The Facts

 

Cause:

Sycamore seeds and saplings ingested. Autumn and spring are risk periods as this is when the seedlings drop and the saplings sprout respectively. Windy days or storms can cause many seedlings to fall to the ground.

 Symptoms

Often still eating, colic like signs, lying down, heavy breathing, ‘choking’, muscle stiffness and tremors, dark brown urine, weakness, lethargy, respiratory distress, sweating, reluctance to move, death.

 Testing:

A blood test will show exceedingly high muscle enzymes and along with the clinical signs and history, can provide a firm diagnosis.Treatment: 75-90% of horses will not survive, those horses that do make it require hospital-based intensive care and monitoring and are normally ones that are less severely affected (i.e.) have eaten less of the toxin). Euthanasia may be required to end the horses suffering.

Prevention:

Horses most likely to be affected are young or have moved to the pasture recently,although no horse is completely safe. The best prevention is to fence off sycamore trees and/or clear the saplings and seeds from the pasture. A leaf blower can be useful! It is worth considering keeping the horses in after particularly windy or stormy weather. Do not overstock the pasture and keep it clear of weeds. Provide alternative forage if the grass is poor. Bring the horse in and call the vet if any symptoms occur.

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Veterinary advice in this magazine is provided as a general guide and you should always seek professional advice