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Atypical Myopathy 


sycamore tree
Sycamore seedlings have sprouted with a vengeance this Spring; such huge areas are covered thus significantly increasing the risk of atypical myopathythat the only successful method of removal is spraying.

Th huge increase this year is due to the right weather conditions last Spring which meant that the fruits abounded in the Autumn so sycamore trees were absolutely laden with seeds.  Autumn generally sees an increase in wind and wind strength and with Autumn 2016 being no exception, seeds were deposited in paddocks and fields that are usually free of them; being so light and designed to be blown on the breeze, the seeds can travel a considerable distance away from the "mother" tree.

If your grazing has lost its appeal due to becoming a bit sour or it is a bit sparse following the late summer heat or overgrazing your horse may ingest these life-threatening seeds as he rummages for something to eat. . Even if you are in an area that has been having rainfall, this does not negate the risk as wet seeds are more likely to stay on the ground rather than be blown out of harms way.. 
Atypical Myopathy is an extremely debilitating, often fatal disease, which destroys postural (skeletal) muscle and also that of the respiratory system and heart making it so deadly. It takes hold very quickly with horses having difficulty eating and breathing and subsequently developing heart problems. Affected horses sadly often die but if treatment can be effected very quickly before kidney failure sets in – and is still hanging in there after 5 days - then full recovery is very likely with no-long term after effects.

Due to the severity of symptoms and the intensity of treatment required horses do need to be taken as quickly as possible to an equine clinic. Intensive fluid therapy is required under 24/7 nursing as is the administration of powerful painkillers and anaesthetics. Antioxidants and vitamins and mineral are also administered to support muscle cell function.

A toxin by the name of hypoglycin A is the culprit which is found within the seeds of the Sycamore (the European sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus) seeds and to a lesser extent in the leaves.

Younger horses do appear to be more susceptible to the disease as do those that have recently moved paddocks. It is thought that older horses may naturally develop a degree of

Affected horses show various symptoms which include:
• reluctance to move
• muscular weakness and temors
• stiffness
• depression/lethargy
• sweating
• high heart rate (and irregular beat)
• difficulty breathing (fast/laboured)
• dark discoloured urine

Affected horses very soon drop their heads to the ground and then become recumbent as they become too weak to stand.
sycamore tree seeds
These attractive seeds that fall to the ground in a graceful twizzle 
are deadly when eaten by horses and ponies

It is just not practicable for most people to move their horses out of fields bounded by sycamore trees but there are things you can do to help reduce the risk to your horse:
• fence off the area where there are fallen seeds
• if you have access to a paddock or industrial hoover, then removal is the most ideal course of action especially where there is a high volume.
• Provide supplementary feeding especially if your field is beginning to get poached or the grass is getting sparse, to limit horses foraging; a hungry horse is more likely to investigate potential edible material.
• Turn out for shorter periods of time during the period of most risk (October – December) so that horses are less likely to get bored and seek out something else to do.

As with grass sickness, not every horse in the same field falls victim. Veterinary researchers do not know why this is so where a case is confirmed other horses grazing in the same field should be blood tested so that muscle can be assessed and early treatment given if necessary as the sooner treatment is effected, the more likely a horse's life can be saved. .


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