It may be now officially winter but this does not negate the threat from Sycamore seedlings.
Conditions in the Spring resulted in an abundance of seed pods in the Autumn and with the wet but very mild temperatures the country is experiencing particularly in the South, some of the seedlings are already sprouting. And of course the strong winds of the Autumn have seen the winged seed-pods which are designed to blow in the wind, carried further distances away from the "mother" trees and so quite possibly into grazing areas that have not previously been affected. With an increasing area being covered this significantly increases the risk of atypical myopathy.
It is just not feasible to pick up fallen seed pods or continually scout fields for emerging seedlings so the only effective method of removal is spraying.
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..
And if you do feed forage off the ground be sure that you have removed any offending pods from the feeding area so that your horse does not pick take them in with hay or haylage.
BE WARNED; THE LEAVES OF SYCAMORE TREES ARE ALSO DEADLY
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. Breakdown of the muscle releases large amounts of protein into the blood, which the kidneys struggle to clear into the urine. Ultimately this can result in collapse with respiratory, cardiac and renal failure. There is no antidote to the toxin and affected horses sadly often die but if treatment can be effected very, very quickly before kidney failure sets in – and are 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 and leaves of the Sycamore (the European sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus)..
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
• high heart rate (and irregular beat)
• difficulty breathing (fast/laboured)
• dark discoloured urine
INITIALLY SYMPTOMS CAN BE CONFUSED WITH COLIC WHICH MEANS OFTEN PEOPLE DO NOT ACT QUICKLY ENOUGH AS THEY THINK THEY CAN ADDRESS IT WITHOUT RECOURSE TO A VET - WHICH IS NOT A SENSIBLE OPTION ANYWAY - SO BY THE TIME THE VET IS CALLED IT IS OFTEN TOO LATE!
Affected horses very soon drop their heads to the ground and then become recumbent as they become too weak to stand.
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. .
IF SHOULD CONTACT YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOUR HORSE MAY BE SHOWING SIGNS OF