Fatal horse disease is on the rise – Equine Sycamore Poisoning

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This Autumn we have received a number calls regarding an equine disease with a high mortality rate, called Equine Atypical Myopathy (also referred to as Sycamore Poisoning). Whilst it can be treated, prevention is the preferred course of action wherever possible. We have spoken to our consultant veterinarian before compiling this information you.

Photo of sycamore seeds

 

What is Equine Atypical Myopathy / Equine Sycamore Poisoning?

Equine Sycamore Poisoning is linked to a toxin called Hypoglycin A contained in sycamore leaves, seeds and shoots which horses may ingest while grazing. Although it usually occurs in Autumn, when leaves and seeds fall, it can also occur in Spring when grazing is short.

The condition may eventually lead to kidney failure and has a high mortality rate – we understand our consultant has advised that 80% of cases in the recent outbreak have resulted in horses being put to sleep.

 

Why is Equine Sycamore Poisoning on higher this year?

There is no conclusive reason; it can tend to depend on seasonal weather conditions. The BBC has reported that the mild weather this Autumn has meant that sycamore leaves and seeds have been around longer increasing chances and possible quantities ingested.

 

Symptoms – what should I look out for?

Diagnosis can be difficult and sometimes the condition can be mistaken for Acute Colic or Grass Sickness. The following list is not definitive and some symptoms may or may not be exhibited:

  •      Colic-like symptoms
  •      Distress e.g. excessive nodding
  •      Choking spasms
  •      Muscle stiffness
  •      Muscle weakness
  •      Muscle tremors
  •      Sweating
  •      Dark red, cloudy urine
  •      Lethargy / unable to get up

Please note, it is important to identify symptoms as quickly as possible so that treatment can be administered as the condition develops rapidly.

 

Prevention tips

  • RELOCATE – wherever possible move your horse to a different location away from sycamore trees.

If relocation is not possible then doing the following may help reduce the chances of a horse ingesting any sycamore leaves, seeds or young shoots:

  • FENCE OFF – during the Autumn months fence off the areas surrounding  sycamore trees
  • DISTRACT – provide alternative forage / feed such as hay so that horses graze less off the ground less during Autumn months
  • CLEAR – check the area for any sycamore foliage, seeds and shoots / saplings that may have blown into the grazing area of the field

 

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