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Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Statement on Equine Atypical Myopathy

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is alerting vets and horse owners to a number of fatal cases of Equine Atypical Myopathy that have been diagnosed in recent weeks, specifically in Athlone RVL. Atypical myopathy is a frequently fatal muscle disease of horses, thought to be caused by the ingestion of hypoglycin A, a toxin contained in seeds from the Sycamore (colloquially called 'helicopters') & related trees from the Maple family. The clinical signs include depression, sudden onset of muscle stiffness, colic-like clinical signs and dark-coloured urine. Young horses and those new to an affected pasture appear to be at greatest risk, especially where grass is short or scarce.  The risk period is likely to be greatest when fresh seeds are on the ground, which is in the autumn & winter.  However the risk may remain for as long as significant numbers of Sycamore seeds remain intact & edible on the ground; horse owners are advised to exercise their judgement on this.

Preventive measures include:

  • Avoid over grazing of pastures.
  • Feed additional forage e.g. hay in overgrazed pasture.
  • Limit turnout to less than 12 hours per day during autumn and early spring.
  • If feasible, remove the horses from pastures where Sycamore or other maple trees are growing during the risk period.

View this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 162/2014 (pdf 113Kb) 

Date Released: 31 October 2014