European horse owners warned over sycamore seeds

Sycamore Maple leaves (Acer pseudoplatanus).
Sycamore Maple leaves (Acer pseudoplatanus). JoJan

Horse owners across Europe are being urged to keep horses from ingesting the seeds of sycamore trees after an autumn surge in cases of deadly Atypical Myopathy in horses.

In all, 310 clinical cases campatible with diagnosis of atypical myopathy have been been reported to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Liege University and to the French surveillance center for equine pathologies as of November 29.

There were 109 cases in Belgium, 81 in France, 40 in Britain, 37 in Germany, 22 in the Netherlands, 11 in Switzerland, 8 in the Czech Republic, and 2 in Ireland.

“The seasonal climate conditions are those favourable to the emergence of cases of atypical myopathy,” the university ¬†group monitoring the disease said.

“Today we know that the toxin responsible for the condition is present in the seeds of some Acer such as Acer pseudoplanus. Hence it is important to prevent horses from ingesting those seeds.”

The group said autumn temperature changes resulted in the seeds starting to fall and the risk of poisoning rises.

“If feasible, access to pastures where Acer can be found must be limited.”

Acer pseudoplanus is commonly called the sycamore, or maple sycamore.

Atypical Myopathy is a muscle disease that usually proves fatal. In 10 years, about 20 European countries have reported the disease.

Cases tend to occur repeatedly in the autumn and in the spring following large autumnal outbreaks.

A similar condition in horses in the United States, called Seasonal Pasture Myopathy, has been shown to be caused by toxins in the Acer negundo, or box elder, tree.

The toxin in question is hypoglycin A.

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