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Grass sickness

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    This article has been edited and approved by Karen Coumbe MRCVS, H&H’s veterinary advisor since 1991.
  • Grass sickness: Risk factors | Signs | Diagnosis | Treatment | Causes | Prevention

    Grass sickness is an often-fatal condition that typically occurs in grazing horses. It was first recognised in Scotland in the early 1900s, yet relatively little is known about the condition.

    Another name for the condition is equine disautonomia, so-called because it is a disease in which degenerative changes occur in the central nervous system and to the nerves of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. This results in malfunction of the whole digestive system.

    The United Kingdom has the highest incidence of grass sickness in the world with cases being more common in spring. Young adult horses, aged between two and seven years, appear to be at the highest risk of the condition, but it can affect horses of any age.

    With more horses being turned out at grass currently due to the Covid-19 restrictions, all owners should be aware of the signs and prepared to act promptly if they think their horse could be affected.

    If you suspect your horse may be showing signs of grass sickness then a vet should be called immediately.

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