How my horse survived the equine atypical myopathy ? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-02-2017, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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How my horse survived the equine atypical myopathy ?


The equine atypical myopathy (EAM) is an intoxication due to sycomores maples’ samares. This flying seeds commonly named “helicopter” (in France at least) are deadly. The toxin inside samares attack the muscles of horses, the respiratory system, the cardiac system and the postural muscles.
Most of the times, a quick death is hardly avoidable when symptoms appears and animals typically die in 48 hours.

My young horse, Cali, 4 years at the time of the facts, join the 15% of horses who survive this. An exceptional case for the vet team who followed him, until this case, they had 100% failure to heal from EAM.

Part I
A descent into hell
The discovery

Cali has hay at its disposal, he shares it with 6 other horses, and it’s true that one of them is dominant and so, monopolized it. But my horse looks good, healthy, he doesn’t lose weight so I don’t worry about this detail.

He grazes peacefully, all is perfect in a perfect world.

I didn’t come the day before. My young horse don’t have complementary ration but it’s okey for me, he can eat grass 24/7 in his field.

Two days before, I jumped with him, it was a really good working session.

This morning, something is wrong. When I come near him to take him to the stable, I discover a very bad facies, totally depressed. He neighes weakly when he sees me. I say to myself “Gosh ! Is he 20 years old or what ?!”

By examining him more closely, I see him sweating a lot, breathing hard and with the head down. I put him the halter but I am hesitant. This look very serious. He comes with me few meters and stop walking, stiffened, unable to move forward again. His mucous membrane are really red, particularly inside eyes.
It’s a vital emergency. I don’t know what he has, or what’s happening but I am sure, it’s a vital emergency.

We are saturday, I call all veterinarians I already know. A young vet answer me, I explain to him as accurate as I can the symptoms I see. Cali has 36.2°C in temperature and there are little “helicopters” on the ground, the same that you see when you are in your break time outside when I was in primary school.

During this time, even in his poorly state, Cali keeps eating. He looks very dehydrated, his skin stay folded when I pinch it.
He eats all his ration while waiting for the vet who will take about 45 minutes to come.
The horse has difficulty to swallow but he stays greedy. His flanks gurgle, he makes a dung.
While waiting for the veterinarian, I try to gather my knowledge of equine illness. I see these “helicopters” on the ground which seems strange to me. It looks like this mysterious atypical myopathy story. But I stay calm and think it’s impossible that my horse caught this unknown disease. It’s kind of dying from a gastroenteritis, impossible!
Anyway, the vet arrives soon and he will heal my horse.

Ignorance when you hold us…

The vet arrives, auscultate Cali and he quickly makes a first diagnosis : the atypical myopathy.

I do not take stock of the situation. The superhero veterinary is here now, so my horse is safe, right? The practitioner, him, looks at me with a serious look : “Do you understand what I just say? Vital prognosis is engaged.”
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-02-2017, 03:16 PM
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A very interesting topic. Thanks for sharing your experiences, I look forward to reading more.
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-03-2017, 03:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Jaydee,

I want to make this sad story something beneficial and share it to help as many people as possible :)
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-03-2017, 04:09 AM Thread Starter
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In two kicks, my young horse is transfused. He had two perfusions quickly, coal and clay syringes, anti-inflammatory. He urinates very dark. When the vet see that, he is now sure of it, it’s the EAM (Equine Atypical Myopathy).

He takes a blood sample and rush into the veterinary clinic.
The horse can’t be transported to the clinic. It’s up to us to watch him and we will, while the veterinarian, on the other hand, will “bring the clinic to the horse”.

For me, all went a little bit fast. I don’t really understand what is happening while my fiancé is painfully carrying the perfusions up in the air to rehydrate my horse. The perfusions become empty very quickly, ones after each others, like if we were trying to rehydrate a dry raisin. My poor horse is more and more absent.
200 meters separates us from the nearest box, and the night is coming quickly…

The long periple starts.

We stop every three strides, rewarding the horse with hay, it’s a pleasure for him to eat it. Walking is painful for him, I push him while my fiancé pull him. We took more than two hours to cover the full distance. Now the horse is in a box, exhausted. We look closely after him this all night.

Death and life

The day after, my animal is more and more absent. The hours pass and the evil seems to take more and more over him. My horse don’t reacts anymore. His head is very low. His lips, his nostrils and his face are swollen due to all the perfusions’ water. We pull up his head to try to decrease this unwanted effect, his head weighs very heavy. Decidedly, he is no longer himself.

I can put my fingers in his mouth, ears or eyes, this does cause any reactions from him. His eye are inert, the eyelid is heavy. I go behind the horse and tighten his tail in my hand. It is so flabby like if he has no vertebras anymore. It’s in this state that I come back to my home two hours, to eat, take a shower, warm up a little bit, while my fiancé is keeping an eye on the horse with kindness.

When I come back, Cali is always in a vegetative state, here in flesh but not in soul, without vital energy. My partner looks disturbed, the horse has a strange reactions.

In reality, horse has spasms. His ears tackle against his neck like pointed horns, the head passes within the verticality, his eyes twitch at each contraction. It is no longer a sick horse, it is disease disguised as a horse. An ugly theater scene, a remake of The Exorcist but in reality this time.

In front of this sad show, I take the decision to call the vet and stop this macabre scenario. I'm afraid that muscle tetany will take me short and that it will stifle under my eyes my friend with four legs.

When the veterinarian comes, he hesitates. He is too pessimistic to ignore euthanasia but, he still has hope and he decides to wait a few more hours, as long as the horse is standing, we keep fighting!
He lets me a small syringe. The promise for me that when the time comes, my horse will not suffer.

We stay with him one more night.

My heart leaps up at every sign of weakness in the forelimbs. His limbs looks to be weakening but he is still well standing.
I crush him bits of carrots that he refuses to eat since 24 hours now. I take it to his mouth, no reactions, below his nostrils for him to smell, no reaction, to his mouth once again, his big misshapen lips finally takes a small bite, the day begins.
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-04-2017, 03:51 AM Thread Starter
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Have you got this desease in your country too? I heard about "negundo" maple, it's the same symptoms than sycomore maple?
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-04-2017, 06:10 AM
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Apparently it does occur in North America but this is the first time I've heard of it. It never entered my mind that those little whirley gigs that we used to play with as kids were fatal to our equine friends. I'm really happy for you and your boy that he survived such a grim diagnosis.
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-04-2017, 06:37 AM
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I was used to checking for poisonous plants such as ragwort and foxglove but when I moved my horse to a field that was partially in woodland I was warned about the toxicity of certain trees including sycamore seeds and leaves as well as others such as oak. I had to wander the field and the surrounding trees outside the fences looking for them.
I’ve since moved but I’m not sure that I was fully aware of the seriousness of the disease at the time and although I could deal with plants I wouldn’t have been able to remove the trees. I'd avoid wooded grazing in the future.
Thanks for sharing.
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-04-2017, 03:28 PM
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Hynder - Was the field new to your horse or had you kept him on it for some time and had other horses been grazed on it for a long time without any problems?
This disease seems to be as unpredictable as grass sickness. 25+ years ago we lived next to a large livery yard that had been used for horses in one way or another for a long time. A perfectly healthy mid aged horse there went down with grass sickness and unlike many he survived. The field he was on was shared with other horses that didn't get it and they'd never had a horse with it before and as far as I know never did again
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post #9 of 13 Old 03-04-2017, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
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It's very weird because...5 horses were in the field before my boy, with visibly 0 problem.
I put Cali in the new herd and 10 days after he was very sick.

Only one other horse was intoxicated too , 14 years old but we saw it in blood test, no clinical signs.

3 days ago a new horse was put in the field and for the moment all is ok. (It's incredible the owner put an other horse, during than mine is again tied in a box because of everything...)
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post #10 of 13 Old 03-05-2017, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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The slow rise

I am so excited. The horse ate the five carrots that patiently awaited for him to get out of his apathy. I run to wake my fiancé who sleeps in a room, above the clubhouse that has been turned into our headquarters for the surveillance of Cali.

"He eats ! Bring me carrots, get everything you can find "(Understand: go and search your mother's fridge at this early hour and rob whatever you can!). "He eats! “

Cali is in a phase of quasi-bulimia where he eats crushed carrots and apples, sugar, a little moist hay and pellet. Everything must be given to him in a small handful because he does not have the strength to crush his carrots himself, everything must be lifted up to his nostrils so that he can smell it, then to his lips to eat. But he eats!

He does not move an inch to catch the food by himself. He also drinks. His eyes are half closed, his head always heavy on the halter. The night before, both his ganaches paralyzed in violent tetany. This morning, he seems to regain slowly possession of his body.
And then suddenly, without warning, the machine stops. Cali is no longer tempted by my delicacies; his eyes closed. I put a few granules at the corners of the lips but the food falls and no longer triggers any chewing or swallowing reflex. I offer some water, no reaction. I try to make him smell to tempt him, to solicit his instinct, to provoke something; but still nothing. I renounce to drown him in 15 cm of water to convince myself that he is still among the living and content myself of his breathing, still strong. Though he is standing, this is the only sign of his being alive.

The veterinarian arrives around 9:00 that morning. He looks hesitant, scrutinizes my reactions and discovering my smile, confesses that he has waited for my call all night long.
I told him about the state of awakening my horse had, that it was incredible; but from what he sees, the horse hangs on its ropes, inert and absent. Like the day before.

I try to convince him, without any success. He seems sorry for me to not be able to notice any improvement. The head of my 4 year-old is laying low. The vet takes the heartbeat which still high, his breathing rhythm still forced; he verifies that the catheter does not spoil the vein of my little horse, slaps his hands close to the ears of the animal , without any effect. He leaves, smiling timidly.

During this day, my horse gets alive from time to time, but I can no longer be entitled to that real glimmer of hope which he gave me in the early morning. It is visibly painful for him to urinate and defecate, his ears lie down, his eyes wrinkle and he is seized with violent spasms when he is relieved. His tail rises again tough.

It perspires in spite of the cold temperature. An edema, due to incessant perfusions, spreads over the entire bottom line.

We are entering our third night of scrutiny.

We have improved our strategy with my future spouse; and we split our watch in two half-nights. Half-nights rest are much more beneficial than taking turns every hour. I start the first round. There is another owner of a horse who is suffering from EAM too, in the box next to mine. She must stand alone. We chat while checking on our equine companions.

It was about two o'clock in the morning when Cali came out of his starvation mode again. He eats and drinks like a starved man! If only the veto could see this …
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