What is equine grass sickness?

Equine grass sickness is a devastating disease of horses, ponies and donkeys in which there is damage to parts of the nervous system.

If diagnosed with equine grass sickness, there’s a very high chance that the horse, pony or donkey won’t recover, as most affected animals either die from the disease or have to be put to sleep.

We do not know what causes equine grass sickness which makes finding preventative measures, or a cure, all the more challenging.

A horse with equine grass sickness

Researching equine grass sickness

Great Britain has the highest incidence of EGS anywhere in the world, and through surveillance, we’re building up a better picture of where and when cases occur. We know that the vast majority of cases occur in horses with access to grazing and that young adult horses, aged between two and seven years, seem to be at the highest risk.

Our equine grass sickness surveillance scheme is essential to getting a grip on this horrible disease, so it’s vital that vets and horse owners report cases to us.

Our research hopes to establish if vaccination can be used to prevent equine grass sickness. Evidence suggests that the bacterium Clostridium botulinum type C, commonly found within soil and capable of producing a range of toxins which can damage the nervous system, could a role in causing the disease. Our current investigations are designed to determine whether vaccination against Clostridium botulinum type C reduces the risk of infection.

For owners who have experienced the heartbreak of EGS first-hand, participating in the surveillance scheme gives them, and us, an opportunity to help prevent this devastating disease in the future.

Dr Richard Newton
Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance

Report a case of equine grass sickness

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