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What is Alocasia Poisoning?

Often known by its common name of elephant’s ear (because of the large heart shaped leaves) this plant contains can cause poisoning due to the water-insoluble calcium oxalate and the possible presence of proteinaceous toxins otherwise known as raphides. The toxins are in the stems and leaves, and within the tubers. Even contact can cause a burning or painful skin reaction, and if your horse decides to experiment, it will immediately feel the pain and inflammatory reaction to chewing and swallowing.

Although the alocasia plant is not usually available to your horse, if he is hungry and explores your garden, he may end up poisoned by this attractive plant.

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Symptoms of Alocasia Poisoning in Horses

  • Intense pain around the lips and in the mouth, accompanied by drooling and licking as your horse tries to get rid of the pain 
  • It can also affect the skin that it comes into contact with, causing irritation and inflammation 
  • Swelling of the throat can be a major concern as it affects the ability to breathe 
  • Panic if your horse has difficulty in breathing due to blocking of the airways
  • Causes inflammation within the mouth and on the tongue 

Types 

  •  The poisonous alocasia has long red stalks and has veins on the green leaf that are very distinctive and a pale yellow or white in colour 
  • The alocasia plant comes in a large range of shapes and sizes, and are used as ornamental plants in the garden 
  • The plant is also known as elephant’s ear as the leaves are large and similar in shape to an elephant’s ear 
  • Small clusters of tiny indistinct flowers are produced
  • Not all alocasia plants are poisonous
  • The leaves are heart shaped in style

Causes of Alocasia Poisoning in Horses

  • These large leaves are unpalatable to your horse, but if they are curious or have broken out of the paddock due to hunger they may be tempted to try it
  • The crystals that reside in all parts of the plant have very sharp edges which affects all that they come into contact with, including your horse
  • Calcium oxalate crystals are the cause of the pain, swelling and inflammation 
  • Usually the immediate intense pain will deter further eating

Diagnosis of Alocasia Poisoning in Horses

If you notice your horse in an agitated state, shaking his head, foaming or drooling, you will immediately realise that he has been grazing on something he shouldn’t have been eating. The pain and inflammation in the mouth may cause your horse to react violently, so be careful during handling. Try to calm your horse and wash his mouth out immediately with water or even milk if you have it handy. Call your veterinarian as the main concern will be the swelling of the throat which can cause your horse distress. Poisoning of horses from this plant are rare as usually these plants are contained in a fenced garden, although dogs and cats are often affected as they have contact within the garden area.

Tell your veterinarian what you suspect that your horse has been eating (you will probably notice the tears or chucks out of the large leaves) so he can be prepared to assist. On examination the specialist will notice the redness, and sometimes blisters on the skin or within the mouth enable them to make an accurate diagnosis. The liquid from the stems can also cause poisoning by way of contact with the skin, so even if your horse doesn’t eat the plant, the thorns or sap can deliver a blow through the skin being poisoned.

Treatment of Alocasia Poisoning in Horses

Call your veterinarian if you discover your horse has been eating alocasia plant, as the first symptom is the worst which is the swelling around the air passage preventing breathing. While you are waiting for him to arrive, sponge out your horse’s mouth with water to provide some relief from the burning. Your veterinarian will be able to provide supportive therapy and depending on the extent of the amount your horse has eaten, and will be able to suggest the right course of action. Flushing out the contents from your horse’s stomach may be an option, but again, it depends on the severity of the case.

Often it is just a mouthful or two before your horse gets the message that alocasia is not a plant to be messed with, and after a few days of supportive care they will return to better health. If your horse suffers from diarrhea from this ordeal, provide plenty of fluids to aid recovery. Although this poisoning doesn’t occur often in the equine ranks, it can be fatal if your horse is already unwell, is quite old or at the other end of that scale, is quite young. Taking immediate action once you discover this condition is vital.

Recovery of Alocasia Poisoning in Horses

Recovery depends on the amount eaten and the effect it has had on your horse. The calcium oxalate crystals have razor sharp edges that cause damage to all that come in contact and if your horse has eaten some, the skin around his muzzle and inside the mouth may be very tender for some time, not to mention the stomach and intestinal systems. The experience can be frightening for your horse, and he may be quite stressed afterwards.

A calm caring environment with quality feed and water, and plenty of rest will enable him to recoup strength and return to normal. Although the alocasia plant is an attractive landscape plant, if you have a home where animals such as your horse, and perhaps a dog and cat wander, getting rid of the plant and replacing it with another decorative but non-poisonous plant is the preferred course of action.