More atypical myopathy deaths: family issues warning to fellow horse owners

  • A family are urging other owners to be on their guard as the fatal seasonal disease atypical myopathy continues to claim equine lives.

    Juliet Machan and her daughter, Eva, from Oxfordshire this week issued a further plea for owners to be aware of the signs of the disease after their nine-year-old pony died.

    The pony, Painted Paula, died after eating sycamore seeds.

    Mrs Machan and Eva noticed the pony wasn’t her usual self in the warm up at a show at Addington on Wednesday (29 October).

    “It was a cold, wet day and everyone assumed when the pony stopped moving that she was tying up,” said Mrs Machan.

    “After two further visits by the vet, we still thought it was the same thing — and as she was eating and drinking we thought she was just uncomfortable. By Friday (31 October), she looked much worse and was constantly lying down.

    “After calling the vet we were told that we needed to test her for atypical myopathy and rushed her to the vet hospital, where unfortunately she deteriorated rapidly.

    “At the vets, a urine test confirmed the worst and she had to be put to sleep. It was a horrible and completely unexpected experience and we need to avoid this happening to other horses.”

    The seasonal condition is worse in the autumn when strong leaves blow the seeds further. It causes colic like signs, as well as dark urine and muscle weakness. Atypical myopathy is fatal in around 80% of cases.

    “My pony was living in a field near a sycamore tree and we had no idea that she was in any danger. The tree in question is being taken down this week but our priority now is to warn others about the risks. We hope that by people reading this we may help prevent other animals suffering unnecessarily,” added Mrs Machan.

    H&H has reported on several deaths in the past few weeks. Last month reader Jackie Stevens from Warwickshire lost her five-month-old foal Sable.

    “I am devastated,” she told H&H. “I knew nothing about this disease before. It kills so fast she had no chance.”

    Jade Kephalas’ seven-year-old gelding Oliver died on 17 October. He was grazing in a field in Chelmsford, Essex.

    “We thought it was colic to start with, but he was spiralling downhill,and it was terrifying to watch. He was soaked with sweat and there was nothing we could do to save him,” she told H&H.

    Also in October Royal Veterinary College confirmed they had both had cases of the illness. RVC reported five cases in 72 hours.

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