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Horse owners warned following another myopathy death

Horse owners are being urged to keep their horses away from sycamore trees, after a pony died from atypical myopathy in Gloucestershire.

Welfare charity the Blue Cross has issued the plea after Heath, a 6-year-old pony, died on 24 April. He was at a loan home in Cirencester. 

Last year, research by the University of Liège linked the mysterious fatal condition to the sycamore tree as the seeds may contain toxin hypoglycin-A.

“Although his field did not have any sycamore trees nearby, it is thought that he had ingested seeds brought in by floodwater,” said the Blue Cross’ Gemma Taylor.

“This incident has highlighted how all horse owners have to stay alert to the dangers to try to minimise this dreadful disease.”

Cases of atypical myopathy are on the rise. Last month H&H warned readers to be on the look out for signs of the often fatal condition, as experts in Belgium anticipated more cases across Europe this spring, based on recent research.

The illness weakens the skeletal muscles and heart. Victims are usually kept on sparse pasture, often where dead leaves are on the ground.

Blue Cross vet Natasha Seely of Bourton Vale Equine Clinic in Gloucestershire added: “Owners need to be alert at all times but especially during the spring and autumn months. 

“The signs range from depression, muscle weakness, recumbency, choke or colic-like symptoms to dark red urine. The sooner atypical myopathy is diagnosed, the better the likely outcome.”

This article was first published in Horse and Hound on 8 May 2014. 

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