EPM vs severe malnutrition...

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EPM vs severe malnutrition...

This is a discussion on EPM vs severe malnutrition... within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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    10-02-2010, 12:55 PM
EPM vs severe malnutrition...

I adopted/rescued an 11 y/o appy gelding a few weeks ago, and he is severely malnourished, had been fed moldy hay, the farrier they used trimmed him so badly he was/is walking on his frogs, and his teeth were terrible. He is over 200# underweight. Recently a friend who is very knowlegable about horses suggested I have a vet look at him, he thinks he may have EPM. ( I know starvation and EPM are not the same thing... =) My horse has very very low muscle tone, and you can see his shoulder blades, his hind end is sunken in. While I am having a vet come out, I wondered if anyone who has rescued a severly malnourished horse like this has noticed the same, if the weakness could be from being so underweight vs EPM? He is being very well fed now, and is fattening up, I really can't tell you anything about when the weakness started because he is a rescue, and the neighbor I rescued him from is very defensive, so I am trying to avoid asking much that she will interpret as me insinuating she was less than a good owner.. He stumbles a bit ( but then, he WAS walking on his frog...) but is a sweet guy, and I am in it for the long haul with him. I guess I am just hoping someone can give me some hope here...
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    10-02-2010, 06:12 PM
There are some very knowlegeable folks on here who know a lot about EPM. The only test that is 100% accurate is to identify the protozoal organism in the spinal cord which can only be done on a deceased horse. It is very difficult to definitively diagnose but testing for it would entail 1st ruling out other causes of neurologic disease and then testing for antibodies to the protozoa in serum or CSF (from a spinal tap). HOWEVER even if your horse tests positive, it only means that it was exposed and not necessarily has illness caused by the protozoa. One of the biggest problems with testing is that it often diagnoses a healthy horse as infected, and the treatment is extremely expensive, so just treating to see if they improve is rarely an option for people.

You will find a disproportionate number of people on here who have experience with EPM simply because they are seeking information on a horse health forum. In reality EPM is fairly uncommon, but numbers are sometimes over reported because vets do the test, get a false negative and tell the owner their horse has EPM simply because they do not understand how to correctly interpret results.

I would say the best thing you can do for this horse is continue the groceries and TLC and see how he improves over the next few months. It is also possible that he has another neurologic condition not related to EPM or starvation. Neurologic problems are EXCEEDINGLY difficult to diagnose. If he doesn't seem better in a few months, then seek a complete work up. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have him to a vet now though, to make sure there aren't any other underlying conditions as it sounds like he was quite neglected before you came into his life!! Best of luck with him, and congrats on giving him the loving rescue he deserved!!!
    10-02-2010, 06:26 PM
I could have written this post.

I have a 16 year old Arab that is in the exact same condition.

After the month and a half we have had him, he is doing better. Picking up weight slowly, getting stronger and with some good farrier work, not stumbling as much.
    10-02-2010, 07:45 PM
Our Bones was about 400-500 lbs underweight when we rescued him. He was so weak he fell in the trailer twice bringing him home. He could barely walk, he weaved and wandered when he walked.
He looked alot like a dairy cow, his backbone was showing all the way to his ribs, he had a shelf from the backbone to ribs, his hip/leg bones could be outlined on the skin, his shoulder blades showed through, his tail head was above the skin about 4 inches. His neck was so skinny and his head looked huge. He was rated a 1.5 out of 10 for starvation, 1 being almost dead. It took months and months of vet care and food to turn him around, now he is fat, sassy and healthy as can be. He does have weakened lungs from damage due to breathing dust for so long, he lived in a dirt pen with no food, he ate horse manure and wood
Good luck
    10-02-2010, 07:50 PM
This can be difficult because the EPM can cause the weight/muscle loss. Its a totally ugly disease. I would keep feeding him up, get him proper farrier work and give him a month. If he is progressing in the wrong direction in a month, get the vet out.

My mare with EPM had good days and bad. One day she would be stumbling and walking funny...the next she would be tearing ass around the field.
    10-02-2010, 09:14 PM
Thank you ALL. I feel much better. I am still going to get a vet out and have him checked over, just to make sure we are doing all we can for him health wise. I spent an hour today watching him in the pasture, and I sincerely can't see it.. I am a physical therapist and work with adult humans with neuro deficits, and have been reading all day on EPM, and just don't see it. Maybe I am rationalizing, but all I see is a weak horse with terrible sore feet. What symptoms would I expect to see in how he walks or stands? The only thing I have seen myself is when walking for an hour last week ( before we knew his feet were sooooo bad or I would not have even taken him on the (gravel) road.. he did catch his toe and almost stumble a few times.. I appreciate all your replies.. he is my first horse...
    10-02-2010, 09:16 PM
Are his toes long?

My horse was so weak he couldn't lift his feet up much. His toes were also long and it made it much worse.
    10-02-2010, 09:32 PM
Actually, they WERE long, and the previous owner had him trimmed a few days before we got him.. and according to the farrier WE use, he was trimmed so badly that he is now walking on his frog! I think the issue the friend noticed seemed to be the hind end weakness/ atrophy.
    10-03-2010, 01:40 AM
I wouldn't be suprised if your horse had some atrophy- he was starved and I am sure not worked. Here is a link to some pics I posted of my guy a few months ago, he is even fatter and more muscled now.
before and after (feed= good)

Mine didn't have nearly the neglect yours sounds like he suffered but the amount of muscling I see in him now versus when I first got him is profound, you'll be amazed what good feed and when he's ready, gentle work will do!

As for signs and symptoms, they can be pretty non-specific and diffuse, like any neuro condition. This is partly what makes diagnosis so hard. He might stumble just a bit or he might have tremors, or in drastic cases seizures. I still advocate a vet check up for general health but honestly as far as EPM just watch him, as it sounds like he is not outwardly symptomatic. I would put money on this horse just being a severe malnutrition case based on the history. By the way, how about some pics of your new boy??
    10-03-2010, 11:50 AM
It's always a good idea to have your vet check out any new horse you buy regardless of his condition.......but I would suspect that what you are describing is from being malnourished and would treat accordingly and see what happens.....I would start with the obvious and not go looking for more serious or complicated conditions.

Super Nova

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