After a spate of deaths this autumn and winter due to the seasonal condition atypical myopathy, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) is urging horse owners to help with some pioneering research.

The AHT is launching the first UK epidemiological study into the condition and is calling for owners whose animals have been affected by the disorder to help.

The seasonal disease — which is fatal in 70-80% of cases — has surged this year and is caused by a toxin in sycamore seeds.

This collaborative research between the University of Liege, the Irish Equine Centre and the Animal Health Trust aims to investigate the geographical distribution and clinical particularities of atypical myopathy in the UK and Ireland.

“In 2014, the UK reported the highest number of atypical myopathy cases in Europe with alarming mortality rates, and therefore a UK-based investigation is essential to understand the particularities of the disease in this country,” said an AHT spokesman.

Atypical Myopathy is a debilitating and fatal disease caused by the ingestion of sycamore seeds, commonly known as “helicopters” as their shape enables them to travel several yards away from where the trees are located.

Clinical signs include muscle weakness and stiffness, dark urine, colicky signs, anorexia and recumbence that may lead to death if not treated promptly.

Horse owners whose horses have suffered from atypical myopathy are urged to fill in a short questionnaire providing details of the affected horse’s management, pasture details and clinical signs.

By collecting as much information on the disease as possible the AHT hopes to accelerate the research into the condition, furthering the understanding of the disease and improving the poor prognosis it currently has in the UK.

The deadline for reporting cases is 15 January 2015.

To complete the questionnaire and read further information on the disease, visit www.aht.org.uk/cms-xmodnewsrss_detail/atypicalmyopathyresearch.html or www.aht.org.uk.