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Atypical Myopathy

What is Atypical Myopathy?

The often fatal muscle disease Equine Atypical Myopathy (EAM) is becoming more and more prevalent in Great Britain.

This condition affects grazing horses and is linked to the toxins that are present in sycamore seeds which fall in the Autumn and seedlings which grow in the Spring.  It is seen typically after periods of wet and windy or cold weather.

The disease has been mainly recorded in younger individuals but Bourton Vale have seen cases of horses in their teens.

Symptoms of the disease need to be recognised quickly and veterinary attention should be sought immediately to help achieve the best possible chance of recovery. Chances of survival are 50:50, but this decreases with time, so early treatment is essential.

If you suspect your horse has eaten sycamore seeds or seedlings seek veterinary advice immediately. Early signs include horses appearing dull, weak and/or lethargic, with many horses lying down and not being able to get up.  The horse may also be seen to pass dark red urine, which is due to excretion of pigments from the damaged muscles. The horse may also show signs of difficulty in swallowing.  In all cases you must call a vet immediately.

To help prevent your horse from getting atypical myopathy, the horse must be stopped from eating the seeds and seedlings of the sycamore tree.  Ways to help stop them eating the seeds are:

  • Fence off areas of the field that has sycamore seeds or seedlings in.
  • Pick up the sycamore seeds/seedlings by hand or hoover.
  • Turn the horse out for shorter periods of time.
  • If the horse is grazing near sycamore trees, make sure there are plenty of alternative food sources especially if the grazing is poor and do not feed off the floor.
  • Prevent over grazing.

Treatment for a suspected atypical myopathy case starts with removing the horse from the grazing and getting it assessed by a vet as soon as possible.

  • Intravenous fluids are used to help restore the circulation and also help to protect the kidneys from being damaged.
  • Pain relief.
  • Antioxidants.
  • Intensive Nursing care at Bourton Vale Equine Clinic.
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