or hand walk him, he goes straight back into his stall after a few laps.  However, his legs are looking good, he is full of personality, and his eyes are bright.

This week is his second week on the Marquis.  I have noticed that the twisting is not as prominent when I am walking him but that could be due to Chance concentrating more on walking due to the ice and snow- fingers crossed that it is due to the Marquis though.

I started him on a new blend of hay- an alfalfa mix- and he can not stop eating it.  I am hoping that the blend will help him gain some weight back especially since he is unable to access any grass right now.

I am hoping for some warmer days to melt this ice and enable Chance to get some exercise!

Early Recognition of Neurological Disorders May Save Your Horse

Recognize the Signs of Equine Neurological Disorders

Recognizing the signs of equine neurological disorders and starting ?treatment early will give your horse his best chance of recovery from these diseases.

By Elaine Pascoe With Debra Sellon DVM

The tail pull is one of the diagnostic tests veterinarians commonly use to assess a horse's strength, balance and reaction time.
The tail pull is one of the diagnostic tests veterinarians commonly use to assess a horse’s strength, balance and reaction time. | ? Dusty Perin
Your horse hesitates and steps awkwardly when he walks downhill. He’s dragging his toes, too, and a few times he has even stumbled while trotting in the ring. He doesn’t seem sore, and your trainer and farrier don’t see anything wrong with his feet?but you know he’s not right. Could he have one of several equine neurological disorders, like equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) or West Nile virus?

Owners dread equine neurological disorders, such as equine herpesvirus type 1, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis or West Nile virus, and no wonder. Many of these problems are hard to diagnose and hard to treat, and they can damage a horse’s nervous system in ways that leave him unsafe to ride. But every neurologic case doesn’t end badly, and quick action?recognizing signs, getting a diagnosis and starting appropriate treatment?can give your horse the best chance.

If you think your horse might have a neurologic problem, it’s time to call your veterinarian. What exactly will your vet do, and what disorders might she find? In this article, we’ll walk you through a standard neurologic exam, tell you what else may be needed to make a definitive diagnosis and give you an overview of the most common problems.

Sorting Out the Signs
Signs of neurologic problems in horses run the gamut?seizures, abnormal behavior, abnormal gait, facial paralysis and more, says Debra Sellon, DVM, professor of equine medicine at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “The most common neurologic problem equine veterinarians see in the United States is an abnormal gait,” Dr. Sellon says. “Affected horses are usually ataxic and weak, meaning that they walk with a staggering or drunken type of gait. They may drag their toes, stumble frequently or sway back and forth when they walk.”

Disruptions in a horse’s command and control system create these problems. For normal movement, nerve signals must flow from his brain along his spinal cord to the nerves that govern his muscles?and nerves must signal back to his brain, reporting where his limbs are. If the signals don’t get through, your horse may become uncoordinated or develop abnormal gaits.

Many neurologic disorders can disrupt the signals. In most parts of North America, Dr. Sellon says, the most common are equine protozoal myeloencephalitis and cervical vertebral malformation (“wobbler syndrome”). But there are plenty of others, including injuries, several viral diseases and degenerative conditions, such as equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy, which has been linked to vitamin E deficiencies in young horses.

“Veterinarians use a fairly standard ?approach to determine a diagnosis for horses with neurologic disease,” Dr. Sellon says. The process begins with gathering information on your horse’s history. When did he begin to stumble or show other signs? Has he fallen? Information on your horse’s age, breed and use is important ?because some neurologic problems are more common in certain groups of horses.

Step two is a thorough physical ?examination. This exam may reveal soreness or other non-neurologic causes for your horse’s signs, or it may turn up signs of an injury or a disease that produces neurologic problems. As she examines your horse, your vet compares the right and left sides of your horse’s body, looking for asymmetry and loss of muscle mass (atrophy) that may develop when muscles go unused, as happens in some neurologic conditions. She may check the range of motion in his neck by encouraging him to bend to each side, using a carrot or another treat as a lure. Limited range of motion may mean an injury or even fractured vertebrae in his neck (the cervical spine).

Neurologic Exam
The third step is a detailed neurologic examination. “The goal is to determine, to the best extent possible, the site in the nervous system that is affected,” says Dr. Sellon. By finding out which functions are impaired, your veterinarian can figure out which nerves are involved. The process, called lesion localization, typically ?includes these steps:

General assessment: Your veterinarian observes your horse’s mental status and behavior. Is he alert or ?lethargic? Standing or down? Wandering aimlessly, circling or showing other odd behaviors or postures?

Basic reflexes: This part of the exam starts at the head with tests of the cranial nerves, which are involved in functions like hearing, vision, swallowing and facial sensation and muscle control. To test ?vision, for example, the vet quickly moves a hand toward your horse’s eye to trigger the menace reflex; your horse should blink and perhaps jerk away.

Along your horse’s neck and back on each side of his spine, your vet uses a ballpoint pen or similar object to touch your horse’s skin. A light but firm touch should trigger the panniculus reflex, the skin twitch you see when your horse is pestered by a fly. Lack of a reaction in any area suggests a problem with the nerves that supply that region. At the hind end, the vet checks muscle tone by lifting the tail; a limp tail may be a sign of a spinal cord problem. When his anus is gently stimulated, it should pucker and your horse should clamp his tail.

Maneuvers in hand: These tests show if your horse has control of his limbs and knows where his feet are. The vet watches as your horse is backed and turned in very tight circles in both directions to see how he places his feet. A normal horse keeps his rhythm and steps under his body, while a horse with a neurologic problem may interfere, take confused steps, swing a hind leg wide or pivot on one leg.

On a slope: Your vet may ask to see your horse led up and down a slope, to see if he stumbles, drags his toes or shows other gait abnormalities. Repeating this test with your horse’s head raised sometimes makes the signs more obvious.

Tail pull: This helps your vet assess your horse’s balance, strength and reaction time. As a handler leads your horse forward, your vet grasps his tail and pulls it firmly to the side. A normal horse will resist the pull; a horse with a neurologic problem may be tipped off balance. The test is repeated on the other side.

Foot placement: These tests help determine your horse’s awareness of his limb position. Your vet takes each foot in turn and places it over its opposite number?left front over right front, right front over left front, and the same behind. A normal horse will immediately put each foot back where it belongs; a horse with a neurologic problem may leave one or more feet out of place for a time.

By the end of the exam your veterinarian should know whether your horse’s problem is neurologic and, if so, what areas of his nervous system are ?involved. She may not have enough information for a clear diagnosis yet because many neurologic disorders have variable signs. “Horses with EPM can show a wide variety of signs, ranging from ataxia and weakness, to individual nerve paralysis, to seizures, to problems with urination or defecation,” Dr. Sellon says. “The vast majority of wobblers present for examination with ataxia and weakness of all four limbs. That means a horse with EPM often looks different from a wobbler but sometimes looks just the same.”

Still, your veterinarian will have enough information to make a list of the diseases or disorders that are most likely the cause and then choose the most appropriate diagnostic tests to confirm or rule out the items on that list. Here’s what you can expect for three common conditions.
This disease is common in most parts of the United States, Dr. Sellon says, but diagnosing it can be problematic.

Cause: Microscopic protozoan parasites (Sarcocystis neurona) invade the horse’s central nervous system, damaging the spinal cord and/or brain. S. neurona is mainly carried by opossums, which shed sporocysts (dormant protozoa) in their feces. The horse ingests the sporocysts in contaminated feed or water. (Another protozoan, Neospora hughesi, has been reported in a small number of cases.)

Signs: Depending on the area of the central nervous system that’s affected, signs may include loss of coordination, loss of muscle mass, difficulty swallowing, abnormal gait or lameness, seizures or paralysis. Signs are often more pronounced on one side of the body, Dr. Sellon says.

Diagnosis: Blood and spinal fluid can be tested for antibodies against the EPM parasite, and a negative result rules out the disease. But a positive test doesn’t necessarily mean that your horse has EPM?just that he was exposed to the parasite at some time and mounted an immune response to fight it off. In some regions, 30 to 60 percent of horses have antibodies, but only a small fraction ever show signs of disease. Some new tests have been reported to give a clearer picture of antibody levels. But, Dr. Sellon says, a panel of experts has agreed that test results alone are not enough?it’s important to rule out other possible diseases as well.

Treatment: Drugs used to fight EPM include pyramethamine/sulfadiazine (or sulfamethoxazole) combination (paste, from compounding pharmacies) and ponazuril paste (Marquis, from Bayer). There’s also a pelleted medication, diclazuril (Protazil, from Intervet International), which can be top-dressed on feed if you’re sure your horse will consume the full dose. All the drugs are expensive, and treatment lasts weeks or months.

Be guided by your veterinarian in choosing what’s right for your horse, Dr. Sellon says. “The advertisements for some new diagnostic and treatment procedures may sound very exciting, but they may not have solid science backing them up.”

Outlook: Without treatment your horse will get worse. Medication can halt the progression of the disease, but his recovery depends on how badly nerve tissues have been damaged. If your horse is diagnosed and treated promptly, he may recover fully; but a severe or longstanding case may cause lasting neurologic deficits.

Prevention: So far no vaccine has proved effective against EPM, although research continues. You can take other steps to reduce your horse’s risk:

    • Minimize stress. Stress?from showing, shipping, training and the like?seems to increase the risk of developing this disease, perhaps by suppressing your horse’s immune response.
    • Discourage opossums. They’re scavengers, so cover grain and garbage tightly. Clean up spilled grain and dispose of dead animals, including birds and ?rodents. Keep water troughs and buckets clean and filled with fresh water to prevent contamination.

Wobbler Syndrome
Wobbler syndrome usually appears in young, growing horses. It’s the most ?common noncontagious cause of neurologic problems.

Cause: The bones of the spine (vertebrae) have a central canal that lets the spinal cord pass through. A wobbler has a structural narrowing of the canal in vertebrae of the neck?a cervical vertebral malformation (CVM) that squeezes the spinal cord and damages nerve tissue. The pressure may be constant or occur only when the neck is flexed or extended. Rapid growth, a diet excessively high in nutrients and imbalances of various minerals have been blamed. The condition can ?affect any breed but is especially common in Thoroughbreds, and genetics may play a role. An injury to the spine may worsen the problem.

Signs: Your horse is incoordinated and weak behind and, often, in front as well. Usually both sides of your horse are affected equally. The signs may creep up gradually or appear suddenly, and the ?severity may vary from time to time.

Diagnosis: X-rays of the neck can help rule out a fracture, Dr. Sellon says, but confirming that your horse is a wobbler usually requires a myelogram. This is a set of specialized X-rays taken while your horse is anesthetized. A dye is ?injected into the space around his spinal cord, and the X-rays are taken with your horse’s neck in various positions to see if the bones impinge on the spinal cord.

Treatment: A wobbler may improve with rest, but the underlying condition doesn’t go away. In some cases a surgeon may be able to fuse the affected vertebrae to reduce pressure on the spinal cord.

Outlook: Most wobblers are not candidates for athletic careers. Successful surgery may improve the condition enough for your horse to be ridden, though.

Prevention: There’s no sure way to prevent CVM, but correct nutrition will help any young horse develop well.

Injuries to the skull or spine can produce severe neurologic problems.

Cause: These injuries typically ?occur when a horse falls or collides with a solid object. For example, a horse who pulls back in cross-ties, panics and flips over backward may strike his poll, sometimes with enough force to fracture his skull or the first few vertebrae of his neck. An event horse who doesn’t clear an obstacle and flips or plows headfirst into the ground may fracture vertebrae farther along the spine.

Signs: Head trauma may knock your horse unconscious, make him temporarily blind or disoriented or kill him instantly. But signs don’t always show up immediately?pressure from internal bleeding in the skull can build slowly, so you won’t know initially how serious the injury is. Signs of spinal injury depend on the location. Your horse may have difficulty rising, lack coordination and show other abnormalities.

Diagnosis: Your horse’s history and signs generally point to injury. X-rays can identify fractures in the skull and spine, but some sites are difficult to image.

Treatment: If a fracture leaves your horse paralyzed or severely incoordinated, not much can be done. Treatment for milder injuries focuses on reducing the inflammation and swelling that put pressure on nerve tissue. Your vet may put your horse on anti-inflammatory medications, perhaps intravenous DMSO, a cortico?steroid or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as phenylbutazone, depending on the case. Your horse will need a period of rest, followed by reevaluation.

Outlook: No two injuries are the same, so the outlook is different in each case. A horse with soft-tissue injuries ?obviously has a better outlook than a horse with a fractured spine.
Prevention: Accidents happen, but you can minimize your horse’s risks by being sure that he’s fit and ready for his sport and by avoiding situations in which he’ll fight head restraint. If you can’t tie him safely, don’t tie him.

Mosquitoes transmit viral diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis, through bites.
Mosquitoes transmit viral diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis, through bites. | ? Joseph Berger/Bugwood.org

Viral Threats
Several viral diseases can attack your horse’s central nervous system. Rabies, always fatal, may be the most devastating?but, fortunately, it can be prevented with vaccination and is fairly rare. These are more common.

West Nile Virus. West Nile is one of several mosquito-borne viruses that cause neurologic disease in horses. In the United States, the others are Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis. Another, Venezuelan encephalomyelitis, hasn’t occurred north of the Mexican border since the 1970s. Here are the basics:

    • Mosquitoes transmit the virus to horses when they bite. If the virus invades the central nervous system, it can cause encephalitis?swelling around the brain and spinal cord. The virus does not spread directly from horse to horse or from horses to people.
    • Lack of coordination, weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, muscle twitching, impaired vision, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, circling and coma are some of the severe neurologic effects. Horses typically have non-neurologic signs, too, such loss of appetite and a depressed attitude. Some develop a fever. Lab tests can confirm the diagnosis.
    • Your horse should have supportive care, including anti-inflammatory medication and IV fluids, if needed, but there’s no specific treatment.
    • West Nile is fatal in 20 to 40 percent of cases. Horses who pull through may have lingering neurologic deficits, but that’s not always the case. Other forms of equine encephalitis have somewhat higher death rates and less chance of full recovery.

EHV-1. Equine herpesvirus type 1 usually causes a flu-like illness or, in pregnant mares, abortion. But in some cases, the virus damages blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord, producing a deadly neurologic disease (equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy).

    • Neurologic signs may include lack of coordination, hind-end weakness, diminished tail tone or unwillingness to rise. Fever, nasal discharge and other respiratory signs may appear first. But, says Dr. Sellon, “Most of the EHV horses we see at WSU do not have nasal discharge or respiratory disease signs that have been recognized by owners or trainers,” Dr. Sellon says. “If you depend on those signs, I think you might miss a lot of horses with EHV infection.” Your veterinarian can send a nasal swab and blood sample to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.
    • Supportive care can help your horse weather the infection. Antiviral medications may help if given before neurologic signs appear.
    • The virus spreads easily from horse to horse; isolation, quarantine and other biosecurity measures will help keep the disease from spreading through the barn.
    • Horses who remain able to stand usually recover. The outlook is not so good for those who go down and can’t rise.

All these viral diseases are widespread in the United States, so take steps to protect your horse:


    • Vaccines against WNV, EEE and WEE are effective, and they’re ?considered “core” for practically all horses in the United States. Boosters are usually given annually in spring, giving your horse time to build immunity before mosquito populations peak in summer. Where mosquitoes are active year-round, horses may need more frequent boosters.
    • No vaccine is labeled effective against the neurologic form of EHV-1, but vaccination can help protect your horse from other forms of the disease. There’s some evidence that a modified live virus vaccine (Rhinomune MLV, from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica) offers better protection against the neurologic form, but more research is needed.

Reduce Risks:

    • Limit your horse’s exposure to mosquitoes. Keep him in at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, and use fly repellents labeled effective against these insects.
  • Take precautions at shows and other places where many horses come together and contagious diseases like EHV-1 often spread. Don’t share water buckets or let your horse rub noses with strangers.

– See more at: http://practicalhorsemanmag.com/article/recognize-the-signs-of-equine-neurological-disorders-11614#sthash.sZkgPlCk.dpuf

Weight Gain- The Good Kind

While Chance’s hind-end is still sunken, especially on the right side, he is looking much better than he did almost a year ago.  In the last year, he has gained a significant amount of weight (and still needs to keep gaining) and muscle mass.  This was achieved by upping his feed to 4 quarts and adding hay stretcher with each meal, along with Chance walking up and down small hills during the day.


Chance 6 months ago (August 2014) Pre-EPM diagnosis or treatment.


February 2015: Second round of EPM treatment and 6 months of upped feed with higher fat and protein content.


The weather has been unrelenting over the last week. We got about 7 inches of snow and another 7+ inches 4 days later, with low temperatures and hail to boot! Poor Chance has been stall bound due to the slippery conditions. Some days it has even been too icy to hand walk him.

Regardless, Chance has been in good spirits and his back legs look great! He hasn’t stocked up and he is putting weight on the back right hind. I’m hoping that when he is able to go outside, his back right twist will have disappeared! Maybe wishful thinking, but I can still hope.