Tower Equine

Veterinary Surgeons


October 2014 - Atypical Myopathy Alert

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Equine vets in the UK have seen an unusual rise in the number of cases of Atypical Myopathy over the past few weeks.

Atypical Myopathy is an often fatal condition that damages certain muscles within the body, often causing problems with breathing and the heart. It is important for all horse owners to be aware of the risks of this disease and to adopt some simple management changes to reduce them.

Recent findings have shown that the condition occurs due to a toxin called "Hypoglycin A" found in the seeds of the Sycamore tree, often known as "helicopters".

Atypical Myopathy is commonly seen within the Autumn months. Autumnal weather conditions are thought to cause a higher than normal level of toxin within the seed. High winds in the Autumn months then lead to large numbers of Sycamore seeds being deposited on to pasture. Recently, all age groups are being affected, however young horses and horses recently introduced to pasture are more commonly affected. Those kept on poor pasture or with restricted access to forage are at greater risk.

Clinical signs involve inability to get up, weakness or stiffness, elevated respiratory and heart rates, very dark urine and muscle tremors. This condition can be confused with colic or with other causes of myopathy such as tying up.

Ways to try and prevent this disease involve:

1. Restricting access to pasture with known Sycamore/Acer trees.

2. Fencing off tree lined areas.

3. Collecting, raking or clearing seeds and leaves off pasture, especially after wet or windy weather.

4. Providing extra forage or supplementary feed to discourage horses away from the seeds, especially during or after poor weather.

Holly Grantham MRCVS

If you are at all worried about your horse and/or would like to discuss your pasture/proximity to Sycamore trees, please do not hesitate to contact any of our vets via the Tower Equine office on 01778 591082.