Over recent months, horse owners have become increasingly aware of the fatal illness occurred through sycamore seedlings found in paddocks and pasture; having either blown from neighboring fields or from Acer trees (known as Sycamore) in the vicinity.
Atypical myopathy is a mysterious yet often fatal illness, usually found in grazing horses, mostly in the autumn and spring.
The illness weakens the muscles of the body and can present with sudden stiffness, muscle tremors, collapse and colic-like signs, with a low temperature. Often dark urine is seen. The fatality rate is around 70%.
Studies have revealed that toxins from the seeds of the tree acer pseudoplatanus (more commonly known as the sycamore) is the likely cause.
The toxin is not always present in every seed, or in seeds from every tree. This makes it difficult to predict whether a particular horse will become ill when exposed.
It is not contagious and can affect horses of all ages and types, but young horses may be more vulnerable.
When horses are at risk…..
Outbreaks of the disease tends to be seasonal, with most cases occurring in the autumn. It is usually more common when horses are kept in sparse pastures; where seeds are on the ground and are eaten when there is not much grazing.
What signs you should be looking for…..
The beginning of the disease can be extremely rapid, with some horses being found dead in their fields.
Muscular weakness and stiffness.
Sweating and trembling.
What treatment is available?
Horses diagnosed early by blood and urine tests can be treated with intravenous fluids and intensive care, but once the signs are present it is already serious.
Advice to horse owners…..
- Fence off areas where sycamore seeds and/or leaves have fallen and apply a weed killer called Broadshot®.
Broadshot® is highly effective against difficult to control woody and herbaceous weeds, including Ragwort, Brambles, Japanese Knotweed, Docks and Thistles. It has a selective action which means it will not harm grasses when applied at the recommended rates.
Being safe to grass makesBroadshot® an attractive alternative to Roundup® when used to control large woody weeds such as tree saplings. Broadshot® is a very universal product as it is also strong on troublesome weeds such as Marestail, Ground Elder and Nettles.
- Regularly inspect fields to ensure seeds have not blown in from nearby sycamore trees
- Supply extra forage (hay or haylage) especially where pasture is poor
- Reduce stock density, so there is enough good grazing for every horse
- Turn out horses for short periods (ideally less than 6hrs.)
- If concerned contact your vet immediately