A horse and owner return home following treatment

EZL is a disease which has devastated Ethiopia’s working horse population, affecting tens of thousands of working animals. When carthorse Bezina started to show signs of the infection, her owner Amada was determined that his animal wouldn’t suffer the same horrific fate.

Amada’s heart sank when he saw the small lesions running down the length of Bezina’s chest, front legs and belly. The young man immediately recognised the tell-tale signs of EZL, or epizootic lymphangitis, a severely debilitating condition that has killed tens of thousands of horses in Ethiopia. Bezina is invaluable to Amada, enabling him to earn a living to support his family. If she was to have any chance of survival, he knew that he had to act quickly.

A white horse being treated with iodine for her EZLMore than one third of Ethiopia’s working horses suffer from EZL. The infection, spread by flies in hot and arid climates, travels quickly through the animal’s lymphatic system. With painful, open soars covering the horse’s skin, complications from EZL can kill a horse in under three months.

The effects of the disease have been so devastating in Ethiopia that many owners have felt that they have no other choice but to abandon horses when they become infected. These animals are left to survive on the streets, as no one wants to bring infected horses in contact with their healthy animals.

A horse being treated for EZL in Ethiopia

Bezina and Amada travelled three hours from their rural village and were waiting at the opening of SPANA’s daily drop-in clinic in Bishoftu for help. As experts in containing and treating the infection, SPANA vets are running Ethiopia’s only treatment programme for EZL. Amada knew this clinic was Bezina’s best bet for survival.

Thanks to an ongoing SPANA campaign, owners like Amada are now aware of the early warning signs of the disease. Since Amada had brought Bezina in immediately for care, the vets believed that with intensive treatment, Bezina stood a good chance of survival. First, the vets set to work addressing Bezina’s intense discomfort. After sedation, her wounds were lanced, cleaned and treated with iodine, which disinfects the wounds and forms a barrier to prevent EZL from being spread to other animals.

A horse is given water during treatment in Ethiopia

As Amada lives so far from the treatment centre, our vets showed him how to continue treating and cleaning the wounds at home. The team sent Amada home with medications and a daily supply of potassium iodide to add to Bezina’s food to calm the animal’s inflammatory response. Bezina wasn’t out of the woods yet but, with care, attention and proper treatment, she now stood a fighting chance.

For weeks, Amada diligently adhered to the treatment plan, keeping his horse comfortable and well-fed while he fought the spread of the disease. When Amada next brought Bezina for a check-up, the vets were encouraged by the huge progress that the animal had made and expected Bezina to make a full recovery.

Amada couldn’t contain his gratitude, saying:

The support from SPANA is excellent. They’ve shown me how to provide the best care for Bezina and I am very happy to do whatever it takes to make sure she improves.

A horse being treated for EZL in Ethiopia

Although EZL is widespread in Ethiopia, many horse owners don’t realise that to contain the disease, they have to act fast to provide treatment. SPANA’s mission is to educate working animal owners about preventative care and communicate that, with early treatment and committed nursing, recovery is possible.

Thanks to your ongoing support, we can continue to spread awareness and provide the lifesaving drugs that keep so many of Ethiopia’s hardworking horses alive and healthy.

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