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Seasonal pasture myopathy in horses in the midwestern United States: 14 cases (1998–2005)

Carrie J. Finno BSc, DVM1, Stephanie J. Valberg DVM, DACVIM, PhD2, Arno Wünschmann Dr med vet, DACVP3, and Michael J. Murphy DVM, PhD4
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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.
  • | 3 Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.
  • | 4 Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.

Abstract

Objective—To determine clinical signs, diagnostic findings, tissue tremetone concentrations, and clinical outcome or postmortem findings in horses evaluated for acute severe nonexertional rhabdomyolysis initially attributed to white snakeroot toxicosis.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—14 horses.

Procedures—Records of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center or Diagnostic Laboratory were searched from 1998 to 2005. Inclusion criteria included serum creatine kinase (CK) activity > 45,000 U/L, severe nonexertional myonecrosis of proximal postural muscles at necropsy, or signs of weakness without palpably firm muscles on physical examination. Vitamin E and selenium concentrations were measured in 6 horses; tremetone concentration was measured in 7.

Results—Clinical signs occurred during unfavorable weather conditions. Clinical signs of generalized weakness (n = 11 horses), muscle fasciculations (10), lethargy (6), and prolonged recumbency (4) were common. Serum CK activity ranged from 46,487 to 959,499 U/L (reference range, 82 to 449 U/L), and aspartate transaminase activity was > 1,500 U/L (reference range, 162 to 316 U/L). Two horses survived with aggressive antioxidant and fluid treatment. Postmortem examination revealed acute severe myonecrosis with lipid accumulation primarily in neck, proximal forelimb and hind limb, intercostal, and diaphragm muscles. Histopathologic signs of myocardial necrosis were detected in 7 horses. Vitamin E and selenium concentrations were within reference limits. Tremetone was not detected in liver or urine samples.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Cases of rhabdomyolysis have been attributed to white snakeroot toxicosis; however, tremetone was not detected in any horses. Similarities exist between cases of seasonal pasture myopathy and cases of atypical myopathy in Europe.

Abstract

Objective—To determine clinical signs, diagnostic findings, tissue tremetone concentrations, and clinical outcome or postmortem findings in horses evaluated for acute severe nonexertional rhabdomyolysis initially attributed to white snakeroot toxicosis.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—14 horses.

Procedures—Records of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center or Diagnostic Laboratory were searched from 1998 to 2005. Inclusion criteria included serum creatine kinase (CK) activity > 45,000 U/L, severe nonexertional myonecrosis of proximal postural muscles at necropsy, or signs of weakness without palpably firm muscles on physical examination. Vitamin E and selenium concentrations were measured in 6 horses; tremetone concentration was measured in 7.

Results—Clinical signs occurred during unfavorable weather conditions. Clinical signs of generalized weakness (n = 11 horses), muscle fasciculations (10), lethargy (6), and prolonged recumbency (4) were common. Serum CK activity ranged from 46,487 to 959,499 U/L (reference range, 82 to 449 U/L), and aspartate transaminase activity was > 1,500 U/L (reference range, 162 to 316 U/L). Two horses survived with aggressive antioxidant and fluid treatment. Postmortem examination revealed acute severe myonecrosis with lipid accumulation primarily in neck, proximal forelimb and hind limb, intercostal, and diaphragm muscles. Histopathologic signs of myocardial necrosis were detected in 7 horses. Vitamin E and selenium concentrations were within reference limits. Tremetone was not detected in liver or urine samples.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Cases of rhabdomyolysis have been attributed to white snakeroot toxicosis; however, tremetone was not detected in any horses. Similarities exist between cases of seasonal pasture myopathy and cases of atypical myopathy in Europe.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Finno's present address is Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

The authors thank Drs. Toby Sheely, Jamie Zarda, Heather Kaese, and Luanne Hunt for their assistance with clinical cases and their contributions.

Address correspondence to Dr. Finno.