Published: 13 Feb 2017 | Last Updated: 20 Mar 2017 11:15:29

The RVC is now conducting testing for atypical myopathy as part of the College’s work towards improved treatments and management of this disorder, and to enhance the welfare of affected horses.

Atypical myopathy of horses is a severe and life threatening equine muscle disorder that is caused by the ingestion of Sycamore tree seeds, leaves or seedlings by horses that are kept at pasture.   Risk factors for horses remain unclear. It is, for example, not currently known whether some trees are more toxic than others or whether the amount of toxin varies at certain times of the year or with certain climatic conditions. The RVC is working to help horse owners to gain a better understanding of the condition.  

Seed pods from a sycamore tree on the ground in pasture. Ingestion of these seeds can prove toxic to horses and can lead to the horse contracting Atypical Myopathy
Seed pods from a sycamore tree on the ground in pasture. Ingestion of these seeds can prove toxic to horses.

Following research that was supported by The Horse Trust and the RVC’s Animal Care Trust (ACT), the Comparative Neuromuscular Diseases Laboratory at the RVC is now offering testing of seeds, seedlings and leaves for the hypoglycin A toxin known to cause this disorder. To find out if plant samples from your property contain the toxin known to cause atypical myopathy, you can now send samples directly to the lab where they will be tested at a subsidised cost of £60 (£50 + VAT). In addition, the Comparative Neuromuscular Diseases Laboratory is also offering testing of horse blood and urine samples, submitted by your vet, if they suspect atypical myopathy or in field companions. This should help to establish a much more rapid and accurate diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, than with previous tests.

Professor Richard Piercy, Professor of Comparative Neuromuscular Disease, said: “We’re really pleased to be able to launch our testing service for owners who may be concerned about their horses. With the support of the Horse Trust and ACT, and through working with owners in this way, we hope to be able to improve the understanding of atypical myopathy and improve the welfare of horses with this severe condition.”

For full details, including prices and packaging instructions see Comparative Neuromuscular Diseases Laboratory.


Press Office Contact

Uche Graves / Zoe White
T: 0800 368 9520
E: uche.graves@plmr.co.uk / zoe.white@plmr.co.uk

Notes to Editors

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a constituent College of the University of London. The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences, being ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences degrees.  It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.

A research-led institution, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) the RVC maintained its position as the top HEFCE funded veterinary focused research institution.

The College also provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals; the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in central London, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (Europe's largest small animal referral centre), the Equine Referral Hospital, and the Farm Animal Clinical Centre located at the Hertfordshire campus.

RVC Press Release 13 February 2017

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