Horse Illness Linked to Feed Skip to content

Horse Illness Linked to Feed

Forty-four horses in Iceland have been diagnosed with symptoms of acquired equine polyneuropathy (AEP), RÚV reports. Although the disease, also known as Scandinavian knuckling syndrome, is common in other Nordic countries, this is the first time it has been diagnosed in Iceland. Veterinarians with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) have determined that horses have contracted the disease from their feed.

AEP is a “…neurological disease characterised by pelvic limb knuckling.” Such muscle deterioration in horses’ hind quarters gives them an abnormal “sidewinder” gait. According to Sigríður Björnsdóttir, a veterinarian who specialises in equine diseases at MAST, the disease mostly effects younger horses, and, although it can be fatal, she says the survival rate for diagnosed animals is good: about 70% make a full recovery.

Of the 44 horses that have been diagnosed with AEP in Iceland, 12 have had to be euthanised and one was found dead. Sigríður says that the disease has been linked to hay and feed that the diagnosed horses consumed. What precisely in the hay is causing the disease is unknown, but researchers have identified a specific kind of hay that is the problem and have ensured that it will not be fed to any more horses.

Other than immediately changing horses’ feed, there is little that can be done to hasten the diagnosed animals’ recovery except to ensure that they don’t suffer any extra stresses, as this can make the symptoms worse.

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