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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Horse owners warned about outbreak of sycamore seed borne equine disease

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

The famous Galway Blazers Hunt, led by huntsman Tom Dempsey, head for home after a great day's hunting from Craughwell.
The famous Galway Blazers Hunt, led by huntsman Tom Dempsey, head for home after a great day's hunting from Craughwell.

With the first cases of Atypical Myopathy (AM) already confirmed in the UK in the past week, horse owners across Ireland are being advised to make themselves familiar with the symptoms of this fatal disease caused by the ingestion of sycamore seeds.

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While there have been no cases confirmed in Ireland as yet this autumn, last year saw a record number of horses dying after eating the seeds which had been scattered in paddocks due to high winds.

ATM is a severe muscular condition that affects horses particularly at pasture. One or more horses can be affected, but equally co-grazers can be totally unaffected.

One of the key factors in ATM was found to be a substance called hypoglycin found in the seeds of Acer trees such as the sycamore.

Common clinical signs include: sudden, unexplained onset of muscle stiffness, weakness, altered gait, rapid heart rate, laboured breathing, sweating, bladder distension, blood in urine, muscle twitching, and horses lying down unable to get up again.

These signs generally present for 12 to 72 hours, and there is a 75-90pc mortality rate. Clinical cases are often initially diagnosed as colic.

Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the chances of survival. A simple blood test can confirm whether a horse is suffering from ATM.

Elevated serum creatine kinase (CK) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) are markers of the muscle damage associated with ATM.

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If you have any concerns or questions about ATM contact Dr Ursula Fogarty at the Irish Equine Centre on 045 866266.

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