Horse Owners Beware of Sycamore Seeds

Remus Horse Sanctuary is warning horse owners to be aware of the dangers of seeds from the Sycamore Tree as vets in Essex are reporting cases of illness and deaths in horses. A typical Myopathy is an often-fatal illness usually found in grazing horses — mostly in the Autumn and Spring.

A study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal revealed that toxins from the seeds of the acer tree (Sycamore) are the likely cause. The disease is not contagious and affects horses of all ages. Outbreaks are more likely to occur in the Autumn and horses can die from it. The onset of the disease can be extremely rapid, with some horses being found dead in their fields. The illness weakens the muscles of the body and can present with sudden stiffness, muscle tremors, collapse and colic-like signs, with a low temperature. Often dark urine is seen. The fatality rate is around 70%.

Owners are advised to carry out the following actions wherever possible:

  • Fence off areas where Sycamore seeds and/or leaves have fallen and regularly inspect fields to ensure seeds have not blown in from nearby Sycamore trees.
  • Supply extra forage (hay or haylage) especially where pasture is poor.
  • Reduce stock density, so there is enough good grazing for every horse.
  • Turn out horses for short periods (ideally less than 6 hours).
  • Pick up and remove sycamore seeds, if possible.
  • If concerned contact your vet immediately.

Sue Burton, founder of Remus Horse Sanctuary said, “Thankfully we don’t have any Sycamore trees at the Sanctuary, but we’re conscious that many horse owners may have them in paddocks. We want people to be aware of the very real dangers these seeds present”.

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