It’s the time of year that grass becomes scarce and horses begin to look for alternative sources of food - hopefully, this takes the form of hay or haylage, but occasionally horses and ponies begin to eat plants that are not suitable. Most of the time, horses can safely eat small amounts of alternative plant material; however, some plants are poisonous.
Some of the most common autumn poisoning cases are due to the following plants.
Acorns, and oak leaves contain gallic and tannic acids which can cause toxicity. Most horses avoid these due to the bitter taste, but occasionally horses develop a liking for them.
Some horses are more susceptible to acorn poisoning than others so it is best to avoid any ingestion at all. It is worth fencing off areas where acorns fall on the ground to prevent your horse from being tempted. Overgrazing can encourage horses to seek alternative, inappropriate vegetation so consider this when looking for turnout.
Acorn poisoning causes depression, dehydration, colic, mouth ulcers and constipation or even in severe cases, diarrhoea containing blood. Unfortunately, there is no specific antidote for acorn poisoning. Treatment involves intravenous fluid therapy, to help reduce the effect of the toxins, and pain relief as required. If it is known that a horse has ingested a large quantity of acorns, agents to stop absorption of the toxins can be given, including substances such as activated charcoal.
Sycamore seeds and saplings contain the toxin Hypoglycin-A. Incidences of poisoning are often seen in the Spring, due to saplings germinating and, in the Autumn, due to ‘helicopter’ seeds falling on the pasture. Again, the best strategy is prevention so, fencing off areas
under sycamore trees is important. Paddock hoovers may help remove loose seeds.
Hypoglycin-A causes atypical myopathy in horses, which is a highly fatal muscle disease. It is
characterised by weakness, muscular stiffness, muscle tremors, sweating, depression or recumbency and dark red or brown urine. Commonly, this disease can be mistaken for colic or laminitis. Definitive diagnosis relies on blood samples to assess for increased levels of muscle enzymes.
It is vital to identify the disease and start treatment as soon as possible as this disease can be fatal. Aggressive intravenous fluid therapy is needed to ‘flush out’ the toxins created from muscle enzyme damage. Horses affected by atypical myopathy often require very high levels of intensive nursing care.
MEET THE TEAM
Sydney joined our front of house administration team in the Spring and is a vital part of the friendly welcome at Ashbrook. She is on hand to deal with the many and varied queries encountered at Ashbrook, book appointments and liaise with the vet and nurse teams.
Sydney is native to the Cheshire equine scene and has previously worked as a groom at a large competition, livery and riding centre. Sydney used to enjoy riding her old horse Buzby and hopes to return to horse ownership in the future. She now enjoys spending her time on country walks with her dog Bruno and catching up with friends and family at the weekends over a glass of wine or two!
Justine has extensive experience in management and executive administrative support, initially for the automotive industry and latterly as an Assistant Practice Manager within the NHS.
Justine joined us in October 2022 as the Practice Manager for Ashbrook Equine Hospital and looks forward to an exciting future within the veterinary industry. Justine has ridden and had horses in the past and has also competed her working German Shepherd Dog successfully.
EQUINE HERPES VIRUS VACCINATION IN PREGNANT MARES
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) continually circulates around the UK equine population and is identified in occasional outbreaks of respiratory disease, abortion and neurological disease in horses.
Although vaccination is not licensed to protect against the devastating neurological
form of EHV, it provides good protection against respiratory disease and abortion.
Vaccination both reduces the severity of disease in infected horses and also the onward transmission of clinical disease.
When EHV causes abortion in mares it can occur in outbreaks called ‘abortion storms’, with a
recent outbreak claiming the lives of seven unborn foals. Vaccination should reduce the risk of abortion storms occurring and we would advise all pregnant mares receive a vaccination during months 5, 7 and 9 of pregnancy.
Please call the office today on 01565 723030 to book your mare’s vaccinations.
HIGHER FARM DISSECTION DAY
Our vets recently helped at a Dissection Day run by Higher Farm, Middlewich. The day was a huge success, with clients visiting 4 stations; the lower limbs, the gastrointestinal system, the heart and lungs and the head. After an initial vet led presentation, clients were then able to have ‘hands-on’ experience of the anatomy and an overview of potential problems affecting each area.
Watch out for other exciting days at Higher Farm in the future!