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Arlo & EPM

I on occasion forget that most people on our facebook page and that are visiting this website don't know Arlo's story and may not even know what EPM is. I tend to mention both a lot because Arlo is quickly becoming my favorite in the barn and he's suffering from a non curable disease, EPM or Equine Protazoal Myelitis, thats a lot to type, say and spell so it gets shorted to EPM.

So what is EPM?(I am not a vet, the information I'm about to share if based off of what I have learned in the past few months) It's a horrible parasite that live in the spinal column of a horse, the parasite attacks the nervous system and causes damage which is sometimes fatal. This parasite is given to the horse when the horse consumes grass or hay that has been contaminated by the manure of wild animals, mainly opossums.(Some studies show that raccoons and even cats can carry this parasite as well.) Now the horse can pick up the parasite stays dormant which means the horse continues to live a happy healthy long life. In other cases, such as Arlo's, the parasite becomes active and reeks havoc on the horses health. Studies show that horses who go through a traumatic or stressful event are more prone to waking up the protazoal, or horses who already have a weaken immune system.

So that brings us to Arlo who is 8-10 years old, has spent all of his life, leading up until October of 2018, in the wild, eating anything he can find. Then gets chased by a helicopter, separated from his family and forced to stay in a small space when he used to be able to travel miles every day. Then 5 months later gets loaded onto a scary metal box(horse trailer) and spends 3 days bouncing around in a very confined space with 8 other horses(he was shipped from California to New Hampshire which is where we began our adventure together.) So to say that he ate opossum poop in the wild and then suffered a traumatic event which woke the protszoal is not that far fetched.


Arlo at his worst in July 2019

EPM effects all horses differently, we are lucky in that Arlo is not showing many neurological symptoms. His main signs were loss of muscle pretty much everywhere but mainly along his spine and hind quarters. His hind legs also lock up on him. Horses stifle joints on their hind legs, which are similar to knees, lock so that horses can sleep standing up, Arlo's lock throughout the day and he's unable to control it. This then results in him dragging a stiff leg behind him. My vet pulled blood and it was sent to the University of Cornell for a titer test. I will never forget that call "Congratulations not only does your horse have EPM he has the highest titer I have ever seen" (the congratulations obviously was a sarcastic remark).


So now you have an idea of what EPM is, who Arlo is and why he has EPM. So now the fun part, not really fun because I've spent a bunch of money on his treatment. I can't say how much incase my husband actually reads this, but it's a lot.He has soon improvement but I still feel like we're a ways off from saying he's better. He will never actually be better, we're just trying to make the protazoal inactive again, waking them up is going to be easier in Arlo's case now that he's already been infected so chances of relapse are much higher. So this is going to be a life long battle but he's proving to me more and more each day that he's worth it.


Here's our timeline from diagnosis to now. He was diagnosed in October 2019. He most likely had already been battling this disease since arriving to me in March 2019 but because he was wild and unable to be handled it took until October for us to finally figure out what was wrong. We started him on Baycox, my vet told me it was a cheaper alternative to Marquis, which is the most popular form of treatment(this costs $1,100 a month), while still being just as effective. He was also started on Vitamin E and an EPM suppressant, the exact ingredients of this suppressant I am unsure of as it was not on the label. It appeared to be something that was created by my vet. At the time of diagnosis my vet said Arlo was going to need 3 months worth of treatment. We ended up doing 2, I stopped a month early because of cost, it was the end of December and between recovering from the holidays and entering a slow period at work I could not afford another months worth of treatment. After 2 months Arlo's muscle tone was back and he looked amazing. His hind legs still locked up, they were doing it less but it was still a big issue for him.


By the time we got to March I called by vet back to see what our options were, we ended up deciding to do another 2 months worth of just the vitamin E and EPM suppressant which cost wise equaled one months worth of what we were doing prior. This time around I really didn't see much change in Arlo;s condition at all, physically he still looked healthy at a stand still but when he would go to walk his hind leg would still lock. So I then switch gears, maybe the EPM is better and his stifles are just weak. My other horse Sporty had a lock stifle once and it just took a few days to get him unlocked and then after that regular exercise kept it from happening again. So maybe Arlo's tendons just need to be strengthened. So with that mindset I began a light exercise routine. We started out just walking then worked up to some light trotting. I got Arlo's started under saddle in this time as well. He was doing great, except there's been no improvement in his stifle. The past few weeks I've been noticing that his butt doesn't look as round and that his spine is just so slightly more visible than I would like. I kept telling myself that I was being paranoid, then the other night I took this picture below. The way Arlo's standing kind of told me he's having a relapse or we just never really fixed him completely in the first place. His left hind leg is in a weird position and he held it like this for quit a while.

Left hind leg is underneath him and twisted in an odd position

SO back to the drawing board. This time I wasn't going to be paying my vets mortgage for the month. Instead I decided to try an alternative method, a homeopathic method. Earth song ranch is a California based company that has all homeopathic horse (And dog and cat) supplies. I reached out to them and got a very quick response from the owner, I showed her the above picture and she confirmed my suspicion and said that usually is one of the first signs of a relapse.


A common stance for Arlo, he wants to move forward but his hind legs are stuck so he ends up in a stretching position

I just received some of the products from Earth Song Ranch today and will start Arlo on them tomorrow. I'll do another blog post about their treatment and how Arlo is fairing with it. Until then keep sending Arlo good vibes and prayers, he can use all he can get.


Arlo fresh after his bath today

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