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WARNING: Sycamore Poisoning (Atypical Myopathy) is Devastating the Equine Community

WARNING: Sycamore Poisoning (Atypical Myopathy) is Devastating the Equine Community

Devastating news is spreading across the equine community as reports of sycamore poisoning fatalities are on the rise.

While only small, the helicopter-like sycamore seeds contain a deadly toxin, called Hypoglycin A, which is highly poisonous to horses when consumed. Equine Atypical Myopathy is the official name given to sycamore poisoning and it has a shocking mortality rate of 70-80%. The reason the mortality rate is so high is that the toxin within sycamore seeds attacks muscle fibres, and ultimately causes the failure of respiratory and cardiac muscles within the horse.

It is believed that the extreme weather during summer has increased the number of sycamore masts, and combined with high Autumn winds, the risk of sycamore poisoning is at an all-time high. Vets are urging horse owners to be vigilant about the presence of sycamore seeds in their fields and confirm that sycamore poisoning is a true veterinary emergency that requires immediate attention if suspected.

The clinical signs to look out for include:

  • Colic like symptoms
  • Sweating
  • Getting stressed
  • Fatigue or reluctance to work
  • Low head carriage
  • Stiffness
  • Shivering
  • Trembling
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Dark red coloured urine


How to prevent Sycamore poisoning

As once ingested, sycamore toxins are so deadly, the most important thing is to prevent your horse from consuming the seed. It is unlikely that horses will deliberately eat the seeds, but it takes just 20g of sycamore to be fatal, therefore horses should not be turned out where sycamore seeds are falling. Also follow these measures to reduce the risk to your horse:

  • Regularly monitor the fields for sycamore seeds
  • Securely fence off areas where seeds could potentially fall
  • Keep younger horses furthest away from the sycamores as they are less likely to be aware of the dangers
  • Provide extra forage (hay or haylage) where pasture is poor so that your horse is not scavenging for food
  • Ensure the horses have access to fresh drinking water
  • Avoid access to streams or ponds under trees