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Acorn Toxicity in Horses

Date Published: 06/15/2009

One of my equine clients called to say she had a bumper crop of acorns in her pasture and was wondering if this could be toxic to her horses. Acorns as well as oak blossoms, buds, leaves and stems are all toxic to livestock, and although cattle and sheep are more commonly affected, horses can also be poisoned by acorns and other parts of the oak tree. Usually horses are not poisoned because they seem to not like the taste of acorns or oak leaves unless there is nothing else in the pasture to eat. This is a concern because lots of Texas has been very dry and so not a lot of pasture is left at this time, plus hay is expensive Horses in an area with no grass or hay may be forced to eat the acorns and could become affected.

Toxicity is due to tannins in the acorns and leaves. The toxin can cause kidney failure as well as severe intestinal problems including colic and diarrhea that can be deadly. There is no specific antidote for acorn toxicity and treatment of these cases involves intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and correct electrolyte abnormalities. If horses develop kidney failure, intravenous fluids can help to increase blood flow to the kidney and furosemide can be used to increase urination. Mineral oil can be given orally to help remove the toxin from the gastrointestinal tract as soon as possible. The prognosis for horses with acorn poisoning is guarded, so it is much better to prevent the problem than treat it. Fortunately, few cases have been reported in horses but it might be a good idea to remove your horses from pastures with lots of acorns. If this is not possible, make sure they have plenty of other feed available.

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