What is it
Poisoning is when a substance interferes with normal body functions. Poisons can enter the body by being swallowed, inhaled, injected or absorbed. Some poisons will cause death immediately, others can be treated.
The sad truth is that with some poisons you will find a horse dead and only discover it is due to poisoning later. However, in some cases symptoms can present early enough for treatment.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Laboured breathing
Poisons injected (such as snake or insect bites) will cause:
- Swelling around the injection site
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle twitching
- Poisonous plants (see my blog)
- Insect bites
- Snake bites (unusual in UK)
- Chemicals from herbicides or pesticides
Call the vet IMMEDIATELY. Look around to see if you can identify any possible causes of the poisoning, if possible take a sample of the plant or collect the insect (if safe to do so). If a herbicide or pesticide is suspected ensure the vet is made aware and can see the container which lists the ingredients.
Specific antidotes are available for some poisons. Early treatment is vital to give the horse the best chance of recovery because the less poison which is absorbed into the body the better. For ingested/swallowed poisons the vet may try to wash out the stomach. Some substances can be given to a horse which will help prevent the body absorb it. Laxatives can also help to speed the poison through the body and out.
For poisons absorbed through the skin washing the area (without shampoo, soap or detergent) can help to dilute the poison.
Keep the horse quiet and calm, warm and with fresh water. Movement will speed up the circulation of poison around the body so don't move a horse any more than necessary.
Although horses are generally very selective in their grazing habits and avoid any plant that smells or tastes different poisoning does happen.
- Keep field free from poisonous plants and/or overhanging trees. See my blogs about Atypical myopathy and Ragwort.
- Ensure water cannot be contaminated, keep clean and fresh.
- If using herbicides (weed killer) or pesticides restrict your horses access to the area as directed on the instructions.
- Keep horse feed separate and stored appropriately away from possible contaminants.
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Until next time!