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Sycamore seeds causing equine Atypical Myopathy – Information for horse owners

Penbode Equine: Equine Atypical Myopathy - What is it?

We have had enquiries from concerned clients regarding cases of Equine Atypical Myopathy in our area. This disease is often fatal, however Penbode Equine has successfully treated the condition. Typical occurrence involves horses ingesting hypoglycin A, a toxin found in sycamore seeds or some ornamental plants. This toxin results in damage to the heart, lungs and postural muscles. In our experience early diagnosis combined with prompt treatment provides your horse with the best chance of recovery. Cases commonly occur in the autumn, when there are most sycamore seeds on the ground and grass may be limited.

Can it be treated?

Prompt treatment is essential. Intensive intravenous fluid administration, pain-killers and anti-oxidants are often administered. Although we have had success, unfortunately, horses often deteriorate rapidly resulting in euthanasia on humane grounds.

What are the clinical signs?

These can resemble those of a horse ‘tying up’ or ‘colicing’. Signs include: weakness, muscle trembling, lethargy, pain, recumbency (lying down), discoloured urine and difficulty when breathing and swallowing.

How can I prevent my horse from suffering with Atypical Myopathy?

If you have any doubts or concerns then please call Penbode Equine immediately on 01409 255549 or 01837 506070. We have successfully treated this condition.

The most effective way to minimise risk to your horse is to reduce ingestion of sycamore seeds. This can be done by; ensuring that they are not grazing in areas where there are sycamore trees dropping seeds on the ground nearby (i.e. fence off areas around sycamore trees), by picking up seeds from the ground, supplying extra hay when pasture is poor, limiting stocking density and reducing turnout time.

If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact Penbode Equine vets, Holsworthy 01409 255549 / Okehampton 01837 506070 or visit

Penbode Equine ‘Strangles’ guidelines

This week we have received many phone calls from concerned horse owners wanting to discuss the facts about ‘Strangles’. If you have any questions please call us on 01409 255549 / 01837 506070. We hope that the following notes may be of assistance. Strangles and other contagious diseases will be discussed at our ‘Equine Contagious disease evening’, Wednesday 18th June, 7:00pm, Holsworthy Memorial Hall, (£7 per head which includes a two course meal and an informative booklet). Call the practice to book your place.

What is the causing agent of ‘Strangles’?

A bacteria called Streptococcus equi equi.

What is the incubation period?

This is variable. Typically this is 2-21 days.

How is it transmitted?

Typically this is by contact with nasal discharges or burst abscesses. This can be by nose to nose contact of horses or via water troughs and mangers. It is easily spread by contaminated clothing and utensils. Horses can be ‘silent carriers’ of the bacteria.

What are the clinical signs?

The classical signs are an increased rectal temperature (greater than 38.5 degrees C), loss of appetite, depression, cough, thick creamy nasal discharge, pain, swelling and abscess formation in the lymph nodes under the jaw (sub-mandibular), or throat (parotid) areas. Young animals are most susceptible.

Milder signs of short term fever, dullness, loss of appetite and mild nasal discharge are increasingly common and may be evidence of a previous or ongoing infection.

On rare occasions Strangles can lead to life-threatening conditions:

  • ‘Bastard’ strangles is caused by the spread of bacteria in the blood stream and abscess formation in different areas of the body.
  • Purpura haemorrhagica is inflammation of the blood vessels with swelling (oedema) of the limbs, sheath and small areas of bleeding or bruising on the mucous membranes of the gums and eyes.

How is it diagnosed?

Bacteria can be detected by taking: nasopharyngeal swabs, a sample from an abscess or using an endoscope to flush and collect a sample from the guttural pouches in the throat (guttural pouch lavage).

Blood tests can be used to detect raised or rising antibodies.

What is the treatment?

This is based around nursing care and anti-inflammatory medication.

Antibiotic treatment may be appropriate in some cases.

Hot packs can encourage abscess bursting and drainage. Cleaning and flushing will speed the resolution.

Following recovery, a guttural pouch lavage should be performed to confirm complete recovery. Bacteria can be carried silently at this site for months or years.

What is the prevention?

Strict biosecurity policies:

  • Quarantine new horses for three weeks prior to entry to the yard.
  • Discuss with your vet the value of ensuring that new horses have a clear blood test in the week preceding entry into the main yard.
  • Discuss with your vet the value of routine screening blood tests of horses to identify carriers.

What do you do if an outbreak is confirmed or strongly suspected?

  • Close the yard to prevent horses leaving or arriving and alert all visitors to the yard.

  • Speak to Penbode Equine vets to help institute a protocol of barrier nursing and isolation.

  • Unless the source is clear, investigation should be carried out to identify and treat carriers of the bacteria.

  • There is a vaccine available in the UK, which may be appropriate in some circumstances after a yard risk assessment has been performed.

  • Refer to HBLB Strangles guidelines in the Codes of Practice ( and Strategy To Eradicate and Prevent Strangles (STEPS at

    If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact Penbode Equine vets, Holsworthy 01409 255549 / Okehampton 01837 506070,


Penbode Equine Autumn 2013 newsletter

In this Penbode Equine Autumn newsletter you’ll find lots of useful information and advice, including:

Better than 1/2 price checks for senior horses

NEW Penbode Equine Hoof Aid, from only 50p per day

Care of your senior horse talks: Holsworthy Nov 27th and Okehampton Nov 28th. Places limited, call Holsworthy 01409 255 549 or Okehampton 01837 506 070 to book your tickets.

If you would like to receive future Penbode Equine newsletters by post, just call Holsworthy 01409 255 549 or Okehampton 01837 506 070

The Penbode Equine Team


Penbode Equine Newsletter Spring 2013


Penbode Equine Newsletter Autumn 2012

If you would like to receive future Penbode Equine newsletters by post, just call Holsworthy 01409 255 549 or Okehampton 01837 506 070

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