Research designed to increase understanding of a mystery disease estimated to kill 1% to 2% of UK horses each year has been published.

Four separate studies into equine grass sickness (EGS) are included in a free-to-download special collection published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) this month.

Horse
Horse with chronic equine grass sickness.

Diagnostic advice

Subjects covered are:

  • reporting novel risk factors for the disease
  • identifying key differences between EGS and botulism (questioning the hypothesis EGS is caused by neurotoxins from Clostridium botulinum)
  • reporting a novel diagnostic technique
  • showing the value of monitoring weight loss to help predict whether individual horses with chronic EGS are likely to survive

Despite more than 100 years of research, supported predominantly by the The Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund, the cause of EGS remains unknown.

Since it almost exclusively affects grazing horses, a pasture derived neurotoxin is implicated.

Invariably fatal

Acute and subacute EGS is invariably fatal, while around 55% of chronic cases can survive and return to a useful working life. The UK has the highest incidence of EGS in the world and cases are more common in spring.

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