Opossum – Carrier of EPM in horses

This week was an exciting one here on the Savvy Farm! We found this critter, just munching away on the cat food. Like most horse owners, we were appalled to see that this EPM carrier was on our farm with plenty of access to our hay. The next day our neighbor brought over a live trap and we set up another make shift trap – a 55 gallon drum which was open on one end and laid on it’s side with cat food in the bottom. 2 nights later, our visitor came back, and he had walked right into our 55 gallon drum – perfect to contain him and relocate him to a wildlife area. Lesson learned – no cat food left out at night!

The reason opossum are a huge danger to horses is because they carry EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). Opossum pick up the protozoal parasite from cats, raccoon, skunk, etc. The protozoa is then turned into sporocysts and then excreted by the opossum onto the horse’s feed – mostly hay, but also grain. Once the horse ingests the sporocysts, it migrates into the horses brain and can cause devastating long term brain damage if not treated quickly. There is quite a bit of interesting research on EPM – just Google RPM in horses, and several excellent articles will come up.

You can bet that we learned our lesson and definitely do not want any of our horses subjected to EPM!  And as for our barn cats - they will be on a daily 12 hr fast from 6pm to 6am from now on!

If you are concerned about opossum voiding on your horses hay at night, be sure to use a feeder to contain your horse’s hay and keep it clean and free from all debris and excrement of all kinds.