North East horse owners warned over sycamore poisoning

Horse owners have been warned of the fatal poisoning.
Horse owners have been warned of the fatal poisoning.

Equine owners are being warned to take extra precautions after fatal sycamore poisoning cases are confirmed.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) have issued the warning in a bid to raise awareness of the fatal muscle disease, which is caused in horses that have eaten sycamore seeds.

Sycamore seeds are toxic and can cause Seasonal Pasture Myopathy (SPM), which is caused by a toxin named hypoglycin A. It is contained in tree seeds, including sycamore.

Sean Wensley, president of the BVA, said: “SPM is a disease that is extremely distressing for both the animal and the owner of the horse affected.

"BVA is working closely with our colleagues in BEVA, who deal with the aftermath of sycamore poisoning in horses all too often throughout the autumn, to ensure we get timely advice to owners to prevent their animals suffering in this way.”

Mark Bowen, president of BEVA, said that there are practical things that horse owners can do to minimise the risk to their animals.

These tips include restricting access to seeds by using temporary fencing, moving horses off pasture at times of risk and avoiding leaving wet hay on the ground, as it can potentially trap seeds.

Other guidance:

Ensure horses have access to good quality uncontaminated pasture.

Provide supplementary feed in the field to minimise the risk of horses being tempted to ingest seeds.

Discuss the risks and how to identify early clinical signs of AM with your veterinary surgeon.

Be aware that a field without sycamore trees can still contain seeds spread by high winds or flood water.

Do not prune seed laden trees as this can lead to massive pasture contamination and further increase the risk to horses.