When a friend spotted that Bekele the horse had the classic signs of Epizootic Lymphangitis (EZL), his owner, Girma, immediately took him to see SPANA vets in Ethiopia for help.
Bekele has an important role helping his owner, Girma, to earn a basic income. The four-year-old horse works alongside Girma, providing a taxi service in their rural village, close to the town of Bishoftu in central Ethiopia. Bekele’s hard work enables the community to access essential services such as schools and hospitals, and makes it possible for Girma to support his wife and children.
One day, Girma noticed some small growths on Bekele’s left front leg. Girma kept a very close eye on the growths, but became extremely concerned when they did not heal. Worse still, some were starting to burst and turn into open wounds. Girma asked his friend, who also owned a horse, for some advice. His friend checked Bekele’s growths and told Girma to take him to SPANA as soon as possible. His friend’s horse had recently recovered from a painful fungal disease called EZL, and SPANA had shown him the symptoms to look out for.
Following his friend’s advice, Girma took Bekele to SPANA’s veterinary centre in Bishoftu. At the centre, Bekele was examined closely by SPANA vets, who confirmed that the horse had developed EZL. This highly contagious infection spreads quickly across the lymphatic system and causes agonising skin nodules that can rupture into burning ulcers. Without treatment, EZL causes excruciating pain, and some forms of the disease can be fatal.
Thankfully, if caught early enough, EZL can be treatable. The vets cleaned Bekele’s growths with water and antiseptic, shaved the affected area, then gently opened the mature growths to release the infectious material, before applying iodine to disinfect the wounds and form a barrier to prevent EZL from spreading.
Using special training posters, the vets then explained to Girma all about the condition – including how it is transmitted, what the symptoms are, and how to prevent the disease. Girma was given an iodine solution and shown how to apply it to Bekele’s affected area daily for the next 15 days. Bekele would then need to return to the centre for a check-up and further treatment.
Girma said: ‘Long live SPANA. My family relies on the income that our horse brings us. You are not only relieving Bekele from pain – you are also saving four of us from crisis. Thank you.’
Sadly, EZL is extremely prevalent in Ethiopia, affecting up to 30 per cent of the country’s carthorse population in some regions. But, thanks to your kindness and support, our vets treat working animals affected by EZL and train animal owners and communities in spotting the symptoms of the disease. Due to this vital training, Bekele was able to be treated early. With your continued support, we can help many more working animals in urgent need. Thank you.