It’s a disease that affects the nervous system of horses, ponies and donkeys.
At present the cause is unknown but seems to be exclusive to those animals which have access to grass, during the spring and summer months. Unfortunately, unless the horse has only a mild case, this disease is mostly fatal.
Symptoms can include:
∙ Difficulty eating
∙ Failure to pass droppings
∙ Patchy sweating
∙ Muscle tremors
∙ Foul-smelling fluid pouring from the nostrils
∙ Rapid weight loss
It is thought there may be several unalterable risk factors such as:
1. Growth; 80% of EGS cases are 2-7 years old so this should be the main period of vigilance.
2. Changing coat in spring and autumn.
3. Coming into season for mares.
4. Adverse or extreme weather changes causing a check or flush in grass growth rates.
As well as manageable risk factors:
1. Change of diet and worming
2. Change of social companions.
3. Change of grazing or stabling.
4. Change of routine (including attending shows and events ‘off-grass’).
5. Medication for any reason, particularly antibiotics, as they will affect the gut bacteria in most cases.
So avoiding multiple changes is something which may reduce the likelihood of this disease affecting your horse or pony.
Are probiotics useful in the management of chronic grass sickness?
Examination of faeces and intestinal contents from chronic cases suggests that the disease is likely to have a very adverse effect on the gut flora. Thus, probiotics are likely to be at best beneficial, and at worst harmless. (see ‘Probiotics and their use in horses‘)
For more information and advice please visit The Equine Grass Sickness Fund
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