Sycamore seed poisoning can cause a fatal illness, usually in grazing horses and most often occurring during autumn and spring. Seeds produced by acer pseudoplatanus, commonly called sycamore, are the likely cause of this poisoning. Sycamore poisoning is responsible for a condition known as “Atypical Myopothy”, which is a mysterious illness that spreads in autumn and spring among grazing ponies and horses. Since toxins are not found in every seed from every tree it makes it hard to assume what would happen if a certain horse digests it.
The condition is also known in North America as Seasonal Pasture Myopathy (SPM). At an early stage of the poisoning, an affected horse shows stiffness and a reluctance to move. Attacked by sudden weakness of muscles, the horse can collapse and be unable to stand up again.
The onset of the illness can be very rapid. Some horses are often found dead within hours of poisoning in their fields. The poisoning generally weakens the muscles of the infected horses. Symptoms of Atypical Myopathy include weakness and stiffness of muscles, fatigue, dark urine, shivering, colic-like signs, and sweating.
The progress of these signs is very quick in the affected horses and within 72 hours at least 75% of the infected horses die. Lab experiment results indicate that Hypoglycin A, an amino acid which is present in elder seeds, causes the poisoning. It has been found that this same amino acid is also present in the sycamore tree, a species similar to the elder tree.
A couple from Vorlan - Maenclochog, Barry and Ruby Ryan, found themselves in a dilemma when their seven-year-old racehorse, Wifey, was diagnosed with Sycamore poisoning. The vet advised them to cull her to end her suffering but the Ryan's decided against it.
To treat Wifey, they used fennel seeds, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric powder and they mixed all these ingredients with an adequate amount of honey. They administered homeopathic medicines on the horse as well. The couple stayed awake all night to oversee the effect of the herbal medicine on their equine friend.
Barry Ryan is very happy that he could save Wifey’s life; Wifey made a speedy recovery within 24 hours of the herbal treatment being administered. Nevertheless, sycamore poisoning is killing a number of horses every year. The cure based on Indian herbs could be a help to many. For them, the treatment was a personal experience and they are not suggesting people anything by narrating Wifey’s story of illness and recovery. They just want people to be aware of the danger and to know what they did to save the life of their amazing equine friend, Wifey.
To prevent the disease from striking, the owners need to make sure that their horses are not grazing in fields containing sycamore trees. This measure will at least reduce the chances of their horses being exposed to the seeds. Removal of sycamore seeds is necessary but can be difficult as these trees live for many years. Although you can remove any sycamore trees from your own property, it is also important to inspect on a regular basis to make sure that seeds have not blown in the pasture from nearby sycamore trees.
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